John Paxson had the post-NBA Draft Lottery playbook open, reeling off textbook line after line about how the Bulls will find someone useful with the 7th overall pick in June. Paxson said the Bulls have already gone to their big board and that there are more than seven players they like, meaning the Bulls will have their choice of talent when they go on the clock at No. 7.
Unless they aren’t on the clock at No. 7.
When asked if picking midway through the Lottery will have the Bulls bypass the traditional best player available strategy and target a need such as point guard, Paxson seemed open to the idea.
“I think if you’re looking at comparable guys in a tier, sometimes need takes precedent over (best player available),” Paxson said. “And I’ve talked to our entire group about keeping an open mind on things like that this year.
“There’s other things you can do with picks to get better. You can trade them, you can do a lot of different things. So again, now that we know where we’re at, thankful to know and we’ll get to work trying to find a way to make best use of it.”
Doesn’t exactly sound like someone intent on keeping the pick if the right deal comes along. Then again, it takes two to tango and trades are difficult to come by for myriad reasons. For now, it’s feasible that the Bulls could use the No. 7 pick to go a different route than simply selecting from their big board after the Phoenix Suns pick at No. 6.
The Bulls, of course, have three options with the seventh pick. They can use it, along with other assets, to move up in the draft, they can ask for a package in return for the pick and move down, or they can remain at No. 7 and take the player who falls to them.
There was never much discussion the first two go-rounds of the Bulls dealing the 7th overall pick. In 2017, the draft day trade for Jimmy Butler came about just before the pick happened, so the Bulls weren’t going to flip the trade again. And in 2018, there were rumors about trying to move up to No. 4, but in what many considered a six-player draft, moving back to No. 7 was difficult enough – and the Bulls didn’t have many assets to deal at the time and Chandler Parsons’ contract was really difficult to move.
But perhaps this time around the discussions start up again. The Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley reported Tuesday before the NBA Draft Lottery that the Bulls and Lakers could have discussions regarding a deal for point guard Lonzo Ball in exchange for wherever the Bulls wound up. The Bulls held the fourth best odds in the Lottery, seven spots better than the No. 11 Lakers.
As fate would have it, the Lakers actually jumped into the fourth position in the Lottery, while the Bulls were bumped back four spots to No. 7. That’s not to say a potential trade between the two parties couldn’t still happen. While the Lakers were looking to rack up additional assets as they make a push for contention around LeBron James, the 7th pick could still hold value to give them a pair of picks in the first half of the 2019 NBA Draft.
It’s unlikely that the Lakers would part with Ball for simply the No. 7 pick. Though he’s been the butt of many jokes because of his outspoken father, Ball is still highly valued around the league as one of the best passing and defending point guards in the NBA. He’s not going to come cheap, and it’s unlikely they’d have any interest in Kris Dunn to sweeten the pot.
It’s also unlikely the Bulls move up in the draft. Williamson and the No. 1 pick are off-limits, while Memphis will have no problem building around Ja Morant as they enter their rebuild in the wake of the Marc Gasol deal from February and a potential Mike Conley trade. As we’ve documented before, it’s really expensive to move up into the top five of the draft, and given that the talent pool is so evenly balanced after Williamson, Morant and R.J. Barrett, the Bulls would really need to be in love with a player to give up assets.
They could also move back, but going from No. 7 into the double-digits is a pretty significant step backward. And the price isn’t expensive to move to No. 7 like it would be to move to No. 3 or 4. The Bulls wouldn’t get a king’s ransom back at No. 7, and after a 27- and 22-win season they need to stay aggressive and move toward winning.
The good news is Paxson seems open to all options at No. 7.