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Sports Saturday

Bulls eye four prospects as NBA Draft approaches

LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and Deni Avdija are considered the top four prospects in this draft, but the order in which they’ll fall is the big mystery.

Forward Deni Avdija (left) could be the perfect secondary playmaker.
Forward Deni Avdija (left) could be the perfect secondary playmaker.
Euroleague Basketball via Getty

Time is not an ally of the NBA these days.

It feels like yesterday that the greatest player on the planet held aloft his fourth Finals MVP trophy in the Florida bubble. Now, LeBron James and the rest of the league have to ignore bumps and bruises in hopes of getting the 2020-21 season tipped off by Dec. 22.

Why the rush?

There’s a 40% revenue loss expected if fans can’t attend games, but there’s also a revenue ticket worth anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion if the league can play a shortened 72-game regular season and make sure it has the playoffs done in time for the scheduled July Summer Olympics.

To make that possible, the NBA Draft will be held Nov. 18, followed by a scrambled free-agent period.

The new Bulls regime has been locked in its war room — or make that locked in Zoom meetings — prepping for its first draft.

Executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has argued that this draft is better than perceived, but there’s no argument about the top four prospects. LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and Deni Avdija are expected to go in the top four; the order is anyone’s guess.

Here’s how each would fit with the Bulls:

LaMelo Ball, 6-7, Point Guard

The instant fit would be a true playmaking lead guard who doesn’t need to score to be a difference-maker. The Bulls are trying to turn Coby White into that point guard of the future, and the jury is still out on that. White might be better suited to play the Zach LaVine off-the-ball guard role, getting some reps with the ball in his hands late in games.

Ball’s creativity in the passing game is elite, and his ability to push the ball up the floor is what the league is embracing these days. His positional size automatically makes him a triple-double threat.

Like older brother Lonzo, however, the outside shooting is a major concern, and he seems to go through lethargic moments defensively.

Ball the Bull: Ball would instantly challenge White as a starter, but he could also change the bigger picture of this rebuild. Drafting him at No. 4 would give the Bulls financial control over their backcourt for years, allowing LaVine to be a trade candidate by the end of this season with the historic 2021 free-agent class set to be loaded with talent.

Anthony Edwards, 6-4, Shooting Guard

There are few guards in this draft with Edwards’ explosion and ability to get hot from outside. Case in point, he scored 33 points for Georgia against Michigan State . . . in one half last season. He’s strong going to the hoop and embraces contact.

Edwards showed at times that he can be a shut-down defender, but he also checked out defensively in certain moments. And as hot as he can get from outside, he also goes through frigid moments, being the very definition of a streaky outside scorer.

Edwards the Bull: Similar to the drafting of Ball, grabbing Edwards could signal the end of the LaVine Era with the Bulls. Edwards would get a year of tutoring under LaVine, then the Bulls would have the flexibility of deciding which way they want to go.

James Wiseman, 7-1, Center

Momentum is growing around Wiseman being the best prospect in the draft. Players 7-1 with a 7-5 wingspan aren’t supposed to run the floor like a deer at 250 pounds. His athleticism is elite, and he understands the difference between scoring with explosion and scoring with touch. He can even step outside and knock down the three at times.

Wiseman is not afraid to play the role of rim protector, but at the same time, he has good enough feet to be switched out on a guard and not look like he’s on skates.

Wiseman the Bull: Because of his suspension at Memphis, there is little film on him, but Wiseman would instantly give the Bulls a true center to build around rather than forcing Wendell Carter Jr. to play a role he doesn’t love. It would also allow the Bulls to have Carter and Lauri Markkanen push each other to see who really wants to be the power forward.

Deni Avdija, 6-9, Forward

This is not an International Man of Mystery situation. Word out of Golden State is that if the Warriors can’t get Wiseman at No. 2, they could be looking to trade down in hopes of landing the versatile forward. Avdija has the size to play the four but is athletic enough to play the three. Then mix in his playmaking, and he’s the perfect secondary playmaker at the NBA level.

He’s an inconsistent outside shooter but has improved in that department. He had some warts defensively but also has worked to improve on that side of the ball. Landing Avdija at No. 4 is not merely a consolation prize.

Avdija the Bull: This pick makes the most sense for the Bulls from a need standpoint. In comes Avdija, out goes Otto Porter Jr. after a season in which he’ll make $28 million.