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Sports Saturday

Could Tyrese Haliburton be the Bulls’ target or just more draft smoke?

The Iowa State combo guard has worked out and interviewed with the Bulls, but new executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has a surfeit of options with the draft approaching.

Iowa State’s thinks he’d be a good fit with the Bulls.
Iowa State’s thinks he’d be a good fit with the Bulls.
Charlie Neibergall/AP

Tyrese Haliburton wants to be a Bull.

That in itself should be cause for celebration, considering the Bulls’ reputation the last few years — largely because of the circus that was their coaching staff.

“I think I fit well in Chicago,” Haliburton said on a teleconference call earlier this week, with the NBA Draft coming up next Wednesday. “Obviously, with two guards in Coby [White] and Zach [LaVine] who can score at a high level, I think I can come in right away and be somebody who can take the burden off them and facilitate. But also, with them wanting the ball in their hands at the same time, I can be a guy that plays off the ball and knocks down shots. So whatever is needed in Chicago — or any organization, for that matter — I’m ready to do.”

The Iowa State product, a playmaking guard, has worked out for the Bulls and interviewed with them. According to a source, he knocked it out of the park in both settings.

No one was surprised by that. Haliburton is considered to have both a high basketball IQ and a winning personality.

But is he worth the Bulls’ No. 4 pick?

And is there another player the Bulls see as a better fit? The consensus is that four other prospects — LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and Deni Avdija — have the potential to be either difference-makers or busts.

Fortunately, Arturas Karnisovas, the Bulls’ executive vice president of basketball operations, has the benefit of options. He could play it safe, stay at No. 4 and take the best available player. (Whether that’s small forward Avdija, power forward Obi Toppin or Haliburton remains to be seen.) Or, he has the flexibility to move up or down in this mediocre draft, or even look to make an immediate impact by trading the pick in a package for Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul or Jrue Holiday. Each is rumored to be on the trading block.

Here’s the problem with that last path: The Bulls had just 22 wins last season and have a roster with more questions than answers. Adding an aging veteran point guard with a big contract feels more desperate than decisive. Westbrook has $132 million left over three years, and the next young player he makes better will be the first. Paul would be a great fit, but not at $85 million over the next two seasons, and not with a historic 2021 free-agent class on the horizon. Holiday makes $53 million over the next two seasons but is better served to play with superstars at this point in his career than be a babysitter during a rebuild.

Unless Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks’ two-time MVP, is offered in exchange for the No. 4 pick and any players of the Bucks’ choosing, the Bulls are better positioned to use their pick and continue the process of evaluating for one more season.

That doesn’t mean the pick has to be the No. 4, though.

The latest draft intel has the Timberwolves moving closer to settling on Ball at No. 1 overall, with the Warriors using the No. 2 pick on Wiseman or trading down for Avdija — a call the Bulls would have to take — and the Hornets feeling good about Edwards at No. 3.

Unfortunately, draft intel is often nothing more than who’s the best liar. According to a source, the Bulls also feel that Ball would be a game-changer for them, so could they look to move up in exchange for future assets or hope that the Ball-Timberwolves chatter is more smoke than fire and he slides.

Then there’s another scenario: Maybe Haliburton is the guy the Bulls want all along, and they move down to No. 7 — currently held by the Pistons, who are looking to move up — with Haliburton falling right into their open arms.

“I enjoyed it,” Haliburton said of his interview. “The guys in Chicago are real cool.”

And maybe real stealthy.