Bulls chose development over lottery percentages, and now it’s a numbers game

SHARE Bulls chose development over lottery percentages, and now it’s a numbers game
SHARE Bulls chose development over lottery percentages, and now it’s a numbers game

It was a philosophy that was debated, a game of chance the Bulls were willing to play this season by thumbing their nose at an extra 1.5 percent chance at the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.

As draft-lottery fortunes are determined Tuesday, will it be second-guessing time, or might the Bulls’ heavily scrutinized front office actually waltz out with the No. 1 pick and a chance to select man-child Zion Williamson?

‘‘I’d rather see the development of the players the way they’ve developed the last month over anything else right now,’’ Bulls president and COO Michael Reinsdorf said in March, when he was asked about the philosophy of winning games over lottery position.

It wasn’t just talk, either. The Bulls won back-to-back games in mid-March, including a game in Phoenix that helped to alter how the bottom four would finish.

Specifically, it all but determined the Bulls would finish with the fourth-worst record, taking them out of the running for having a 14 percent chance at the No. 1 pick.

Sure, the Bulls eventually went into losing mode down the stretch, sitting their starters because of injury, but it was too late. The Knicks, Suns and Cavaliers all played the same tanking game, led by the Cavs losing their last 10 games.

With the new flattened lottery rules, those three teams have a 14 percent chance to land the No. 1 pick; the Bulls are sitting at 12.5 percent. The three also have a 13.4 percent chance of landing the No. 2 pick (likely point guard Ja Morant); the Bulls are at 12.2 percent.

Meaningless? Maybe, but Reinsdorf even admitted that ‘‘every percentage point counts.’’


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The lottery will determine just how much.

In many drafts, there is little talent separation at the top. No. 1 is nice, but there still are finds at No. 8 or even No. 10. Heck, the Bulls landed Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. in back-to-back drafts at No. 7.

This draft, however, is different. Williamson’s skills never have been seen before. There just hasn’t been a 6-7, 285-pounder with a 45-inch vertical leap created by the basketball gods before.

How that translates to the NBA remains to be seen. But many think Williamson can change the altitude of the game the way Stephen Curry has changed its geometry from a spacing standpoint.

After Williamson sits Morant, a 6-3 point guard with uncanny athletic ability and rare playmaking skills. His game, however, has some holes, starting with an outside shot that looks more like a set shot than a jumper.

After those two? Even if the Bulls were to defy the odds a bit and move up to No. 3, players such as forward RJ Barrett, swingman Jarrett Culver and forward Cam Reddish might have to come off the bench for at least a couple of seasons. Point guard could challenge for a starting job, but the feeling is he would be a bit of a reach at No. 3 or No. 4.

That’s why there’s a wild card in all of this. The Sun-Times reported last month that if the Bulls slip into the No. 3 to No. 6 range, they could check with the Lakers about the availability of point guard Lonzo Ball in a trade.

Either way, Tuesday might change the fortunes of several rebuilding teams. The Bulls better hope they’re not on the outside of that extra 1.5 percent.

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