We won’t know for another few weeks exactly where the Bulls will pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, but that hasn’t stopped ESPN from going all in on mock drafts. Expert Jonathan Givony recently published projections for all 2,184 potential lottery scenarios, including those where the Bulls miraculously jump from No. 6 to No. 1 in the order.
So who does ESPN predict the Bulls will take if they win the lottery for the first time since 2008? Arizona center DeAndre Ayton.
“Physically, Ayton is one of the most gifted prospects we’ve seen in the draft in the past few years, and he has impressive skill level to boot,” Givony writes. “He should look even better in the NBA when not playing out of position at the 4 like he did in college. If Ayton finds a way to improve his defensive instincts, he has All-Star written all over him.”
Ayton is widely considered a prime candidate to be the first overall pick in the draft, so it makes sense that the Bulls would take him. The 7-foot center is coming off a stellar freshman year at Arizona where he averaged 20.1 points on 61 percent shooting, 11.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game.
He couldn’t prevent the Wildcats from a brutal 21-point upset loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but that can’t really be pinned on him.
With Lauri Markkanen already at the four, Ayton could be a perfect fit in a potentially dominant frontcourt. Most teams would take him first overall as the best player available, but in the Bulls’ case, he would be a strong fit, too.
Here are other projected picks for the Bulls from ESPN, depending on where they land in the lottery. Some results are different depending on which players have already been selected. This isn’t necessarily exhaustive since we didn’t see all 2,184 possible scenarios.
If No. 2 … PG Luka Doncic, Slovenia
If No. 3 … C Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State
If No. 6 … C Wendell Carter Jr., Duke or PG Trae Young, Oklahoma
If No. 7 … C Mohamed Bamba, Texas
If No. 8 … C Mohamed Bamba, Texas
Going off these picks, you get the sense that ESPN expects the Bulls to prioritize a potential franchise big man … unless they land at No. 2, where Doncic or Ayton will be on the board. As much as the Bulls need a center more than a point guard, Doncic is a unique talent who would be difficult to pass on with the second overall pick.
If the Bulls can’t get into the top two spots, then they’re likely to be picking from the next tier of big men after Ayton. With the No. 3 pick, the Bulls might have their choice of Jackson and Duke’s Marvin Bagley III. If they don’t move into the top three and end up picking sixth or later, those two will likely be off the board, leaving them to pick from Carter or Bamba.
The wild card here is Young, the high-scoring point guard from Oklahoma. Young has massive potential as a lead guard in the NBA and would provide a different dynamic than Kris Dunn or Zach LaVine in the Bulls’ backcourt. However, there are major question marks about his shot selection and defense that make him a big risk with such a high draft pick.
The 2018 NBA Draft Lottery is set for May 15 at 7 p.m. CT. The draft will be held in New York City on June 21.