The Chicago Bulls sit in purgatory.
With the 12th spot in the Eastern Conference at a record of 13-26, the verdict on the Bulls’ season is looking plenty ugly, and yet still mixed. Thanks to how dysfunctional the bottom of the barrel has been, the Bulls are only 5.0 games out of a playoff spot. However, they’re also only 5.0 games back from holding the worst record in the NBA.
The NBA is so weird. https://t.co/408GuXzWuN
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) January 11, 2020
The Bulls aren’t bad enough to completely tank, but they also aren’t good enough to turn this season into anything worthwhile. And arguably the most frustrating part about all of this is the effect it can have on the upcoming 2020 NBA Draft.
The latest batch of NBA mock drafts put the Bulls in an all-too-familiar position. A lot can change over the course of the next couple of months, but considering where Chicago sits in the standings at this point in the season, taking a look at some of the early mocks feels warranted.
Here are three of the latest (which are from before the Bulls’ fall to the 5th worst record, but obviously this all changes rapidly, and the lottery will do what the lottery does):
ESPN– Jonathan Givony
Projected Bulls Pick: 7th
Player: Cole Anthony, 6-3, guard, North Carolina (Freshman)
Son of a – does that say No. 7!?
ESPN currently has the Bulls taking the 7th pick in the draft for the fourth year in a row. Ew, ew, and more ew.
On the somewhat bright side, Givony does have the Bulls selecting Cole Anthony, one of the most athletic players in this upcoming draft class. The only problem? He’s traditionally a point guard. Okay, and one other problem – he’s missing a ton of playing time right now. Anthony underwent knee surgery earlier this season, and while he should be back on the court before season’s end, that’s always something for NBA teams to keep in mind.
Injury aside, Anthony is a point guard with a ton of upside, and he should be able to almost immediately help boost the Bulls scoring efforts. However, the Bulls would have to ask themselves whether a player like him and Coby White could co-exist. Both are “traditionally” used to having the ball in their hands and playing the lead role. The possible dilemma reminds me of what the Cleveland Cavaliers are experiencing right now, as they try to combine Collin Sexton and Darius Garland.
Not to mention, just read what Givony had to say on where Anthony could improve:
Much more of a scorer than facilitator at this stage. Can make basic drop-offs and kickouts but still learning how to manipulate defenses with his eyes and change of pace. Tends to pound the ball a little too much. Shot selection has room to improve. Still working to better balance scoring and playmaking. Lack of elite size limits his ability to see over the top of bigger defenders.
Sound kind of familiar to a player you already know?
Regardless, if the Bulls have the 7th pick of the draft (shivers) and Anthony is still sitting there, you probably have to scoop him up. His athleticism and true NBA potential exceed White’s, so take the best player available and worry about the fit later.
The Athletic – Sam Vecenie
Projected Bulls Pick: 8th
Player: Tyrese Maxey, 6-3, guard, Kentucky (freshman)
At least it’s not No. 7, I guess.
According to Vecenie, this latest mock draft is based on what he’s been learning from sources rather than his own individual projections. No, that doesn’t mean the Bulls and Tyrese Maxey have any connection, but it does mean that people remain relatively confident that Maxey will be a high lottery pick (he’s 9th-overall on ESPN’s Draft Rankings).
Maxey is combo-guard averaging 14 points per game for the Kentucky Wildcats. Vecenie describes him more as an off-ball role player with some solid defensive-chops. The Bulls need to bolster their wing depth quite a bit, so adding a young, versatile guard as the potential backup to Zach LaVine couldn’t hurt.
Going after Maxey does feel odd considering the Bulls are already an incredibly guard-heavy team, but if they move on from Kris Dunn during restricted free agency and also let Shaq Harrison and Denzel Valentine walk free, it wouldn’t hurt to roll the dice on Maxey. He isn’t shooting the ball particularly well this season, but Vecenie and company seem to believe he has the scoring upside that a team like the Bulls could desperately use.
Overall, I like the sound of Maxey’s two-way potential. I don’t like that it’s another young guard who might need time to work out the kinks.
Sports Illustrated – Jeremy Woo
Projected Bulls Pick: 7th
Player: Deni Avdija, 6-8, Forward, Maccabi Tel Aviv (19-years-old)
Hey, look, a forward!
I got to be honest, I know very little about Deni Avdija, but I do like the idea of readying a playmaking wing to take over for Otto Porter. Woo’s write-up about Avdija isn’t the most encouraging, but he is ranked 5th on ESPN’s big board (1st among small forwards), which is obviously worth something. He’s also currently playing professional basketball overseas, and nowadays, that can oftentimes set players up for a smoother transition into NBA play.
I’ll have to see if he continues to trend upward over the coming months, but position-wise, I like the idea of adding a young forward more than a guard.
General Consensus (for now)
The Bulls are painfully hovering around the No. 7 spot for the fourth year in a row. Normally, I’d be incredibly annoyed by this fact, but it doesn’t necessarily feel like a disadvantage right now. Unlike this past summer when the draft had a clear-cut top-3 and then a massive drop-off, this draft class has a lot more gray.
The top picks don’t feel like anything too special at the moment, so, in the grand scheme of things, sitting at No. 7 may not feel all that different from sitting at No. 3. Of course, this can all change if the college basketball season drags on, but for now, the middle of the lottery doesn’t feel as frustrating as it has in the past.