With the exception of last year, the basketball gods haven’t been too kind to the city of Chicago when it pertains to the Draft lottery. Prior to last season, the Bulls had the 7th overall pick in three straight drafts, despite lottery odds. In two of those drafts the fans and the front office were in agonizing pain watching their position drop from sixth to seventh in 2018, and fourth to seventh in 2019. What if the Bulls luck out and get a top-four pick this summer?
Perhaps, Arturas Karnisovas may have brought some good fortune–as seen in 2020 when Chicago jumped up to fourth from the seventh spot and selected Patrick Williams.
Nonetheless, after a mid-season trade in which Chicago acquired two-time, All-Star big man Nikola Vucevic and serviceable veteran forward Al Farouq-Aminu, the Bulls rattled the league and sent a message that they’re back and ready to compete; now possessing two dynamic stars.
Unfortunately, however, Karnisovas and Eversley had to sacrifice their pick for the upcoming draft.
At first glance losing this pick garnered no concern because of the Bulls’ aspirations of reaching the postseason. Despite this, being marred by injuries and having Zach LaVine out due to health and safety protocols caused the Bulls’ to miss the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season.
This isn’t a completely hapless situation, though. Chicago still has a 20.3 percent chance of keeping their pick for the 2021 NBA Draft. And it’s possible, we’ve seen crazier things happen during lottery night(i.e, the Bulls having a 1.7% chance of landing the number one pick in 2008).
We’ll now take a look at who the front office should select if they’re blessed with lottery magic again, and the Bulls land a top-four pick.
The Obvious Pick: Cade Cunningham
As is stands, Chicago has a measly 4.5% chance of ending up with the number one overall pick. Cade Cunningham has been the consensus first pick for over a year now, and its’ been made widely clear by his remarkable physical traits, athletic frame, and unique skillset. The only way that this marriage will come into fruition is if Chicago moves up six slots and is granted the first overall pick on June 22nd.
What Cade Cunningham will bring to the Bulls is elite playmaking coupled with profound play on the defensive side of the ball. Cunningham’s most attractive qualities as a player completely coincide with the deficiencies that Chicago suffered from a season ago. The Bulls ranked 20th in points allowed per game(113.5) and in the bottom half of the league in defensive rating(112.4), so there is plenty of room for improvement.
This tantalizing prospect potentially has the versatility and switchability to guard position’s 1-5–nearly mirroring Ben Simmons’ defensive prowess– while also displaying his ability as an exceptional off-ball defender with his impressive 7-foot wingspan and active hands.
As fun as Cade Cunningham is on offense, he's equally fun on defense *if not more.*
Super smart, does an awesome job using his length to dig on ball and deny off ball, and just knows how to play high level team defense.
He's a legit special two-way player. pic.twitter.com/ERPKhgO1np
— Spencer (@SKPearlman) December 17, 2020
In addition to all his instinctual, elite promise defensively, the 6’8″ guard is one of the most polarizing prospects we’ve ever seen. He has that franchise-changing effect with his nearly flawless abilities on the offensive end.
His superb intellect in the passing game, along with his shot-creation prowess, deceptiveness in handling situations, pure mastery of the pick-and-roll, and unique athleticism, all culminate into this highly coveted talent that is Cade Cunningham.
Cade Cunningham highlights at OK State! @CadeCunningham_ pic.twitter.com/MNtRG78fgE
— Courtside Films (@CourtsideFilms_) May 11, 2021
At Oklahoma State he averaged 20.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.4 steals while shooting a proficient 41.2% from three on 136 attempts. Any team that is blessed with the first overall pick will automatically have found themselves their next superstar and the Bulls better hope that they’re the last team mentioned on lottery night.
In my estimation, Cunningham will have that groundbreaking Luka Doncic effect on whichever team he’s drafted to.
The Can’t Pass Up On Pick: Evan Mobley/Jalen Green
Now, with Evan Mobley and Jalen Green, you get two promising young prospects with star-level potential.
Mobley is a shot-blocking maestro that’ll serve as a versatile two-way big with go-to scoring potential, as a result of his already evolving post-game, pick-and-pop capability, and the craftiness to put the ball on the floor and drive to the hoop. At the University of Southern California, the 7-foot big man averaged 16.8 points, collected 8.6 rebounds, and showed off his range and 3-point potential while shooting 31.4% from beyond the arc.
On the defensive end, he averaged a phenomenal three blocks per game in his lone collegiate season, proving that he’ll be a capable interior defender and paint deterrent on the next level.
USC prospect Evan Mobley 21 points 9 rebound 3 blocks ?Evan Mobley skillset at 7’0 wow ? i know NBA Scouts are drooling pic.twitter.com/JRmW5aAQuF
— Swish Cultures (@swishcultures_) November 26, 2020
An NBA Executive called Evan Mobley a Chris Bosh/Anthony Davis/Bam Adebayo type.
Choosing to forgo college, Jalen Green signed with the G-league and showcased every bit of his innate athleticism, fluidity with the dribble, and his dynamic scoring punch; Jalen Green is an explosion waiting to happen. While playing for the Ignite, he averaged 17.9 points(against tougher competition) and 2.8 assists on 46/36/82 shooting splits.
Known to be the best scoring threat in the draft, Green is a freakish athlete and a three-level scorer. Moreover, his tight handle along with his explosiveness makes him a nightmare for any defense to guard due to his shot-making expertise. Defenders will have to pick their poison with the G-league standout. He’s a constant lob threat and a certified sniper– his game has a resounding similarity to Zach LaVine.
JG really did that #adidasBasketball
@JalenGreen x @adidasHoops pic.twitter.com/o5lsFy4NXN
— NBA G League (@nbagleague) June 8, 2021
Green and Mobley are two players that you absolutely cannot pass up. My only concerns are that with these selections Chicago’s front office will have a multitude of moves to facilitate if they chose to draft one of these players.
For how incredible Green is as a scorer, Chicago’s backcourt already features two scoring heavy guards. Granted, he could come off the bench but that still won’t solve the Bulls’ playmaking woes.
Moves will have to be made.
With Mobley, for how great he is, and will be, the 19-year-old is still a project and a noticeably unnatural fit next to Nikola Vucevic. Sure, his defense will cover up Vucevic’s defensive limitations, however their offensive games both mirror one another. This pairing would resemble the clunky duo of Damontas Sabonis and Myles Turner, where one of the two(Turner) had to reshape their game in order to maximize their talents.
The clock is ticking and LaVine and company don’t have time to waste any longer.
Not to mention, the front office’s love for Daniel Theis and willingness to re-sign him make matters more complicated. The Bulls are hungry and eager to win now, not to have to develop another player while trying to end this postseason drought.
Considering all the above, these picks would be better suited in a trade in order to receive viable assets ready to coincide with the team. They need a player that can contribute immediately without a complete roster shakeup.
The Right Pick: Jalen Suggs
Jalen Suggs of the Zags is an astonishing prospect, and the right pick for the Chicago Bulls. His maturity, leadership, hustle, overall likability, and NBA readiness make him a very suitable option for a team ready to compete. The 6’4″ guard has a unique blend of skill, athleticism, and IQ for a 19-year-old.
Over the course of March Madness, it was Suggs’ play and leadership that resonated throughout the team and allowed them to reach the Championship; it became readily apparent that during Gonzaga’s run their success was predicated on a grind and hustle culture established by the freshman. He set the tone for his team with his unselfishness and effort on a nightly basis. Unfortunately, the Zags fell to Baylor but Suggs put on a show en route.
JALEN SUGGS BANKED IN THE GAME WINNER FROM THE LOGO ? #MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/VElHAn128m
— Def Pen Sports (@DefPenSports) April 4, 2021
He’s a confident scorer and a selfless and willing passer with playmaking potential. Additionally, his strong frame and commitment to defense will allow him to guard multiple positions in the NBA and become an effective versatile defender, potentially landing him on an All-Defensive team in the future–think Marcus Smart.
Jalen Suggs is able to play on and off the ball, which bodes well for a Billy Donovan system inquiring multiple ball-handlers. He’s an exceptional cutter, screener, and can relocate if the play is broken; just an overall intelligent basketball player. While at Gonzaga, he averaged 14.3 points, 4.5 assists, 2.8 steals, and shot 35.4% from three.
During this transition from a rebuilding team to a consistent Eastern Conference playoff team, it’s imperative that Chicago selects high IQ individuals that are ready to compete right off the bat.
Jalen Suggs making BIG plays ? pic.twitter.com/aCqsPf59mx
— Def Pen Sports (@DefPenSports) April 4, 2021
In Suggs, his talents not only immediately compliment the Bulls’ needs but his addition won’t drastically change the intricacies of Chicago’s makeup; offering a smooth and seamless transition to a team already suited for a playoff push.