Bulls position breakdown: Adding forward Michael Porter would be Xmas in June

The Bulls’ days of operating in the shadows seem to be fading.

It’s no coincidence that as they’ve become more transparent the last few seasons, general manager Gar Forman has slipped further and further into the background, along with his old methodology of hiding everything behind a curtain.

Two weeks ago, when vice president of basketball operations John Paxson was asked about the draft and team needs, he was up front about the priorities.

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Michael Porter Jr.

“We need to look at the wing position,” Paxson said. “That would be an ideal spot. Size and length at the wing, a shooting component [and] a defensive component would be something that, if you’re looking at an area we would like to improve, that would be it.

“But depending on where we draft, it’s hard to overlook talent, even when you’re looking at maybe a specific need. Again, that process, we’re still over two months from the draft. We have a lot of work to do. [Our approach to] positions — not that they’re going by the wayside, but the lines are blurred. You no longer really have center, power forward. You need versatility. Our game has changed that much. We can use versatile players, guys that have length and size and shooting component, those types of things.”

It’s not a commitment to drafting a forward no matter what, but it’s certainly an honest assessment of what the Bulls consider an area of need.

Yes, Lauri Markkanen is more power forward than center, but as he bulks up his frame, and as those two positions continue to blur in today’s NBA, it feels like the Bulls are set in the big wing department. Small forward remains an obvious issue, and it needs more than just a Band-Aid.

Who’s coming back

Justin Holiday —  Given his first chance to be an NBA starter and a leader, Holiday had his moments this past season. With one year left on his deal, he could be a solid mentor to a first-round pick.

Lauri Markkanen — It’s been awhile since the Bulls have hit on a first-round pick with this much success. “The Finnisher” broke rookie franchise records for three-point shooting, showed an ability to score inside and outside and started breaking the stereotype about big Euros being somewhat on the soft side. He’s a keeper and might be the face of the franchise moving forward.

David Nwaba — Sign the man. Nwaba showed physicality on defense, at times guarding players 5 and 6 inches taller than him, and he has a run-out game perfect for coach Fred Hoiberg’s offense. He’s a great spark off the bench.

Bobby Portis — The Bulls’ first-round pick from 2015 made huge strides again, but he’s still better suited as a key rotation player than a starter. That’s not a bad thing, just life in the NBA. He still needs to work on his body to offset a lack of athleticism.

Denzel Valentine — See Bobby Portis and subtract 5 inches.

Who could be departing

Noah Vonleh — The Hornets’ first-round pick from 2014 had some moments, but since he has a minimum $4.7 million qualifying offer, those moments are easy to forget.

Paul Zipser — Too injured and not athletic enough, especially with two first-round picks coming.

Who’s out there

It’ll be a good summer to be in the market for a wing, especially with Paul George a free agent and Kawhi Leonard apparently unhappy in San Antonio. Unfortunately, the Bulls are still early in their rebuild and not yet ready to attract big-name players.

The draft

Missouri small forward Michael Porter Jr. was arguably the top prospect before back surgery created questions about him. It’ll all come down to medicals for Porter as the draft approaches, but if he checks out and the Bulls somehow land him, consider it Christmas in June.

Villanova’s Mikal Bridges would be a nice consolation prize — but still a consolation prize.