If you’re going to dream, dream big.
For the Bulls, the biggest dream is to win the NBA lottery Tuesday night, which would allow them to take Duke star Zion Williamson with the first pick in the June 20 draft.
That would change – what’s the word? — everything.
That’s not hyperbole. That’s how good and different the kid is.
So let’s dream big. Let’s dream that the Bulls will be the big winners, that they’ll do the right thing, that they won’t do anything stupid. Let’s dream of a core of Williamson, Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine. Let’s dream that a healthy Wendell Carter Jr. is indeed the player the Bulls think he is. Let’s dream that, when you stir all these ingredients together, you have the makings of a championship team down the road.
The Bulls did not give themselves the best chance to win Tuesday’s lottery. They didn’t lose often enough last season, choosing the development of their young players over unabashed tanking and the possibility of getting a once-in-a-generation talent. They finished with the fourth-worst record in the NBA. It means they’ll have a 12.5 percent chance of securing the first pick Tuesday instead of the 14 percent chance the three teams with the worst records each will have. No big deal, many of you are saying. But if this were the 1984 draft, would you rather have a 14 percent chance of getting Michael Jordan or a 12.5 percent chance of getting him?
That’s what I thought.
No one is saying that Williamson has Jordan’s abilities. And maybe Williamson will turn out to be this draft’s Sam Bowie, whom Portland infamously took one spot before Jordan in 1984. But I’ll take my chances on being wrong about Zion.
He’s raw. There’s no doubt about that. He was able to bull his way to the hoop in college. That won’t be as easy in the NBA, where there’s always somebody else to meet you at the rim if you happen to get past your man. He needs to work hard on his outside shot. If he learns to hit a three-pointer consistently, forget it. No one will be able to stop him. There hasn’t been a player with his size (6-foot-7, 284 pounds), his jumping ability (45-inch vertical leap) and his talent in the league.
But dreaming big shouldn’t be limited to Williamson and the first pick. He’s not the only player who could help the Bulls turn the corner.
If they land the second pick in the draft, Murray State’s Ja Morant would answer their need at point guard. He’s extremely gifted. The easiest thing in the world would have been for him to hog the ball at mid-major Murray State. Instead, he led the nation in assists with 10 a game. That was more than two assists per game better than his nearest competitor. He also found time to average 24.5 points a game.
So you can dream big about Morant taking the ball to the hoop for a massive dunk, something you normally wouldn’t expect from someone 6-3, 174 pounds. Or you can dream big about him making the sweet-shooting Markkanen a star.
Maybe Duke’s RJ Barrett will turn out to be the biggest prize of the draft. Maybe the Bulls won’t get as lucky as they had hoped in the lottery but will get lucky enough to pick third when the draft rolls around next month. Barrett averaged 22.6 points a game his freshman year, which is exactly what teammate Williamson averaged.
He likes to have the ball in his hands, and that could be an issue if the ball’s always in LaVine’s hands. It’s a problem that coach Jim Boylen would love to have.
That’s the lottery – projecting, imagining, dreaming.
Williamson is the massive trophy. He’s a walking, talking, dunking eclipse. But the other two players would be worth celebrating if the Bulls’ logo is on the second or third ping-pong ball selected Tuesday night. It’s called a win-win-win.
After that, the dreaming goes through significant downsizing. Getting excited will take more effort. Yahoo Sports has the Bulls grabbing Virginia guard De’Andre Hunter with the fourth pick. An ACC assistant coach said of him, “He has the potential to be a great defensive player at the next level.’’ That sounds uncomfortably close to what everybody said about Kris Dunn.
What if the worst happens and the Bulls end up picking eighth in the first round? It could happen. There’s a 2.2 percent chance of that disaster befalling them, but it could happen.
Wait, that’s not the worst thing that could transpire Tuesday! The Bulls could win the lottery and then draft a relatively obscure player whom their scouts absolutely adore! The horror!
OK, calm down, big fella.
This is the time for dreaming big, remember? This is no time to think about the Bulls paying for not playing the rebuild game correctly. This is the time to remember that team vice president John Paxson had a 1.7 percent chance of getting the top pick in the 2008 draft and pulled a rabbit out of his hat, winning the right to take Derrick Rose.
Dream big like that. You’ll sleep much better Monday night.