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Mock Draft Reactions: Parity reigns over Bulls’ No. 4 pick

/ by Rob Schaefer
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Just two days remain until the highly anticipated Nov. 18 NBA Draft.

What do we know? Well, besides the date, time and draft order, not much is certain. A predraft process unlike any other -- and a perception of this class as one lacking surefire superstar talent at the top -- has given way to wildly variant opinions on prospects across the map.

Combine that with the Bulls new front office’s tight-lipped approach, and there is very little consensus among insiders and talent evaluators as to which direction the team will go come Wednesday. One thing is certain: With said front office, and a newly-indoctrinated coaching staff, in place, it will be a crucial decision to nail.

Let’s check the pulse of and react to the most recent mock drafts across the internet with draft day fast approaching. Select excerpts of analysis included, but full hyperlinks recommended:

Kevin O’Connor, The Ringer

No. 4: LaMelo Ball, G, Illawarra Hawks

 

On Ball: “The Bulls are seeking a playmaker with this pick, and most executives across the league expect them to take Ball if he is still on the board. Ball would add a vibrant playmaking presence to a team in desperate need of it. Selecting Ball would likely mean more changes are on the horizon, particularly in the backcourt...”

Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated

No. 4: LaMelo Ball, G, Illawarra Hawks

No. 44: Jahmi’us Ramsey, G, Texas Tech

On Ball: “... [Ball] makes a real degree of sense for Chicago, with the Bulls in dire need of a creative playmaker and Coby White better-suited as a two-guard long-term. There’s some thought around the NBA that Zach LaVine could be had via trade as well, so his presence shouldn’t be an impediment. The Bulls have done a good job disguising their intentions with this pick, but they’ve long been thought to covet Deni Avdija, who could be the choice here whether or not Ball is on the board. Obi Toppin is also in the mix here, but his skill set would appear redundant with Lauri Markkanen also on the roster.”

Reaction: Well, perhaps two things are (close to) certain for the Bulls in this draft: If LaMelo Ball is on the board, his tantalizing upside and the team’s need for a playmaker could very well combine to make him the choice. Our K.C. Johnson has been on this point for some time.

And it makes sense. Most experts seem to anticipate Ball, James Wiseman and Anthony Edwards coming off the board at Nos. 1, 2 and 3 in some order. But Ball’s unteachable feel, transcendent passing ability, scoring potential and positional size place him in a tier of his own based strictly on ceiling. Trading up to snag him could be a dicey proposition, but is always a possibility

Bust potential exists, of course, but as Artūras Karnišovas has said, top-five picks are for big swings. If Ball pans out, he'd be the superstar talent for which the Bulls have been searching since trading Jimmy Butler.

(It should also be mentioned that O’Connor and Woo both report that there is an emerging trade market for Zach LaVine, currently the Bulls’ brightest star and best asset, especially given his value contract. It’s all smoke for now -- whether it ends up foreshadowing a larger more remains to be seen.)

Jonathan Wasserman, Bleacher Report

No. 4: Deni Avdija, F, Maccabi Tel Aviv

No. 44: Isaiah Joe, G, Arkansas

On Avdija: “... The new front office figures to value Avdija's competitiveness and low-maintenance approach in a rotation with shot-hunters like Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Coby White. Teams view Avdija as one of the safest bets in the draft based on his success overseas, physical tools, skill versatility and reputation as a worker. He'd be Otto Porter Jr.'s long-term replacement, but he has the body and mentality to give Chicago tough minutes right away.”

 

On Joe: “Teams will be looking for shooters, and though Joe's percentage dipped this season, he still buried a ridiculous 207 threes in 60 career games at Arkansas.”

Jonathan Givony, ESPN

No. 4: Deni Avdija, F, Maccabi Tel Aviv

No. 44: Devon Dotson, G, Kansas

On Avdija: “NBA teams continue to struggle to get a handle on Chicago's intentions with this pick. Over the past few weeks, plenty of chatter revolving around the possibility of selecting FSU wing Patrick Williams has emerged…”

Sam Vecenie, The Athletic

No. 4: Deni Avdija, F, Maccabi Tel Aviv

On Avdija: This is Artūras Karnišovas’ first pick in charge of the Bulls. Karnišovas’ background when he got his first NBA job with the Rockets was in international scouting. He also was the director of adidas Eurocamp for years. There are few guys better connected across the NBA in Europe than Karnišovas. He’ll have a great feel for Avdija. The thought across the NBA is that if the Bulls stick at No. 4, Avdija is the most likely pick. How much of that is speculation based upon Karnišovas past as I laid out above? We’ll find out this week, as Karnišovas has been very good about keeping his thought process in-house..."

Reaction: Avdija has been the Bulls’ most popular mock target for months. That makes sense too. A 6-foot-9 forward with point guard skills that plays smart and loves to push the pace sounds, on paper, like the perfect antidote to the Bulls’ ails. He’d augment the team’s scoring guards and frontcourt pieces alike. And unlike Ball, he’s likely to be on the board at No. 4.

The question becomes: Is his downside -- poor shooting metrics, questions about his on-ball creation, average physical tools and athleticism -- worth the potential? Avdija, as mentioned above, feels a lock to be a solid NBA player. But is his best outcome star-level? That’s a calculation Karnišovas and Co. will need to make. The linkage is strong, but could be a product of Karnišovas international background more than anything. As Givony and Vecenie note, he’s not tipping his hand.

Givony’s mention of Patrick Williams is interesting as a higher-ceiling, lower-floor alternative. Also, relatively unrelated: Isaiah Joe falling to the Bulls would be an awesome development (as we’ve written).

John Hollinger, The Athletic

No. 4: Tyrese Haliburton, G, Iowa State

On Haliburton: “... I don’t know if Chicago is the team that takes Haliburton, but what I do know is that he’s going to go high. Everybody likes him. He has length and tools, the background on him is impeccable, and all these 1-on-0 shooting drills in ‘workouts’ are going to make him look really good.

 

New GM Artūras Karnišovas had a track record of selecting international players in Denver, which has pushed some toward saying Deni Avdija could be the pick here, but there isn’t a lot of information backing that up besides foreign passports. The Bulls also are said to be looking at culture as a big piece of this, and Haliburton is the best culture guy with top-10 talent. I think he’s the pick here, and I think he might be the pick here even if it isn’t the Bulls making the pick…”

James Ham, NBC Sports Bay Area

No. 4: Tyrese Haliburton, G, Iowa State

On Haliburton: “The Bulls need a point guard and with Ball off the board, Haliburton might be the best option. We’ve had Killian Hayes at this spot in the last few drafts, but Haliburton is a more polished and NBA ready talent. He stuffs the stat sheet as well as any player in the draft and he’s also an extremely impressive interview.”

Reaction: It would be hard to raise hell over this pick if it does indeed come to fruition. Haliburton is a consummate professional, addresses the Bulls’ dearth of playmaking without stepping on Zach LaVine or Coby White’s toes and profiles as a lineup stabilizer with his team defense and spot-up shooting.

He’s going to be a really good pro for a really long time. No one doubts that. Limitations as a finisher and off-the-dribble creator, though, could limit his upside. Just a passing, speculative thought: But such a profile wouldn’t immediately appear to align with Karnišovas’ draft history.

Ricky O’Donnell, SB Nation

No. 4: Killian Hayes, G, Ratiopharm Ulm

On Hayes; “As a general rule of thumb, until an NBA team has a star-level offensive creator, it needs to be looking for one. French-born guard Killian Hayes has a better chance to one day develop into that type of player than anyone in this draft class outside of LaMelo Ball. Hayes is a strong 6’5 lefty guard who can make every read on the floor. While not the most explosive athlete around the rim, he can put pressure on the defense as a scorer with floaters and pull-up jumpers. Hayes isn’t a wizard as a passer like Ball, but he is a more consistent on-ball decision-maker who has shown rare poise in the pick-and-roll as one of the younger players in this draft class. Hayes also has tremendous instincts defensively, knowing when and how to rotate in today’s help-heavy schemes.”

Reaction: Here, O’Donnell raises a compelling point: “... until an NBA team has a star-level offensive creator, it needs to be looking for one.” In that sense, if Ball is gone, Hayes makes unequivocal sense for the Bulls. He possesses unnatural facilitating acumen, off-the-bounce scoring potential and plays both ends with plus positional size. Similar to Avdija, quite the antidote for the Bulls, and fit for the modern NBA.

 

The Bulls will need to parse through shaky off-ball offensive production, and questions about Hayes’ athleticism, ambidexterity, meh competition level and how the free reign role he was allowed to play with Ulm will translate to the NBA. If the returns on most or all of the above appear positive, he’s an easy prospect to get excited about.

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