John Paxson hopes there’s 19 more wins somewhere between the NBA Draft on June 20 and next April.
That’s the “hunt’’ for the Bulls’ vice president of basketball operations.
Grab another solid contributor with the No. 7 pick, add a few veterans in free agency and, more importantly, keep the tables in the training room vacant.
And just like that, 22 wins becomes 41.
Sure, just like that.
“I still believe, given a really good offseason with this draft pick we have coming, and with our ability to get some veteran players in here alongside these young guys, we can make a substantial leap,’’ Paxson said last month. “We want to be in that hunt again.
“Now, that’s going to take us being healthy. The four major injuries we had this year were things we couldn’t account for.’’
But Paxson also isn’t accounting for other lottery teams taking that leap. Of the 13 teams in the lottery (the Hawks have two picks), there’s an argument to be made that only six are worse off than the Bulls as far as a combination of roster makeup, financial flexibility and being a destination for free agents.
Here they are from best to worst:
- Celtics: Yes, Kyrie Irving holding the Celtics hostage has not been a good look, but very few organizations have looked smarter over the last five years with their decision-making.
- Knicks: How do you overcome embarrassing ownership? Clear the decks for two max players, land the No. 3 pick in the upcoming draft and do a lot of praying. The punchline that has been Knicks basketball is in position to add Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and R.J. Barrett this summer to instantly become a threat in the Eastern Conference.
- Pelicans: Hitting lottery gold a few weeks ago was a huge boost. The Zion Williamson Era is set to begin in the Big Easy, but hiring David Griffin to handle basketball operations and Trajan Langdon as general manager was genius. Anthony Davis either is going to stay and play under the new regime or net the team serious assets.
- Hawks: The Hawks have their point guard in Trae Young, their big man in John Collins and their shooter in Kevin Huerter. Plus, they have only $57 million in guaranteed money next season. The team could be a sneaky player in free agency after picking eighth and 10th in the draft.
- Lakers: The most dysfunctional organization outside of New York these days is the Lakers, but they still have LeBron James and his history of recruiting. However, this is a make-or-break summer.
- Heat: The payroll is still a mess and the Bulls have more upside talent-wise, but coach Erik Spoelstra can bleed close to 40 wins out of any roster. Miami is a destination, and the team has Pat Riley to entice players.
- BULLS: Add a point guard and stay injury-free? The Bulls have a bad track record on both fronts lately.
- Suns: Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton are a nice one-two punch, but the Bulls have more weapons. The Suns pick before the Bulls at No. 6 and have only $80 million in guaranteed money, but it’s an organization that seems to get in its own way too often.
- Hornets: See Michael Jordan’s draft history.
- Cavaliers: The payroll is a mess — thanks, Kevin Love and JR Smith — and Collin Sexton is the only young piece with promise.
- Grizzlies: The rebuild is underway, with Ja Morant likely headed there in the draft. But this is no quick fixer-upper.
- Timberwolves: When your two max players — Andrew Wiggins and a soft stat-padder in Karl-Anthony Towns — are an enigma, you have problems. Then throw in a 33-year-old coach in Ryan Saunders … yikes.
- Wizards: John Wall is owed $171 million through 2023? Organizational killer!