McGraw's draft preview: Less predictable field could have Bulls scrambling at No. 7
The Bulls have the No. 7 pick in the NBA Draft for essentially the third year in a row.
What makes this time different is it's not as easy to project which players will still be on the board when the Bulls' turn rolls around on Thursday.
The top three picks seem relatively certain: Zion Williamson first to New Orleans, Ja Morant second to Memphis and R.J. Barrett third to the Knicks.
After that, there's a group of six players that seem most likely to go from No. 4 through 9, but any one of them could end up in any slot. The Group of Six are Texas Tech swingman Jarrett Culver; Virginia swingman DeAndre Hunter; point guards Coby White from North Carolina and Darius Garland from Vanderbilt; Duke sharpshooter Cam Reddish; and athletic forward Sekou Doumbouya, a Guinea native who's been playing professionally in France.
Last year, it seemed likely Wendell Carter Jr. would end up being the obvious choice who would be there at No. 7. In 2017, the seventh pick belonged to Minnesota and was traded to the Bulls on draft night, but most every mock draft had Lauri Markkanen going in that slot.
The No. 4 pick changed hands Saturday, moving from the Lakers to New Orleans in the reported Anthony Davis trade. There have already been rumors the Pelicans will shop that pick. If they keep it, a point guard seems unlikely since they added Lonzo Ball to go with Jrue Holiday.
If the Bulls are seeking a defensive-minded wing, Hunter is one option. He averaged 15.2 points during his sophomore season and shot 44 percent on a low volume of 3-point shots. Hunter piled up 27 points and 9 assists in the NCAA title game victory over Culver and Texas Tech.
Culver averaged 18.5 points in his sophomore season, shot just 30.4 percent from 3-point range and hit 5 of 22 shots in the title game.
Reddish hasn't generated much buzz during predraft workouts, but he has good size at 6-8 and a nice-looking outside shot. The theory behind taking him would be similar to Carter -- he didn't show the full range of his talents because of being overshadowed by more heavily-hyped Duke teammates.
It's possible one of the two point guards could qualify as the best player available when the Bulls pick. The 6-5 White should have a skillset that fits the Bulls. He likes to push the pace, can get up the floor quickly and shot a ton of 3-pointers during his freshman season at UNC (35.3 percent on 6.6 attempts per game).
If the Bulls stick with last year's plan of using Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen as ballhandlers and creators, then they don't necessarily need a playmaking point guard. Someone who can push the pace, play defense and then be a good spot-up shooter would be ideal.
Garland is the mystery man of the group. He played just five games for Bryce Drew at Vanderbilt last year before going down with a knee injury. A shortened college career isn't unprecedented. Kyrie Irving played in 11 games at Duke before being the No. 1 overall pick in 2011.
The small sample size does make Garland tough to project, though. He may have the potential to be a scoring guard, who can create his own shot and also distribute. One possible scenario is Culver and Hunter going 4 and 5, in whatever order, then Phoenix taking one of the point guards at No. 6.
The problem with taking a point guard is the Bulls would be adding another young player who will take time to develop at maybe the most important position. And they already have Kris Dunn with another year let on his rookie contract. If the Bulls add a point guard this summer, it would make sense to pursue a veteran in free-agency.
That's why Doumbouya might be the ideal pick. He's young with raw skills, but he's also something the Bulls don't have, a 6-foot-9 player with above-average athleticism and a high ceiling. A timely comparison is Toronto forward Pascal Siakam.
Doumbouya doesn't turn 19 until December and didn't post gaudy numbers, averaging 7.8 points for Limoges in the French League. But he's been playing against grown men in a professional league and scored a career-high 34 points late in the season.
Texas center Jaxson Hayes is another name mentioned as a possibility. That might be a tough fit, since big men with a thin build typically have a long growth curve in the NBA.
The Bulls may still be making up their minds. From this group, only Culver and Doumbouya have been confirmed visitors to the Advocate Center. According to ESPN, they met with Garland in Los Angeles.
NBA Draft previewThursday, 6 p.m. (ESPN), Barclays Center, New York
Top 10 picks1. New Orleans
3. New York
4. New Orleans (from Lakers)
10. Atlanta (from Dallas)
Player poolIt's tough to tell what will happen after the top 3 picks, but it seems likely the Bulls will choose between one of these six players at No. 7 (in alphabetical order):
Jarrett Culver, 6-7, SF, Texas Tech
Sekou Doumbouya, 6-9, PF, Guinea
Darius Garland, 6-3, PG, Vanderbilt
DeAndre Hunter, 6-7, SF, Virginia
Cam Reddish, 6-8, SF, Duke
Coby White, 6-5, PG, North Carolina