Bulls mailbag: Latest on coach search and draft options

USA Today

A longer 2019-20 season just means more opportunity for Bulls mailbags.

What type of coach are the Bulls looking for? Would Nate McMillan fall in that category? He's a good coach. — Allen H.

Artūras Karnišovas, the floor is yours...

“In terms of what we’re going to be looking for, we’re going to continue focusing on player development and an emphasis on player development, someone who puts relationships with players first and is a good communicator,” Karnišovas said on the day he fired Jim Boylen.

And, yes, Nate McMillan is a good coach. His teams in Portland and Indiana typically overachieved and developed reputations as being organized and no-nonsense. He checks the player-development and good-communicator boxes for sure. I can’t speak to his relationships with players, but his teams always played hard, which certainly at least speaks to respect. One oft-repeated knock on McMillan is that he wasn’t always quick to adjust and his offensive schemes weren’t dynamic. It certainly sounds like Karnišovas is seeking a dynamic offense.

Since the initial list of targeted candidates broke on the day of Boylen’s firing, three veteran coaches have joined Boylen in looking for jobs: McMillan, Alvin Gentry and Brett Brown. This is a generalization, but new executives typically like to hire people with whom they have a relationship because of the comfort factor. We’ll see if that applies in this situation or not. For what it’s worth, McMillan has unequivocally said he’s taking off next season. He’s still getting paid by the Pacers.

In regards to the roster, is there any indication from Artūras Karnišovas as to what the development priorities are? As in, which players are going to be the focus of the future? Also, will this be the priority criteria for deciding the next coaching hire? A coach who has a reputation for developing young players? *coughKennyAtkinson*cough* — Soham G.

Think you have something caught in your throat there...

It’s one of the criteria. And it doesn’t sound like Karnišovas has one criteria valued over another. The ideal candidate will be strong in all aspects that he values. 

Plus, the above quote in my first answer isn’t the full quote.

Here’s the rest of it: “There are a lot of factors going on in terms of criteria that we’re looking for in a coach, but again, those are the main ones.” So Karnišovas and Marc Eversley are looking for a candidate that checks multiple boxes.

As for the developmental priorities, they are centered on determining why a young, talented roster underachieved and fixing what ailed it. It’s clear that Karnišovas isn’t buying that the Bulls’ woes were simply due to injuries or coaching, though both were certainly factors. The fact that he fired Boylen evidences that.

How does moving up in the lottery affect the Bulls’ offseason plans? Will they be more aggressive to win now or will this lead to more of a reset of the rebuild where they try to build around who they draft? I am concerned about the timeline of the players in the Bulls’ core. Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. are going to be up for expensive extensions in the next two years. Re-signing all of them will lock the Bulls into that core, whose ceiling seems to be a 6/7 seed in the East. Do you see the new management deciding to use the #4 pick to reset the rebuild by trading part of the current core either for an established star or draft assets so that they can have a core working on the same timeline? — Timothy G.

Don’t forget Coby White’s extension at some point.

I don’t think any of those players plus the No. 4 pick nets you an established star. LaVine has been in the conversation for an All-Star berth the last two seasons anyway. So I’m not sure what your definition of “established star” is. You’re not getting an All-NBA player with any of the players you mentioned plus the No. 4 pick in a relatively unheralded draft.

Your larger question is a good one. My sense is that the new regime wants to figure out why this roster has underachieved and then reconstruct it in their own image moving forward. Think more athleticism. Think more two-way players. I think they use this season to gauge who fits and who doesn’t and then work towards shaping the roster with those they determine worth keeping, plus additions through future drafts and free agency.

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When should we expect to see or hear some news surrounding the Bulls’ scouting efforts? Do we send Artūras to Israel? I am dying to see some insight into the players around No. 4. How long do you think it will be before the Bulls begin to show their cards a bit through the scouting process? — Dan S.

This will be a predraft process unlike any other because of COVID-19. The combine is expected to be virtual. It’s almost certain that individual workouts at team facilities won’t happen. Interviews will be done remotely. It’s a lot.

And in some sense, the fact the Bulls are drawing from executives who have varying backgrounds working for different franchises could help them. Each will bring different perspectives and predraft protocols to the table. The fact Karnišovas and Eversley are using holdovers like Brian Hagen and Steve Weinman also gives some of the previous regime’s flavor. That regime had more draft hits than misses.

I’ve heard Karnišovas has valued his relationship with senior adviser John Paxson, who ceded complete autonomy but is willing to assist the new regime whenever they ask him for any input.

If you were in charge, who would you draft at No. 4? And what would your rotation look like for next year? — Alexandro R.

Thankfully, I’m not. I’d be an awful executive.

But since you asked, I’d go for the ol’ best player available. That’s not cliché. It’s more a nod to where the Bulls are. They’re in no position to draft for need or try to plug holes. They have to accumulate talent and worry about fit later. And that’s exactly what Karnišovas stated as his draft philosophy.

These aren’t idle words. The Nuggets acquired two centers in the 2014 draft, one in a trade with the Bulls. Once Nikola Jokić emerged, they deemed Jusuf Nurkić expendable and traded him to the Trail Blazers in 2017.

As for rotation, it’s definitely time to start Coby White alongside Zach LaVine. Bring Tomáš Satoranský off the bench. So, barring a trade, something like White, LaVine, whoever is healthier/better between Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. would be the starting five. Bring Thad Young, Daniel Gafford and Satoranský off the bench. If Kris Dunn is back, he’s another piece. The No. 4 pick will be too, and don't forget the Bulls own the No. 44 pick as well. Karnišovas' past second-round successes are well-documented. TBD how each of them will affect the above.

What are your thoughts on trading down, despite Artūras Karnišovas' claims of drafting best available? Prospects like Bey, Nesmith, and Vassell would fit perfect in our system I'd think. — WuteverTrevor3, via Twitter

The Nuggets used this practice when Karnišovas worked there. That said, I don’t think this draft stands out enough to do that. The Bulls don’t need a lot more young assets. They need starpower and talent. You can probably serve that need better by staying at No. 4 and hoping you hit on the pick.

Who do you think fits this Bulls roster best in the draft? — dyoung_trece, via Twitter

LaMelo Ball. Whether you can get him without trading up is another question.

Would you agree the most glaring need for this team is a high-level playmaker/passer? Or is it a wing defender? If the top three goes a lot like people think, Deni Avdija and Killian Hayes probably are the guys at No. 4 who can make their teammates better. Which prospect would you lean to and why? I feel like Killian may have the higher shotmaking upside, but a three-guard lineup of Coby/Zach/Killian would probably be never very good defensively. Deni just seems like a perfect glue guy for this team with his versatility. — Charles A.

Which is why he’s landing at No. 4 on several mock drafts.

And, yes, I agree the most glaring need is a high-level playmaker, which is why Ball is the best fit to me. Can Hayes be that guy? The draft always is a guessing game. It’s more so this year with the funky predraft process. And as previously mentioned, I’d be a terrible GM even with a normal predraft process.

Hayes has great size and, even though he may not wow you athletically, typically gets to his spots. Think a rawer version of Malcolm Brogdon, who one scout I talked to used as a comparison.

Will Perdue mentioned a while back about trading the fourth pick and Wendell Carter Jr. for the second pick to draft James Wiseman. Since Carter mentioned before that he’s more comfortable at power forward, would you trade Lauri Markkanen and No. 4 for the second pick? Markkanen is a pure shooter but you also noted Carter’s smooth stroke in a previous mailbag. Plus, Carter is a good defender unlike Markkanen. — Josiah R.

As usual, Big Will doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I joke because I love...

If I traded up, the target would be Ball, not Wiseman. And, as previously mentioned, I don’t see the Bulls as being in position to give up 2-for-1 assets. So something else would have to be coming back from Golden State. And you’d have to be convinced the target — whether it’s Ball or Wiseman — would hit big. Say what you want about Carter and Markkanen, but both have shown glimpses of being important contributors at this level.

Why do you think fans are desperate to trade Lauri or Zach? I am desperate to see them play with a coach they respect. — EnBulls, via Twitter

You’re painting with a broad bush, obviously, as not all fans feel this way. But for those who have opined that way on those players, it comes down to detractors believing LaVine doesn’t impact winning and Markkanen isn’t consistent or physical enough to become a star. I do think the new regime thinks both players can improve with a new offense.