You can’t overstate how important upcoming draft will be for the Bulls’ rebuild
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The Bulls own the 22nd overall pick in the NBA Draft on June 21. There’s not much drama associated with that first-round gift courtesy of the Pelicans in the Nikola Mirotic trade.
But the money pick? The one that can add a fourth piece to what the organization has deemed a “core three’’ of Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn?
The answer for vice president of basketball operations John Paxson will come Tuesday in the draft lottery.
“We’re confident we’ll find two players we like in this draft,’’ Paxson said last month. “We’re going to find out where we pick in the top 10. That obviously will be a significant pick. There’s talent [in this class]. It’s on myself and my staff.’’
Give the front office credit for getting Markkanen. The Jimmy Butler trade to the Timberwolves included a swapping of draft picks, and the Bulls landed Markkanen, whose skills were valued by a lot of teams.
Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau admitted after the draft that they would’ve selected Markkanen at No. 7 if the Butler deal hadn’t taken place, and Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle sounded as if he’d have taken him with the ninth pick if available.
So general manager Gar Forman and Paxson deserve a golf clap for their recent work, not so much for their past work. Their questionable draft picks and Derrick Rose’s injuries forced them to embark on this rebuild in the first place.
After hitting a home run in the 2011 draft with Butler, the swings and misses started to accumulate. There was Marquis Teague in 2012 and Tony Snell in 2013. Then they traded multiple draft choices for Doug McDermott in 2014.
Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine went in back-to-back drafts after McDermott, but both are bench players.
Markkanen was the unicorn who ended the drought, and the Bulls have to hit on this year’s first pick no matter where it falls.
“We’ve done a lot of [scouting] work, but now, once the predraft camp starts and the interviewing process starts, you get into the deeper things with players,’’ Paxson said. “But I’m confident we’ll be able to find some pieces to help us.’’
Luck could make that process a bit easier.
If nothing changes in the lottery, the Bulls will stay at No. 6. They have an 18.3 percent chance to jump into the top three and a 5.3 percent chance to land the top pick.
They’ve defied draft odds before, landing the No. 1 pick in 2008 — Rose — despite a 1.7 percent chance.
Can lightning strike twice? Can the Bulls defy the odds again and have the chance to grab 7-1 big man Deandre Ayton or versatile forward/center Marvin Bagley?
Paxson won’t count on that.
This is about trusting Forman and his scouts, then believing in the draft board.
“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, 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.’’