This is uncharted territory for Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas.
During his time in the Nuggets’ front office, he never had a first-round draft pick higher than seventh, and he had mixed results the two times he selected in that spot. He swung and missed on Emmanuel Mudiay in 2015, then redeemed himself with Jamal Murray the next year.
But this is also uncharted territory for the NBA. Not only are prospects being evaluated with as limited information (film and scouting reports) as they have been in recent memory, but getting guys in for personal workouts is unlikely because of coronavirus protocols.
That leaves a virtual combine from which Karnisovas must glean as much information as possible.
‘‘I’ve said it in the past: I like to evaluate players live, five-on-five, which we had a chance this year in the season that was cut short,’’ Karnisovas said in a Zoom meeting with the media after the Bulls landed the No. 4 in pick the NBA Draft lottery Thursday. ‘‘Then the combine and going through a bunch of interviews.
‘‘We actually did a lot of Zoom interviews so far. We’ll see what the NBA is going to come up with in terms of virtual combine. There will be a combination of physicals and testing and, again, video interviews. Just going through the process, I think it’s going to help us to get to the last week before the draft when we’re going to come up with a consensus.
‘‘We spend a ton of time with video and a lot of time interviewing prospects. A consensus is going to arrive. But it will probably be more clear with a week to go before the draft.
‘‘No matter the position, I always scouted live. I always wanted to see a player at least twice during the year. Besides the video, besides the interviewing, besides seeing them in the combine and bringing them in for workouts before the draft, I like live scouting. No matter what, you’ve gotta go see them. It’s going to be limited now because you don’t see them fresh. We haven’t played basketball since March. So it’s going to be a little more difficult.’’
Karnisovas stressed his philosophy in terms of picking so high is simple: Select the best player available. Needs are for teams lower in the draft to address.
Not that the Bulls don’t have needs. Their point-guard play has been sporadic since they traded Derrick Rose to the Knicks in June 2016. Yes, they established a defensive identity under former coach Jim Boylen, but it was a defensive identity built on smoke and mirrors. They generated deflections and turnovers by using three guards, but they also left the frontcourt exposed, falling short in rebounding and blocked shots.
As far as specific positions the Bulls need to strengthen, starting small forward Otto Porter Jr. all but certainly will opt in for the final season of his contract, and backup Chandler Hutchison has spent more time in the training room than on the court.
There’s a reason Deni Avdija and Isaac Okoro are being linked to the Bulls in mock drafts. Both are small forwards — albeit with different strengths — and either would be penciled in to take Porter’s spot in 2021-22.
‘‘I think you address by selecting the best player available, especially at the [No. 4 spot],’’ Karnisovas said. ‘‘I don’t think you address needs at [No.] 4; you get the best talent. What we’re going to be looking for is the highest-upside player. On [draft night] Oct. 16, you’ll see who it’s going to be.’’