During Thursday’s 2018 NBA Draft, Chicago Bulls fans will have their eyes on the No. 7 pick. Since lottery night back on May 15, everyone has been guessing, second-guessing and conjuring up scenarios of what could happen.
We’re almost positive that names like DeAndre Ayton, Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley are pipe dreams unless either fall or the Bulls make a major move up into the top three. While the team has discussed trading up to Nos. 3 or 4, according to NBC Sports Chicago’s Vincent Goodwill, that would be a tough move to pull off.
The Atlanta Hawks and Memphis Grizzlies, who sit at Nos. 3 and 4 respectively, will probably ask for a decent haul to make any deal work. That probably wouldn’t seem to jive with the front office’s vision of rebuilding this team quickly. And let’s face it. They’ve never shown the gall to get very creative.
Still, there are intriguing possibilities with the seventh pick. There are definitely guys who might not be flashy but can be solid pros throughout their career. On the flip side, this draft also has some high-risk, high-reward players that could become stars or bust epic fashion.
Here are a mix of five safe and bold options that should be on the Bulls’ radar at No. 7.
The Safe Options
Wendell Carter Jr. (Freshman Center/Forward – Duke)
Many mock drafts, including ESPN’s ultimate edition, have the Bulls selecting Carter with the No. 7 pick. There certainly is a lot to like about the 18-year-old center/forward, who averaged 13.5 points and 9.1 rebounds per game in his lone freshman season at Duke. At 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-3 wingspan, he has the body to be a solid rim protector for years to come.
The only downside is how he would fit in the modern NBA. He’s not an athletic freak who can be a nightmare off the pick and roll, which is what most teams covet at the five spot. Carter is like a traditional center or power forward, drawing apt comparisons to Al Horford. Getting a player similar to Horford at No. 7 wouldn’t be too shabby, right?
While he might be able to contribute as a rebounder and defender right away, it might take time to develop his offensive skill set. However, he’s shown a very high basketball IQ for a young player and should develop over time. He also has a solid jumpshot from 10-15 feet away from the basket, and that’s always an encouraging sign. If he can work on expanding that, it would only make him a bigger threat against NBA defenses.
Mikal Bridges (Junior Forward – Villanova)
Mikal Bridges might feel like that traditional, safe Bulls pick, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t be a welcome addition. He checks all the boxes for what you look for in a modern NBA wing player. Bridges is long, can defend, can shoot outside and plays with great energy. Sounds like a nice addition to a young roster.
So why isn’t he a top-five pick?
Age is one factor. Bridges will be 22 before the season starts, and upperclassmen aren’t “sexy” anymore in the eyes of most teams. The biggest deterrent is his low upside. His ceiling could be that of a fringe All-Star, while his floor projects as a solid role player. Bolder choices might have a ceiling that projects much higher. But when you’re picking in the back half of the top 10, getting a solid pro isn’t a bad choice.
The Bold Options
Trae Young (Freshman Point Guard – Oklahoma)
Everyone seems to be split on what Trae Young can be in the NBA. Put 100 people in a room and 50 people are crazy about his potential while the other 50 think he’s going to crash and burn. Those that love him point to his shooting range and scoring pop. Those that dislike his potential point to his 6-foot-2 frame, small wingspan and inconsistency to finish at the rim.
Nobody can deny that Young earned the right to be a lottery pick. Averaging 27.4 points and 8.7 assists per game definitely warrant a chance to get selected in the top 10 or 15 in the draft. He also shot 36 percent from 3-point range on 328 attempts in the nation (fourth most in the nation) and his ability to shoot off the dribble is encouraging.
So is he a fit for the Bulls at No. 7? It depends how you view Kris Dunn. VP John Paxson has refuted the Chicago Sun-Times report from Joe Cowley, which claimed the organization is not impressed by their incumbent point guard’s work ethic this offseason. Selecting Young clearly would indicate that Dunn is no longer in the team’s long-term plans. But can you really say that Young is much more suited to run the point in Fred Hoiberg’s space-and-pace offense?
One thing is certain: Choosing Young would be very bold, whether he works out or not.
Mohamed Bamba (Freshman Center/Forward – Texas)
Mohamed Bamba is considered a top-five talent, but he could end being a victim of the draft board. So why would someone projected as top-five talent be considered a bold pick? Well, the boom-or-bust factor makes it a risky move, especially if another center/forward like Wendell Carter is still on the board.
Scouts and fans have been gushing over all the measurable and feats over the past month. The 7-foot center/forward has a massive 7-foot-10 wingspan and reportedly sprinted three-quarters the length of the floor in 3.04 seconds, surpassing times once registered by Russell Westbrook and a young Dwyane Wade (both 3.08 seconds). He’s been impressive during games too. In his lone season at Texas, Bamba showed the tools to be an elite rim protector and finished strong at the rim on lobs, pick-and-rolls and fast breaks.
However, the bust factor could be dangerous. More and more, big men are starting to stretch the floor offensively and Bamba currently lacks a consistent mid-range or 3-point shot to keep an NBA defense honest. That isn’t necessarily a death sentence. For instance, Los Angeles Clippers center DeAndre Jordan has had a solid pro career without stretching the floor, averaging close to 12 points, 14 rebounds and 2 blocks per game the last five seasons.
But is that worth the No. 7 pick? While the comparison fits, it’s important to remember that Jordan wasn’t selected until the second round (No. 35) in 2008. Another similar comp to Mamba is Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who was picked No. 27 in 2013. Also, neither guy hit their stride offensively until a few years into their NBA careers.
Bamba seems to have the skills to at least match Jordan and Gobert’s offensive abilities. If he doesn’t, he would have to be an extremely elite defender and rebounder to prove his worth. And if that doesn’t happen, it would be a major blow to a franchise looking to rebuild quickly.
Michael Porter Jr. (Freshman Forward – Missouri)
Michael Porter Jr. is the biggest wildcard in this whole draft. Originally viewed as the consensus No. 1 overall pick entering his freshman year, an early-season back injury at Missouri sidelined him for all but three regular-season games. Where he goes all depends on comfort level and that’s what makes the situation such an enticing story Thursday night.
If he’s available at No. 7, that most likely means teams are scared of the medical records. Interestingly, the Bulls were the team that gave him a physical that all NBA teams have poured over. Would GarPax have the stomach to pick him knowing the injury risk?
There isn’t a lot of game film from his freshman campaign to work from. Based on the high school highlights and scouting reports, we know he’s versatile offensively, having the ability to finish in the paint or stretch out to the mid-range or 3-point line. With a 6-foot-10 frame and a 7-foot wingspan, he’s very fluid athletically and could be a nightmare at the small and power forward spots.
We just don’t know if the skill set is ready for primetime. When you couple that with the injury concerns, choosing him isn’t a sure bet. Does picking Porter over a safer option like Bridges and Carter make sense? Is it really better than other bolder choices like Young and Bamba?
It depends how GarPax view him. If they see superstar potential and their doctors give them the green light, then picking Porter makes perfect sense.
When you go back to Paxson’s season-ending press conference in April, he talked about what type of player the Bulls would consider in the draft.
“I think we need to look at the wing position,” Paxson said. “That would be an ideal spot. Size and length at the wing as 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.”
That actually describes both Bridges’ and Porter’s profiles perfectly. Both are long, athletic wings who can shoot and project to be solid defenders in the NBA. The only differences are their ceilings and levels of uncertainty. Bridges might not morph into a star, but he’ll most likely be a steady player. Porter, on the other hand, could be a star but bust in epic fashion because of his health.
So which route do GarPax go? Do they play it safe, or go bold? We’ll find out Thursday night.