Wherever Bulls pick, Villanova's Bridges could fill a glaring need
The Bulls won one and lost one on Friday when the NBA broke draft-order tiebreakers.
They won the random drawing vs. Sacramento and will have the No. 6 overall pick heading into the draft lottery. The Bulls could move into the top 3 with some lottery luck or another team could get lucky and push them back a spot.
The pick they get from New Orleans in the Nikola Mirotic trade is No. 22. It could have been as high as 20 or as low as 23, since the Pelicans finished in a four-way tie with Oklahoma City, Utah and Indiana.
There's an obvious choice for the Bulls' first pick and here are just a few reasons why:
Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward
There are some tough covers in the Eastern Conference. James may slow down in the next decade or so, but Simmons will be a problem for a long time. For the Bulls to become NBA Finals contenders, they need some defense.
The guy who makes sense for the Bulls is 6-foot-7 Villanova forward Mikal Bridges. He's their kind of player to begin with -- spent four years in college, began as a defensive specialist, won two national championships, dramatically improved his offensive skills.
When asked Thursday about their needs are in the draft, vice president of basketball operations John Paxson basically described Bridges in detail.
"Size and length at the wing, a shooting component, a defensive component would be something that if you're looking at an area we would like to improve, that would be it," Paxson said.
Small forward is the obvious vacant spot for the Bulls, with Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen locked in as the three main rebuilding blocks.
If the Bulls move into the top three with some draft lottery luck, it might change things, but maybe not. There are some tantalizing big men expected to go in the top 10 -- from Arizona's DeAndre Ayton and Duke's Marvin Bagley to Texas' Mo Bamba and Michigan State's Jaren Jackson Jr.
The argument for passing on a big man is simple. Check the list of NBA playoff teams and count how many power forwards or centers were the catalyst. Anthony Davis is one. Minnesota's Karl Anthony Towns might belong on the list, but he'd likely be headed for a vacation right now if Jimmy Butler didn't make a quick recovery from his knee issues.
Paxson is thinking the same thing. Robin Lopez could start at center for several more years, the Bulls could be closing games with Markkanen and Bobby Portis as the bigs. If they can land a potential rim-protector with their second first-round pick, that's fine, but they need perimeter defense badly.
Bridges redshirted as a freshman at Villanova, then played three years. He nearly doubled his scoring average this season to 17.7 points per game. He shot 43.5 percent from 3-point range on 6 attempts per game. The title game might have been the Donte DiVincenzo show, but Bridges had 19 points that night. With his 7-foot-2 wingspan, Bridges has similarities to ex-Bulls forward Luol Deng.
Another small forward worth considering in the top 10 is Missouri's 6-10 Michael Porter Jr. He missed most of last season with a back injury, but came back to play in two games late in the year.
In body type, Porter is similar to Simmons, but based on his pre-college video, Porter is primarily a shooter. His skills could evolve, though it doesn't seem likely he'd be the type of 6-10 playmaker that makes Simmons so dangerous. And his defense is a question mark.
The draft lottery is being held in Chicago this year on May 15. After that, the Bulls will bring in all the top prospects for workouts and interviews.
For now, the leader on their draft board seems clear cut.
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