Vinny Del Negro talks Bulls’ NBA Draft potential, concerns with Michael Porter

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Vinny Del Negro said that “there’s concern” with drafting Michael Porter Jr. | M. Spencer Green/Associated Press

Former Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro believes there’s a good chance the team could expedite its rebuild Thursday if it hits gold with one of its two first-round picks.

This year’s draft won’t make or break the Bulls’ rebuild, said Del Negro who was speaking to the media on a conference call to promote the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe, but it could change the trajectory.

Draft a flop, and it’s back to the drawing board. But if they end up with a player with a lot of potential, you might see the Bulls as contenders much sooner.

Asked about drafting a player with health risks such as Michael Porter Jr., who was sidelined for all but three games last season with Missouri because of a back injury, Del Negro, who coached the Bulls to consecutive 41-win seasons, was hesitant.

“There’s concern,” Del Negro said of Porter, who canceled an NBA workout last week because of a strained hip. “From what I’m hearing, he’s awfully talented even though he didn’t play a lot. But the wear and tear on your body is difficult.”

Porter, who’s 6-10 and was considered a potential No. 1 pick heading into the 2017-18 season, is believed to be the player the Bulls will take with their No. 7 pick. Although his NBA stock took a hit, Porter declared himself the best player in this draft class last month at the NBA Draft Combine.


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“I know without a doubt,’’ Porter said. ‘‘I’ve played with all these guys, but I’m the best player in this draft. And I just can’t wait to show what I’m capable of.”

Porter might be able to talk the talk, but the concern is whether he can still walk the walk after his “minimally invasive” surgery.

“Would I be concerned? The answer is yes,” said Del Negro, an analyst for ESPN who had a 12-year career in the NBA. “There’s no question the kid has incredible upside.

‘‘His talent speaks for itself — his size, his shooting ability — but you have to be present. You have to be healthy. You have to be able to practice. You have to be able to play night in and night out.”

Del Negro is annually invited to the American Century Championship, which has raised more than $5 million for charity. Other notable guests on this year’s list include Mitch Trubisky, Aaron Rodgers, Steph Curry and Reggie Bush.

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