Best player available or need?
In seven months the Bulls will begin Year 3 of their rebuild. They'll do so with a core that consists of Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Wendell Carter and Kris Dunn. It could include Bobby Portis.
As far as the draft is concerned, the Bulls have drafted for BPA and for need during their rebuild.
Lauri Markkanen was the best player left on the board even though the Bulls had 25-year-old Nikola Mirotic and 22-year-old Portis (pre-fight) on the roster and a clear need on the wing after trading Jimmy Butler.
A year later the Bulls drafted for need. Desperate for some kind of interior presence to go alongside Markkanen, they drafted Carter over some sexier picks like Collin Sexton or Kevin Knox. It's been less than 20 games but the Bulls' drafting on need appears to have worked out fine, just as drafting best player available worked out in 2017.
So where will they go in 2019? The front court is secured with Markkanen and Carter, and Zach LaVine is both locked in financially and skillfully as the shooting guard of the future. Dunn has some work to do to make believers out of his skeptics, while Portis (and Chandler Hutchison) won't really factor into what the Bulls do next June.
The good news is the Bulls likely won't have to make a decision on draft night. Though plenty can change between now and then, the 2019 NBA Draft appears to be flush with wings at the top, where the 4-13 Bulls should be drafting. Here's a look at five of the top draft prospects and how they'd fit in to the Bulls rebuild.
Zion Williamson, PF, Duke
That being said, of course we'll begin with the one player who wouldn't fill a need. But when considering a talent such as Williamson, throw everything out the window. He's the most unique prospect we've seen since Anthony Davis in 2012, and his combination of size and athleticism is unparalleled: He's 291 pounds with a 40-inch vertical. He's ferocious at the rim, an apt ball handler and distributor and has the length and footwork to defend multiple positions. He doesn't have much in the way of an outside shot yet because he hasn't needed one at any level he's played at. That will come in time, though it doesn't project to ever be a strong suit.
So, where does he fit in with the Bulls? It's tough to say. His best position in the NBA will be at power forward, with shooters surrounding him in a similar manner to how LeBron James plays. Markkanen is, of course, cemented in at power forward, which would push Williamson to small forward with Carter at center. Markkanen could move to the 5 in a smaller lineup, and in reality Williamson is adaptable to any non-point guard spot on the floor. Fred Hoiberg would have fun mixing and matching the three players, while Williamson's drive-and-kick ability would entirely open up the offense for Zach LaVine on the wing.
The point is, if you don't have a spot for Williamson, make one and worry about the fit later. He's a winning player and the early favorite to go first overall.
R.J. Barrett, SG, Duke
If not for Williamson, we'd all be oohing and aahing over Barrett. The *other* top recruit dominating for the Blue Devils, Barrett is a do-it-all wing with massive upside. He's averaging 24.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 4.8 assists in his freshman season. While he isn't the athlete Williamson is, he's constantly making the right play and is methodical in his decision making. He's got the perfect frame, looks smooth on his perimeter jump shot and is crafty working his way toward the basket.
He'd be a no-brainer for the Bulls. Too often the ball stops in Fred Hoiberg's offense, and it's one area where Barrett would make the Bulls light years better. He'd slot in at small forward - just the other wing position opposite LaVine - and use his playmaking to space the floor for outside shooters. His 6-foot-10 wingspan and instinctive play gives him great defensive potential. He can be the jack-of-all-trades player Jimmy Butler was in Chicago.
Cam Reddish, SG, Duke
The Bulls need shooting. It's been that way for a while now, and despite offensive stars in LaVine and Markkanen the Bulls still have as few outside threats as any roster in the NBA. That's where Reddish comes in. The third of Duke's three freshman phenoms, Reddish is shooting better than 43 percent from deep in the early season and is punishing defenses that chase him off the line. He's going to score at the next level, and his ability to guard both backcourt positions would give the Bulls flexibility.
He'd plug in perfectly next to LaVine. Having two wings who attack the basket and play well in pick-and-roll action will space the floor for Markkanen and Carter, and he'd immediately be the Bulls' best outside shooter.
Nassir Little, SF, North Carolina
Someone not from Duke! But we'll stay in the state of North Carolina and look at perhaps the player with the highest defensive upside in the class. With Markkanen and LaVine leading the charge, there's an argument to be made that the Bulls already have their 1-2 scoring punch of the future. That's not to say Little can't score, but drafting with an eye toward defense could make sense for the Bulls. Little is a relentless defender with excellent instincts. He isn't a terrific outside shooter but has an excellent first step and isn't afraid to go inside. He's more athleticism than polish at this point, but there's potential for him on offense.
He'd be an excellent complement to LaVine and Markkanen offensively, and give the Bulls a lockdown wing defender. He's also sneaky-good in the post, which would add another dimension the Bulls offense doesn't really have right from in any of its wings.
Quentin Grimes, PG, Kansas
Is Dunn the point guard of the future? We'll have a much clearer answer in April after he (and Markkanen and Portis) has returned from his knee sprain and plays out the year with the rest of the young core. But the verdict is still out on whether Dunn can lead a contender at the point or is simply a Marcus Smart-type player: an important defender who can score in spurts but is better utilized off the bench in an 82-game season.
If the Bulls believe he's the latter, Grimes could be the former. He's not a true point guard, and many believe he'll play shooting guard at the next level. But he's a do-it-all type player that would finally give the Bulls an outside threat at the point for the first time since Nate Robinson in 2012. That's where the league is trending at a rapid pace, and he's a plus defender with that 6-foot-5 frame and 6-foot-7 wing span.