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The lottery ended before it really started for the Bulls. But it could have been worse. For one thing, they could have finished eighth.
For another, while local basketball fans may feel cursed at this point, especially considering the strange coincidence that their team ended up with the seventh pick in the draft for the third straight year, at least they were put out of their misery relatively early on in the process.
The folks who suffered the most were the Knicks fans who absolutely had to have the top pick. And Lakers followers who were loving moving up from 11th-best odds to the No. 4 pick saw that happiness tempered by the fact that many talent evaluators believe there are three big-time prospects in this draft.
And finally, the absolute worst-case scenario in this lottery was not finishing out of the top five. It wasn't even finishing out of the top three. It was finishing second. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the cursed Memphis Grizzlies.
On the flip side:
Zion Williamson was the one and only grand prize in this raffle. Murray State point guard Ja Morant has a world of pro potential and so does Duke guard R.J. Barrett (they currently project at Nos. 2 and 3 in the draft), but only one guy is selling tickets starting today and he has the initials ZW.
So where does this leave the Bulls? Well, the consensus view is that if the Bulls have done one thing right in the past several years it has been their first round draft picks: 2017 No. 1 Lauri Markkanen and 2018 No. 1 Wendell Carter. Both are stretch forwards with sizable shooting range who can also do dirty work inside. Who knows if they can stay healthy for a full NBA season, but a fan can ask that question about just about any young player in the league whose team has fallen out of contention late in his seasons with his club.
Falling out of contention these days means what could be relatively minor injuries put young players on the shelf for the rest of seasons so that teams can be completely careful about their health while also potentially leading to more losses and better draft position. After Tuesday night's lottery featuring bottom five teams all falling out of the top two picks, it might be time to re-evaluate that strategy.
Anyway, on June 20, barring a not-likely trade, the Bulls will draft seventh in the first round again. An early favorite for that pick is North Carolina combo guard Coby White, who stands 6-5 and won't turn 20 until February.
The bottom line is, the Bulls have enough young players with potential. The success or failure of this off-season will hinge on free agent acquisitions. In particular, they need a point guard to run the show and there are two unrestricted free agents who seem to qualify as the favorites.
No. 1 is Patrick Beverley. The 6-1, 30-year-old defensive specialist has been a massive pest for the Clippers the last few years and would be just the guy to set an aggressive tone for the Bulls going forward. But Beverley is a West Side native through and through (he played for Marshall) and my guess is he does not plan to return to the home front.
We've seen hometown hero scenarios flame out in the last five years starting with Derrick Rose and moving on to Dwyane Wade and Jabari Parker. No more of that stuff for the Bulls.
More likely headed to Chicago is the Pacers' Darren Collison. Collison, 31 and an even six feet tall, has usually been a backup during his NBA career but he moved into the starting lineup this past season when Victor Oladipo went down and played well. Draft whoever, sign Collison and a few veteran bench pieces and let's see what Markkanen, Carter, Otto Porter and Zach LaVine can do.
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