While Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson said positional need may be more of a factor than usual when the Bulls pick at No. 7 in the June 20th NBA Draft, you can bet it will be best player available when they're on the clock with the 38th overall pick early in round 2.
NBA talent evaluators are saying there really isn't a lot of difference in the players that will be selected between 10 and 40, meaning this is truly a "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" kind of draft. So, with that in mind, it's possible the Bulls could find a player they really like fall into their laps at 38.
Maybe someone like Arizona State 6'4" guard Luguentz Dort, an impressive athlete with a lot of upside as a go-to scorer. Dort averaged 16.1 points per game in his only season with the Sun Devils, but shot only 41% from the field and 31% from the college 3 point line. Still, scouts are intrigued by his combination of size and athleticism.
Dort told reporters at the recent NBA Draft Combine he's been working hard to improve the mechanics on his outside shot. "My consistency, how consistent I can be, and then I've worked on my release and all that. I've been working on my game really a lot. I feel like right now I've been doing pretty good, I've improved my shot, got better at a lot of things. Being consistent and knowing when to take the right shot, when to drive, and really to be a leader out there on the court."
The native Canadian burst on to the American college basketball scene, registering 28, 25 and 33 point performances in his first 5 games. It wasn't long after that he started thinking he could make the jump to the NBA after just one season at Arizona State. "After a couple games I had at the beginning of the year, I think about 5 games in I felt, 'man I have a chance for real', and if I keep doing what I've been doing it's going to go well for me."
Unfortunately, Dort's hot shooting didn't carry over into Pac 12 play. Arizona State wound up finishing 2nd in the conference and lost to Buffalo in a 1st round NCAA tournament game. Dort saw his name fall out of top 20 consideration in mock drafts, but that didn't mean NBA talent evaluators had soured on his potential. He's been compared to Celtics' guard Marcus Smart because of his solid build and defensive potential, but Dort is thinking a little higher when talking about NBA comps.
"I think Marcus Smart is a good one. I feel Donovan Mitchell too. How hard he competes, how big of a guard he is, stuff like that. So, I think that would be a good comparison too."
Certainly a flattering comparison for Dort, who's hoping to move into the 1st round with a strong showing in team workouts and interviews. Mitchell didn't put up eye-popping stats at Louisville, but his postseason work led to the Utah Jazz trading up to get him with the 13th pick in the 2017 draft. Right now, mock drafts have Dort as a late 1st round or early 2nd round selection, which means there's a chance he'll still be on the board when the Bulls use the pick they acquired in the Justin Holiday trade with Memphis.
The Bulls could consider a developmental big man or an international player who would stay overseas for another year or two, but you never know if a more intriguing prospect might be available. Like Mitchell, Dort is an explosive leaper who could really blossom as an offensive player at the NBA level. Dort was almost apologetic for "only" turning in a 38.5 inch vertical leap at the combine.
"I'm pretty upset right now. I felt like I had a 40-plus in my legs. I'll get it though, I know that for sure."
How about a one-two punch of Zach LaVine and Luguentz Dort at shooting guard on Bulls’ teams in the coming years? That could lead to quite a pregame dunk show in NBA arenas across the league.