Possible ways the Bulls could trade up in the 2023 NBA Draft

It’s Draft Week in the NBA, and the chill the Bulls are feeling is being left out in the cold without the heat of a draft to light up the league’s Thursday night welcome festivities.

At least for now, because while there have been no indications factual or otherwise yet, it’s not unreasonable to assume the Bulls will find their way into Thursday’s NBA draft.

Their pick went to the Orlando Magic in the first round from the Nikola Vučević trade, and in the second round in an earlier trade and to the league for a penalty during free agency.

But after the top three choices on Thursday, who will be the French giant Victor Wembanyama and in some order G-league Ignite guard Scott Henderson and Alabama forward Brandon Millerare still distinct opportunities to land even first-round draft picks, in part because of the belief among many team executives that an extra veteran or two could change their competitive landscape with so much apparent parity in the league these days.

Of course, the Bulls may not be interested in adding another rookie either, as they want to work in 2022 first-round pick Dalen Terry and could offer new contracts to Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White from recent drafts.

The Bulls still owe San Antonio a future No. 1 pick from the DeMar DeRozan signing, so acquiring a draft pick will likely involve a trade. But after a season where they didn’t make the playoffs, and with recent speculation about potential trades involving Bulls veterans, it’s possible the Bulls trade players and end up with a draft pick as well.

It is possible, if unlikely, to buy a draft pick from another team, or at least trade a current one for a future one. And there’s still the possibility that the Bulls could acquire the No. 23 pick Portland owns from the Knicks to offload Portland’s responsibility to give the Bulls a No. 1 draft pick from the Derrick Jones Jr. acquisition that included to move Lauri Markkanen to Cleveland.

So let’s look at some of the potential options:

This is the big one because, at least for the Bulls’ best interests, it could result in landing an athletic point guard in Henderson. Point guard remains the team’s No. 1 offseason priority. But Miller’s consolation prize also suits the Bulls because Patrick Williams looks to move to a wing position in need of a firepower like Miller. Although this seems very unlikely. While Portland has maintained that it intends to keep Damian Lillard and build around him, they have also indicated that they will use the pick. And if they do, it’s hard to see Lillard staying. Due to the presence of potential stars like Henderson and Miller, the selection is overrated and will likely require a large return of players. It appears the Bulls are not involved.

No. 4 from Houston, No. 7 from Indiana or No. 10 from Dallas

All of these teams have been involved in rumors and speculation suggesting they would move their draft picks, with Houston talking about being ready for a win now with a new coach, the Pacers with enough young players and also eager to compete more seriously and the Mavericks decided to provide help to Luka Dončić. The most frequently mentioned prospects after the top three are the athletic Thompson twins from the Overtime Elite basketball league for teenagers. If the Bulls could get in there, I’d probably go with Arkansas’ Anthony Black, a 6-6 point guard who could set the team back some to start, but could be the point guard of the future. Maybe not the best shooter yet, but smart, tough and a leader. Or possibly the Kentucky point guard Cason Wallacea facilitator and defender with a developing ceiling for a catch-and-shoot option.

The Bulls have veterans and depth, and it wouldn’t be out of the question for them to make a deal given the personnel creativity Arturas Karnišovas showed during 2021 free agency. And if not a point guard, maybe a big time knockdown shooter like Kansas Grady Dick or Connecticut’s Jordan Hawkins. While point guard remains the offseason priority, the Bulls likely need to shoot even more, the way the NBA these days is almost defined by who makes the most threes. Miami’s remarkable run to the Finals was largely based on outshooting opponents from deep.

No. 21 or No. 22 from Brooklyn (with them unlikely to use back to back picks), No. 23 from Portland or No. 26 or No. 29 from Indiana (who also have No. 32 and certainly don’t use all their picks.)

There are four or five players who figure to fall into their 20s and maybe early 30s who could fit the Bulls’ needs. I like the older players and some in smaller programs who have been in college and maybe even though they don’t have the high ceiling that scouts love, but are more ready to play. Players like Ben Sheppard of Belmont, who shoots well — this should be the priority for anyone the Bulls might add this summer — and is considered a smart and tough player. Another high IQ good shooting type with experience is Colby Jones by Xavier. Another interesting name that should slide into the bottom of the first round is Underground Brandin, who started at Illinois and didn’t do much and became a big shooter and scorer at Santa Clara who could become a shooting specialist. Some of the younger guys who stand out as shooting prospects are the Michigan guards, Kobe Bufkin and Jett Howard, son of the latter Juwan. They are young and less ready, but there is the shooting. The Bulls could also use some defensive strength at power forward, so maybe a player like Alabama’s Noah Clowney. He is more of a project for now as he turns 19 this summer. But he provides that length and explosive response with size.

So will the Bulls have a hot time on Draft Night? This is the week we see if they turn up the heat.

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