Go big or go home? Bulls have glaring need ahead of NBA Draft

The Bulls kicked off their summer with a surprising trade — Alex Caruso to Oklahoma City for Josh Giddey, if you missed it.

Now the most important task for the Arturas Karnisovas-Marc Eversley management team is to knock one out of the park with the No. 11 pick of Wednesday's NBA Draft.

We're not talking a normal home run. This one needs to land on the north side of Waveland Avenue. Or maybe reach the kids play area, if you base it on Jerry Reinsdorf's baseball team.

The mock drafts don't matter. Every year, a future All-NBA player is chosen at No. 11 or beyond. Long shot or not, the Bulls must identify one of those players if they want to move beyond the perpetual rebuild.

At the same time the Bulls have a glaring need for height and rim protection. Taking the best player available is great in theory, but Billy Donovan hasn't been able to find much playing time for the team's last two draft picks (Dalen Terry and Julian Phillips). Another guard or wing will just increase the crowd, unless more trades are on the way.

So let's start by considering the two high-profile college centers, UConn's Donovan Clingan and Purdue's Zach Edey. Clingan certainly passed the in-state eye test, recording 8 blocked shots against Northwestern and 5 against Illinois in last year's NCAA Tournament.

There seems to be a consensus that Clingan will go early. just released a mock draft saying Atlanta still has him under consideration for the No. 1 pick.

Trading up seems less likely for the Bulls after the Caruso trade. He was one player with the right combination of high demand and desirable salary to make a move viable. Hopefully, Bulls management is giving no thought to using a future draft pick to move up. They should be hoarding draft picks right now, not trading them.

Indiana center Kel'el Ware (1) shoots over the defense of Michigan State center Carson Cooper (15) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, March 10, 2024, in Bloomington, Ind. (AP Photo/Doug McSchooler) AP

So let's substitute a different center, Indiana's Kel'el Ware. He's gotten mixed opinions in mock drafts. Some say he's on the rise, others have him going in the 20s. But he could make sense for the Bulls.

Ware's athleticism compares well to Alexandre Sarr, the 7-footer from France expected to go in the top three picks. One reason to feel optimistic about Ware's future is he can do a variety of things, like shoot 3-pointers (42.5% last season) or hit midrange jumpers and turnarounds. He's not just a run the floor and dunk type of player.

Thin-framed centers often get pushed around in the NBA. Ware measured 7-feet, 230 pounds at the NBA Draft combine, which makes him heavier than both Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren. The Bulls could join the new trend with Ware.

Here's an interesting case for Edey. Besides checking in at 7-foot-4 without shoes, and a 7-11 wingspan, Edey was more athletic than Clingan at the combine. The former Purdue star beat Clingan in the vertical leap (31.5 inches to 29) and lane agility (11.19 seconds to 12.06).

So if people believe Clingan can be a shot-blocking weapon in the NBA, why not Edey? Edey made just one 3-pointer during four years of college, so no one should expect him to play like Wembanyama, but his NBA value is tough to predict.

It's still uncertain how the Bulls plan to use the 6-foot-8 Giddey, but playmaker with the ball in his hands seems likely. The Bulls probably view Giddey, Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu as the backcourt of the future.

So does that rule out taking a guard in the draft? Kentucky's Rob Dillingham and Providence's Devin Carter are a couple of popular predictions in that range. High-scoring Tennessee forward Dalton Knecht seems unlikely to last until the 11th pick. Nikola Topic from Serbia is probably too similar to Giddey.

There are plenty of longer-term projects too, like USC's Isaiah Collier, Baylor's Ja'Kobe Walter or Ron Holland from G-League Ignite. Or a taller project like France's 6-10 Tidjane Salaun.

There's a strong list of players who were drafted No. 11 in the past — Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Klay Thompson, Domantas Sabonis, Malik Monk, Malik Turner.

Keep in mind, though, if some team had drafted Jalen Brunson with the 11th pick in 2018 (he went 33), there would have been both screams and laughter at the time. But the GM would have been a genius.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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