An eight-game winning streak and 10-win March all but ended the Bulls' pursuit of heading into May's NBA Draft Lottery with the best, second best or third best odds. In fact, since Dec. 8, when the Bulls were 3-20, they're 21-30; that's better than Detroit (20-30). So while the Bulls won't have a guaranteed top-6 pick they'll still have the opportunity to move into the top-3 if the Lottery balls fall their way. But first a breakdown of how likely it is for teams picking outside the top-4 of moving into the top-3.
In the last 15 years, 14 teams slotted 5th or worse have moved in to the top-3 of the Lottery. Here's a quick breakdown of that:
5th best odds: 5 times (2010, 1st; 2007, 2nd; 2006, 1st; 2004, 2nd; 2003, 2nd)
6th best odds: 4 times (2011, 3rd; 2010, 2nd; 2009, 2nd; 2005, 1st)
7th best odds: 1 time (2007, 1st)
8th best odds: 2 times (2013, 8th; 2011, 1st)
9th best odds: 2 times (2014, 1st; 2008, 1st)
And (spoiler alert) it really pays to have top-4 odds going into the Lottery.
The 1st best odds have fallen out of the top-3 just three times ('09, '07, '06); the 2nd best odds have fallen out of the top-3 seven times ('17, '15, '13, '11, '10, '08, '05); the 3rd best odds have fallen out of the top-3 eight times ('14, '12, '11, '10, '07, '05, '04, '03); and the 4th best odds have fallen out of the top-3 nine times ('16, '14, '13, '11, '10, '08, '06, '04, '03)
You have to go back to 1999 to find a team with the 10th or worse odds to jump into the top-3. The Hornets did that with the 13th worst odds. So as you can see, minus the 7th slot outlier, it makes a significant difference being 5th/6th and 8th/9th.
The Bulls are currently slotted 8th in the Lottery Watch standings, though they're just one back in the win column from No. 5 Dallas. In theory they could get as high as No. 4, though it would take a few wins from Orlando and potentially some coin-flip luck if the Bulls finished tied with others.
But here's the catch with all that. The last three seasons no team with the 5th best odds or worse has jumped into the top-3, or even the top-4. So maybe the NBA is due for the Lottery balls to fall a certain way that allows a team with poor odds. The Bulls sure hope so. And if they do land in the top-3, here are some scenarios that could play out.
If the Bulls pick first: It's been 10 years since the Bulls jumped eight teams and earned the right to draft Derrick Rose. And if they did so again and the Bulls jumped up to the top of the class, they'd likely sprint to the podium on draft night and select Arizona center Deandre Ayton. He's not the consensus top pick (yet), he very well could be by draft night. Standing 7-foot-1 with an NBA-ready body, Ayton averaged 20.1 points and 11.6 rebounds for the Wildcats and was named Pac-12 Player of the Year. His versatile offensive game makes him a perfect fit in today's NBA, and while he's still a work in progress on the other end he managed to block 1.9 shots and hauled in 8.2 defensive rebounds per game.
He's also a perfect fit next to Lauri Markkanen. You're rarely going to hear us mention "need" for the Bulls, because teams picking in the Lottery more ofen than not need to draft the best player available. That's certainly the case at No. 1, but Ayton also fills a need. He shot just 35 3-pointers with Arizona, but he looked comfortable doing it. We'll also toss in here that Karl-Anthony Towns was 2-for-8 from deep in college and is now shooting nearly 44 percent from deep on 265 attempts in his third NBA season. With a soft touch around the rim, incredible athleticism and the body of a 10-year veteran, Ayton would almost certainly be the Bulls' pick at No. 1. An inside-out duo of Ayton/Markkanen, with Bobby Portis as a third wheel, would allow the Bulls to focus exclusively on their backcourt as the rebuild turns another chapter.
If the Bulls pick second: We'll go ahead and assume Ayton will go off the board at No. 1 to whoever picks there. That leaves the Bulls with multiple options. Some of you will like the pick, and others will hate it. But it's just too difficult to look past what Luka Doncic has done at such a young age. He has played professional basketball for three years, and done so in the best league outside of the NBA. And not only has he done that: he's dominated. In 49 games for Real Madrid, Donic averaged 15.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists in just 24.7 minutes. Remember, he's 19. He's a 6-foot-7 ball handler with ridiculous passing skills both in transition and half-court sets, and he succeeds at the rim.
So does he fit with the Bulls? The verdict is still out on Kris Dunn being the point guard of the future. He's a core piece, to be sure, but once again...teams picking in the Lottery draft the best player, not for need. When you draft for need you wind up trading Kawhi Leonard to the Spurs for George Hill because you already have Danny Granger. Yikes. Dunn or no Dunn, Doncic would give the Bulls a second ball handler and creator for an offense that has really lacked one. He has admittedly struggled from deep in Europe, but he's also not afraid to shoot from out there. Fred Hoiberg can make him a shooter; he has the intangibles that can't be taught. He could play alongside Dunn and LaVine, giving the Bulls a long, versatile backcourt and a second wing that will keep the ball moving if Dunn doesn't have it.
If the Bulls pick third: Ayton will be gone, and in this scenario Doncic is off the board. That leaves the player who, in this author's opinion, will wind up being the best in the class. Duke's Marvin Bagley III is oozing with versatility, potential, length and any other NBA Draft buzzword you want to use. It's not cliche with Bagley, it's the truth. The 6-foot-11 power forward averaged 21.0 points, 11.1 rebounds and nearly a steal and block per game for the Blue Devils. He was great in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 20.0 points, 8.6 rebounds while shooting 21 of 31 (68%). He made 40 percent of his 58 3-point attempts, but at this stage of his career he's much more comfortable around the rim and attacking in the paint. He needs to improve defensively, though he thrived in Duke's zone, but his athleticism will help him as he learns on the go.
Sun-Times reporter Joe Cowley wrote that Bagley is "the player several mambers of the (Bulls) organization believe is better fit with Markkanen." He's a traditional power forward, so while the Bulls would be undersized using a Bagley/Markkanen frontcourt, that versatility is scary-good. Bagley can run the floor, does well in pick-and-roll situations and is lethal at the rim. Acquiring Bagley might make Bobby Portis expendable, which would give the Bulls more room to fill holes elsewhere (especially if they give Zach LaVine a ton of money in July). Bagley looks to be a perfect fit with the Bulls, and it wouldn't be a shock to see him go off the board at No. 2 if the Bulls drafted there.
Mo Bamba, Michael Porter Jr. and Jaren Jackson will all be options here, but for now these are our picks if the Bulls can find some Lottery magic.