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Bulls hoping lottery gods will smile on them

They have only a 20.3% chance of landing among the top four teams. If they don’t, their first-round pick will go to the Magic.

NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum announces that the Bulls had won the seventh pick during the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery.
NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum announces that the Bulls had won the seventh pick during the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery.
Nuccio DiNuzzo/AP

Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas wasn’t going to hide from the obvious.

In less than a year on the job, he already has shown a level of accountability the Bulls’ old front office failed to display time and time again.

That’s why he had no reservations about admitting that, considering only the Bulls’ goals in 2020-21, the trade with Magic for All-Star center Nikola Vucevic in March was a failure.

The first priority of that deal was to end a postseason drought that began with the 2017-18 season, and it didn’t.

‘‘The disappointment is short-term,’’ Karnisovas said last month. ‘‘We assume that if you add another All-Star to your roster, usually you get better and improve your record. It’s a results-driven business. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.’’

There are phases in assessing that deal, however, and the next one is a doozy.

In acquiring Vucevic and forward Al-Farouq Aminu, the Bulls sent the Magic big man Wendell Carter Jr., forward Otto Porter Jr. and, most important, first-round draft picks in 2021 and 2023.

The 2021 pick is protected if the Bulls can land in the top four of the NBA Draft lottery Tuesday. They had a 31.9% chance to do that with less than two weeks left in the regular season, but those odds fell to 20.3% when they won five of their last seven games to close the season.

The change in the organizational landscape if the Bulls can retain their 2021 pick will be monumental. Not only would that deal have landed them an All-Star to go with guard Zach LaVine, but the Bulls would come out the other side in the running to land a player such as Cade Cunningham or Jalen Suggs in the draft. Both are point guards with potential generational type of skills.

That would mean a one-two punch of LaVine and Vucevic to build around now and perhaps a wave of potential dominance if second-year forward Patrick Williams and either Cunningham or Suggs live up to their high ceilings.

And while the lottery hasn’t been that kind to the Bulls in quite some time, they did land the No. 1 pick — which they used to select Derrick Rose — with only a 1.7% chance in 2008. (They have a 4.5% chance of landing the No. 1 pick this year.)

Since embarking on their rebuild, however, they had the No. 7 pick in 2017 (Lauri Markkanen), 2018 (Carter) and 2019 (Coby White) before landing at No. 4 last year and selecting Williams. It would be nice for them to have another hit-by-lightning moment, especially with the talent at the top of this draft.

In most mock drafts in which teams stay where they are slotted, the Rockets would be No. 1 and likely would target Cunningham, the Pistons would be No. 2 and look to big man Evan Mobley, the Magic would have their own pick at No. 3 and take Jalen Green and the Thunder would select Suggs at No. 4.

But since the NBA reworked the lottery process in 2019 to dissuade teams from intentionally tanking, little has gone as expected. The Pelicans jumped from No. 7 to No. 1 and selected forward Zion Williamson in 2019, and the Bulls and Hornets jumped into the top four last year.

But then there’s the other side to this: There’s almost an 80% chance the Bulls won’t have a first-round pick July 29.

If that happens, then how will the trade for Vucevic be assessed?

‘‘It’s very, very early to judge the trade,’’ Vucevic said recently. ‘‘Sometimes things take longer to come together.’’