Bulls Will Search For A Wing In NBA Draft

Villanova's Mikal Bridges could fit the vision of what the Bulls want.

Cody Westerlund
April 12, 2018 - 4:26 pm
Villanova wing Mikal Bridges

Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports

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By Cody Westerlund--

CHICAGO (670 The Score) -- As the NBA trends toward becoming more position-less and perimeter-oriented, the Bulls are taking note. 

Asked what voids the team needs to addresss in the NBA Draft on June 21, executive vice president John Paxson didn't tip-toe around an answer.

“We need to look at the wing position," Paxson said at an end-of-season press conference Thursday, a day after the team concluded a 27-55 campaign. "That would be an ideal spot. Size and length at the wing, a shooting component, a defensive component would be something that if you’re looking at an area we would like to improve, that would be it." 

The Bulls will fall sixth or seventh in the draft lottery slotting, depending on the result of a tiebreaker drawing with the Kings on Friday. If Chicago is to pick in that range because it doesn't get lucky in the lottery on May 15, a player to keep an eye on is Villanova's Mikal Bridges, a 6-foot-7 forward who has received rave reviews from scouts for his ability to guard multiple positions and shoot 3-pointers.

Bridges, 21, was an All-American who played a key role on the Wildcats' national championship team, averaging 17.7 points and shooting 43.5 percent on 3-pointers. He's a projected top-10 pick in many mock drafts.

If the Bulls do jump into the top three of the draft lottery, Missouri's Michael Porter Jr. would be a wing who could fit the vision. The Bulls also own the Pelicans' first-round pick, which will fall at No. 20, 21, 22 or 23 depending on the tiebreak drawing.

In the eternal best player-vs.-best fit debate, Paxson hedged toward talent, as many do.

"Depending on where we draft, it’s hard to overlook talent, even when you’re looking at maybe a specific need," Paxson said. "Again, that process, we’re still over two months from the draft. We have a lot of work to do. Our game has become, positions – not that they’re going by the wayside, but the lines are blurred. You no longer really have center-power forward. You need versatility. Our game has changed that much. We can use versatile players, guys that have length and size and shooting component, those types of things."

Lopez receives praise for professionalism

Arguably no Bulls player sacrificed more this season than center Robin Lopez, who consistently produced in his starting center role for the first 57 games of the season, only to then be benched out of the All-Star break as the team shifted its attention toward evaluating youngsters like reserve center Cris Felicio. 

Lopez played in just seven of the team's 25 games after the All-Star break. Sometimes he'd simply play the first quarter and be finished, sometimes he would dress but not see the floor and sometimes he was inactive and in street clothes, donning wacky T-shirts and often the same sports jacket.

Lopez will likely be shopped ahead of the NBA Draft, but the Bulls also love having him around as a team leader. Amid the most difficult professional circumstances he's ever encountered, Lopez never compained.

He has one year left on his contract at $14.4 million. 

"We respect Robin's professionalism, how he plays," Paxson said

"We do view Robin as part of our future. Even as much as the game has changed, Robin gives us a solid foundation guy. You know what you're going to get from Robin every night. You're going to get effort, rebounding, scoring around the basket. The time he's not been playing, he's been working on his perimeter shot, working on his range. I said it to our players last night, I believe you can grow, no matter how old you are as a player, you can grow in some way. It can be mentally, some skill level. So yeah, he fits our team and our culture."

Payne gets a vote of confidence

In assessing the point guard situation moving forward, Paxson praised the progress that Kris Dunn made, then expressed confidence in Cameron Payne as the backup. Nowhere in his comments did he reference Jerian Grant, who after two seasons with the Bulls doesn't appear to be part of the long-term vision. It's likely that Grant will be shopped ahead of the NBA Draft, as he was at the trade deadline last February, when the Bulls found no takers.

Paxson specifically cited Payne's ability to push the ball in transition. After an ugly first stint with the Bulls at the end of the 2016-'17 season, Payne averaged 8.8 points, 4.5 assists and 1.4 turnovers while shooting 40.5 percent, including 38.5 percent from 3-point range.

"Cameron showed a competitiveness to him, an ability to push the ball probably better than any guard we’ve had in a while, and he showed  defensive edge to him I think will help us going forward," Paxson said.

Sister Jean can't take center stage at draft lottery

Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, the 98-year-old who captured the nation's attention as the team chaplain of the Loyola basketball team that reached the Final Four, won't be able to serve as the Bulls' representative at the draft lottery in Chicago on May 15. Lottery representatives must be associated with the team in some capacity, Paxson said.

Sister Jean was viewed as a good luck charm of sorts for the Ramblers. While the Bulls haven't discussed who will represent them at the lottery, they got a kick out of the many suggestions that Sister Jean represent them and inquired about the policy. Jimmy Butler represented the Bulls when they were in the draft lottery back in 2016. Then-executive vice president of business operations Steve Schanwald represented the Bulls when they landed the No. 1 pick in 2008 that they eventually used on Derrick Rose.

The Bulls have a 5.3 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick and an 18.3 percent chance of jumping into the top three.

Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.