CHICAGO – If you feel like you’ve been there before, you’re right. Three times over, in fact, thanks to some hard luck.
Well, maybe not in 2017. The Bulls intentionally traded their way to the No. 7 spot in the Jimmy Butler trade that kicked off their rebuild in 2017. Twelve months later, the attempted “tank” didn’t pay off, as the team had to settle for the seventh pick again.
That was frustrating, but this year was painful.
A difficult season gave the Bulls the fourth-best odds to land the first overall pick. Well, they didn’t they get that, falling back into that familiar pick.
Seventh heaven? More like hell for a franchise stuck in a version of NBA purgatory — not bad enough to get the best picks but not nearly good enough to make a true challenge at the championship.
No Zion Williamson, no R.J. Barrett, no Ja Morant, barring an incredible turn of events on Thursday before 6:30 PM central time when this year’s NBA Draft gets underway. If a trade isn’t made, the Bulls will pick seventh for a third straight year, hoping to find the next piece of the rebuild in a wide-open draft outside the top three picks.
“With the seventh pick this year, we’re confident we’ll get a player we can add,” said Bulls executive vice president John Paxson shortly after the conclusion of the unlucky draft lottery on May 14. “Obviously in this draft, there is a generational type of guy, and New Orleans is better off for it. But this is about building a team and I’m always confident we’re gonna find value where we draft.”
Whether that is genuine or not will be determined on Thursday when the Bulls either keep the pick and select a player, or trade it away. It marks the fifth time in franchise history that the team has picked seventh, taking Quintin Dailey (1982), Chris Mihm (2000, eventually traded), then Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. the last two seasons.
So far, the last two players have shown some promise early in their Bulls’ career, especially Markkanen, who made the All-NBA rookie team in 2018. He, along with Carter, saw their 2018-2019 seasons cut short due to injury, each showing potential in spurts during a year of transition for the franchise.
Who might the Bulls go with this year, should they keep the seventh pick?
Point guard is a popular thought, considering that Kris Dunn may not be the solution at the position they hoped for when they acquired him from Minnesota in the Butler trade.
Coby White of North Carolina (16.1 points, 4.1 assists per game in 2018-2019) is a strong possibility should the Bulls decide to fill that spot. Gary, Indiana native, Darius Garland, of Vanderbilt (16.2 points, 2.6 assists per game) could be another option, but the chances are low he’ll fall to the seventh pick.
Jarrett Culver (Texas Tech), De’Andre Hunter (Virginia), Cam Reddish (Duke), and Nassir Little are forwards that could end up at No. 7 as well.
There is plenty of unknown when it comes to the Bulls on their draft day in this rebuilding era. Well, not when they are picking, because that’s become way too familiar.