Bulls' window with DeRozan is limited, so they could be willing to part with draft pick

NBA draft success has become less predictable in the era of one-and-done college players and nearly every year, there are examples of players chosen No. 18 or later turning out better than guys picked in the top 10.

So as owners of the No. 18 pick in Thursday's NBA Draft, the Bulls could end up with a very good player.

At the same time, that portion of the draft board is loaded with longer-term projects or guys who should have gone back to college. So it makes sense if basketball operations boss Arturas Karnisovas tries to trade the pick.

The window to become a Finals contender with DeMar DeRozan playing at an all-star level is likely two or three more years. A 19-year-old rookie who needs to spend a couple seasons in Hoffman Estates isn't going to help the cause.

But if the Bulls aren't thrilled with their options, other teams probably feel the same way. The Bulls couldn't trade this pick before the draft, thanks to the Ted Stepien rule, which prohibits teams from moving future first-rounders in consecutive years. But they can make a trade once the pick is made.

We've mentioned a few times why the Bulls aren't likely to pursue Utah center Rudy Gobert. A target that makes more sense is Atlanta's John Collins.

There have been rumors about Collins' availability this week and several teams are said to be interested. His future in Atlanta has seemed shaky for a while, since the Hawks traded for Clint Capela and drafted Onyeka Okongwu.

But Collins did sign a contract extension last year. He's owed $102 million over the next four years, which is far less than Gobert has left on his max deal.

Collins has been inconsistent, but very good at times, especially when facing the Bulls. He did average 21.6 points and 10.1 rebounds in 2019-20, before Capela arrived from Houston.

The Bulls' angle here would be to use the expiring contract of Nikola Vucevic to knock $80 million off Atlanta's future payroll. Is Collins better than Vucevic? That's debatable, but he is seven years younger. Whether the Bulls could be a good defensive team with Collins essentially starting at center is probably the biggest issue.

The Bulls will need to get creative this summer to improve the team. The good news for fans is Karnisovas was very creative last year, using Thad Young, Tomas Satoransky and Garrett Temple in sign-and-trades to bring back DeRozan and Lonzo Ball.

• As of Tuesday, the betting favorites to be chosen by the Bulls at No. 18 were Santa Clara shooting guard Jalen Williams and LSU's Tari Eason, according to DraftKings.

Both players make sense for the Bulls, but there have been a few mock drafts this week that predict both players to be gone by the 18th pick.

I feel like Ohio State's E.J. Liddell is a real possibility for the Bulls. He did a lot of low-post scoring in college, which he won't be doing in the NBA at 6-feet-7. But Lidell has good potential as a big man who can guard on the perimeter and maybe even become a 3-point threat.

• If either of two higher-ranked centers - Memphis' Jalen Duren or Duke's Mark Williams - drop to No. 18, they would be tough for the Bulls to pass up, but that seems an unlikely scenario.

If Williams and Eason are gone early, it might come down to which players unexpectedly drop. The Bulls have a huge need to add height to the front line, it's hard to see them taking a guard like Kentucky's TyTy Washington or Notre Dame's Blake Wesley. Karnisovas has international connections, but versatile 6-10 Serbia native Nikola Jovic looks like a bit of a project on video.

• For the past few weeks, the top four picks seemed pretty well set: Jabari Smith to Orlando, Chet Holmgren to Oklahoma City, Paolo Banchero to Houston and Jaden Ivy to Sacramento.

This week, the odds on Banchero to be the first pick took a sudden drop, while there's been talk the Kings are enamored with a different Big Ten prospect, Iowa's Keegan Murray.

So there could be some drama after all on draft night.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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