Tuesday night is, at least in part, why the Bulls traded Jimmy Butler last June.
Tuesday night is fully why Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday were removed as starters after the All-Star break. It’s why Cameron Payne was throwing alley-oops to Cristiano Felicio down the stretch run. And it’s why the Bulls lost their final four games in virtually unwatchable, barely competitive fashion.
The Bulls avoided the $600,000 fine the NBA levied on Mavericks owner Mark Cuban for blatantly addressing tanking. But make no mistake: From the moment the Bulls pulled the trigger on the Butler deal to the final buzzer of a dismal 119-87 home loss to the Pistons on April 11, securing a high pick in Tuesday’s draft lottery never strayed far from management’s mind.
So here it is. To streamline with the draft combine held annually in Chicago, the league moved the lottery away from New York and New Jersey for the first time and to the Palmer House Hilton. Even with conference finals underway, Chicago is the epicenter of the league.
Ten years after the Bulls hit the jackpot to vault from ninth to first and ultimately draft Derrick Rose, will the Reinsdorfs be present for a second strike of lightning? President and chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf will represent the franchise on stage for the televised portion. His son, Joey, will witness the drawing in the backroom, where he will be sequestered until the onstage unveiling is over.
The Bulls own a 5.3 percent chance at the No. 1 pick, 6 percent at No. 2, 7 percent at No. 3 and 44 percent of staying in their pre-lottery slot of No. 6. If they drop, there’s a 33 percent chance it will be to No. 7, 4.5 percent for No. 8 and 0.1 percent for No. 9.
Wherever they land, they must nail a long-term starter and potential impact player. After all, beyond receiving Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine in return for Butler and the draft rights to Justin Patton, the deep 2018 draft significantly impacted the decision to rebuild.
Thanks to the trade of Nikola Mirotic to the Pelicans, the Bulls also own the 22nd pick in the June 21 draft.
“We’re confident we will find two players we like in this draft,” executive vice president John Paxson said at last month’s season-ending news conference. “There’s talent. It’s on myself and my staff.”
Paxson also will attend Tuesday’s proceedings.
Arizona big man Deandre Ayton is the consensus top pick. Most mock drafts list Duke big man Marvin Bagley III and Real Madrid guard Luka Doncic as top-three picks, though there’s some sentiment for Michigan State big man Jaren Jackson Jr.
Last month, Paxson in one breath seemed to describe Villanova forward Mikal Bridges when generally discussing team needs. But in the next, he alluded to talent and potential upside possibly trumping all. Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr., projected by some to be the top pick before a back injury, is an intriguing talent who could drop because of health concerns.
“We need to look at the wing position,” Paxson said last month. “That would be an ideal spot. 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.
“But depending on where we draft, it’s hard to overlook talent, even when you’re looking at maybe a specific need.”
Once the Bulls learn their draft position and scout and interview players at the combine, they’ll begin the process of securing player workouts at the Advocate Center.
“We have a lot of work to do,” Paxson said last month. “Not that positions are going by the wayside, but the lines are blurred. You no longer really have center-power forward. You need versatility. Our game has changed that much. We can use versatile players, guys that have length and size and a shooting component.”
Joey Reinsdorf, a junior at Northwestern, was widely credited for helping sway his father’s and his grandfather Jerry’s anti-All-Star-Game stance when Commissioner Adam Silver awarded the 2020 event to the Bulls, the United Center and Chicago.
Witnessing more lottery magic would trump that.
The Derrick Rose lottery: 10 years ago, Bulls’ number came up »
The players the Bulls should pick at 6 potential NBA draft spots »
Taking a look at what’s at stake for every team tied to this year’s NBA draft lottery »