On Thursday night, Arturas Karnisovas will represent the Chicago Bulls in the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery.
As the face of the organization’s recent wave of change, we can only hope that Karnisovas offers enough luck to break the recent streak of landing the No. 7-overall draft pick. Despite the organization’s losing ways, they’ve picked in the middle of the lottery for the last three seasons, and head into this season’s Draft Lottery with – you guessed it – the 7th-best odds to land the No. 1 pick.
Regardless, once the ping pong balls are officially drawn, Karnisovas and the Bulls new front office will have a better idea of what their first big roster move will be. Whether it’s No. 1 or No. 7, this player will be another building block for this franchise – and the first handpicked player from the new regime.
While it might be too early to judge the exact talent the Bulls will select, it’s not too early to decide strategy. In a conversation with Sam Smith of Bulls.com, Karnisovas outlined his general approach to draft night.
“It depends on where you pick, right? Again, always in every situation we chased talent. The huge discussions around the league are the best available versus the need. But I think where we are going to be picking it is going to be the most talented guy available. And not to be too general, I’m looking for value. Even when we get into the second round, you can find valuable assets that most teams under appreciated. You look for opportunities. Would that be moving up? Moving down? There’s always opportunities. It’s obviously going to be a busy time to talk on the phone with numerous teams. We’ll obviously look at opportunities to make our team better.”
As probably many expected, Karnisovas isn’t heading into this draft with any blinders. Like the Denver Nuggets did in years past, the Bull will overlap on position players if it means drafting the best available player. In other words, if center James Wiseman is the best guy still available on the Bulls board, Wendell Carter Jr. should prepare for some competition.
Again, the best player available approach was pretty predictable, though. What’s more telling is what Karnisovas said about looking for opportunities. We shouldn’t ignore the fact that he didn’t shy away from mentioning the possibility to move up or down. Additionally, he made sure to mention that it’s a popular time to pick up the phone and make some calls (mutters “excellent” in evil villain tone).
And indeed, Karnisovas comes from an organization that hasn’t shied away from transactions. We all know how he helped the Nuggets burn the Bulls in the 2014 Draft when Chicago traded Denver the No. 16 and No. 19 draft picks to move up and select Doug McDermott at No. 11. More recently, we saw the Nuggets trade back into the draft in 2019 to take Miami’s No. 44 pick and select Bol Bol.
To be clear, I’m not anticipating any crazy trades a this point in time, especially after what Karnisovas has said recently about the roster, but I think his comments and history do show us that he isn’t afraid to make moves this offseason. Remember last season when John Paxson said the Bulls wouldn’t even pick up the phone when teams called about Zach LaVine? Yeah, that isn’t how Karnisovas operates, and that’s great news for the Bulls. This organization needs someone who opens doors instead of closes them.
Further along in his interview, Karnisovas expressed a similar “everything’s on the table” sentiment when discussing impending free agency and the rest of the offseason.
“Again, we are going to be driven by what is going to happen during the Draft. Are we making a trade? Are we selecting a certain player? It depends on the roster balance at that point. We’re going to look at what are the needs of the team and we’ll address it in free agency. We are going to have a mid-level exception and a biannual.”
The draft may not be the sexiest in terms of its talent pool, but that doesn’t mean it will not play a vital role in telling us how this organization will proceed.
Tomorrow is the first step in figuring out what the future might look like, and I’m ready to roll.