How the Chicago Bulls can get into the top 5 in the NBA Draft

Apr 4, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; NBA draft prospect Markelle Fultz watches court side during the second half of a game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets at Wells Fargo Center. The Brooklyn Nets won 141-118. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 4, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; NBA draft prospect Markelle Fultz watches court side during the second half of a game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets at Wells Fargo Center. The Brooklyn Nets won 141-118. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

The NBA draft is a time of wonderful adventure, brimming with unlimited potential outcomes. It’s the wild card that makes everyone from the Phoenix Suns to the Chicago Bulls and Portland Trail Blazers feel like it could all turn, or at least start to turn, on a single pick that breaks right. It’s magical.

The real joy of the draft is reserved for the teams in top five spots. Those teams get to have the most fun, picking among the marquee names looking to break into the pro ranks. The rest of the league does what they can, but often end up drafting a Marquis Teague or trading away several picks for a Doug McDermott.

The occasional franchise-altering player can be found in the later portion of the draft, like a Jimmy Butler, but it’s the exception more than the rule.

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This year, Chicago has the No. 16 pick in the first round and the No. 38 pick in the second round. They have a lot of options, many of which were covered by Michael Whitlow in his fantastic, comprehensive draft guide. I also went briefly into some of the options available, specifically at shooting guard that could be available in either round.

No matter who the Bulls take, it would be much cooler if they could choose between players like Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Dennis Smith, Josh Jackson or De’Aaron Fox.

Now, I’m going to try to manufacture a top five pick for the Bulls. The twist? I will attempt to find a way to get that pick without doing the obvious thing by trading Jimmy Butler. It really can’t be done, but let’s try anyway.

Today, news came out that the Detroit Pistons are interested in shopping the No. 12 pick in exchange for a “win-now” veteran player. This is a massive opportunity for Chicago – if they have a veteran that can help Detroit win now. There is only one player on the Bulls’ roster that could find a salary match, is a veteran and might help Detroit win – Rajon Rondo.

Yes, I’m completely not in on Rondo. The only good part of his contract, if the option is picked up, is that he only has this one year left. That’s also enough reason for the Pistons to consider taking a flier on him. If it doesn’t work out, they are out one year and the No. 12 pick in a draft that really packs a punch for the top six or seven picks and then starts to drop off quickly. Further, Rondo might add a little something in case there are more Reggie Jackson problems in the 2017-18 season. Going the other way, Chicago gets Jon Leuer. It’s not perfect, but the Bulls will have a Nikola Mirotic decision this summer and Bobby Portis isn’t the answer.

If that trade were to go down, Chicago would now own the Nos. 12, 16, and 38 picks.

The next move is to convince someone ahead of No. 12 to consider swapping picks. If I’m looking for the weakest links, it’s going to be the New York Knicks and Phil Jackson or the Sacramento Kings and Vivek Ranadive. Both of those guys seem like they’re constantly in a state of doubling down on questionable decisions.

Obviously, the Knicks pick is the one that you really want, it’s higher up the draft board. In this trade, you send the Nos. 12 and 16 picks to the Knicks, along with Isaiah Canaan’s non-guaranteed contract in exchange for the No. 8 pick. It doesn’t sound great, but I think Phil could be convinced that trading the Malik Monk slot in the draft for picks that could land any two of Luke Kennard, Donovan Mitchell, Bam Adebayo, Justin Jackson, TJ Leaf or Lauri Markkanen – depending on who is available and who they like.

It’s a reach, but a reach that you could talk yourself into if you’re a Bulls fan or a lunatic of a general manager that openly wagers war with your own team’s best player.

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If we make it this far down the trail of insanity, the Bulls have flipped multiple times to land at No. 8 in the first round and they still have their second-round pick and Butler. This is good news. Of course, we’ve become untethered from reality if these trades actually happen.

The last step is to find a weak link in the top five picks. Good luck. I don’t think there is one, not without trading Jimmy at least. But, we’ve made it this far without making a completely insane trade, just some mildly questionable moves.

The Boston Celtics aren’t trading their pick for anyone, which makes this whole exercise a whole lot less fun. Likewise, if you’re not offering Butler, you can’t get the Lakers pick under any circumstance. I’d say the exact same is true of the Phoenix Suns. Really, it’s either the Philadelphia 76ers or the Sacramento Kings.

Again, the 76ers aren’t budging for a trade that doesn’t involve Butler. I have to be perfectly clear, this would never happen, but the scenario is as follows. Chicago sends Dwyane Wade, Portis, Jerian Grant and the No. 8 pick to Philly in exchange for Jared Bayless, Gerald Henderson, Sergio Rodriguez and the No. 3 pick. This trade is entirely contingent upon Wade opting in on his player option for 2017-18. There are all kind of arguments about why you would bring in Wade. He’s a proven winner and can add an element to a very young, very confident group of losers. It isn’t that they will always lose, they’re all just very early in their careers and a few players short of competing at this stage. He could also help on the court in limited situations. If he opted in and joined this team, it would almost be as a player-coach assignment. If you’re mesmerized by this bad trade, you could also flip Rodriguez for Jahlil Okafor and the money still works.

If you did all of these moves, the Bulls would be without Portis, Wade, Rondo and Grant. However, they would be with the No. 3 pick in the draft which could reasonably net them anyone they want except Fultz or Ball. The problem is that this trade is unrealistic. I did, however, accomplish my task of finding a trade route into the top five.

Let’s try to do it a little more realistic with the Kings.

This is still a big reach, but Vivek is a bit of a loose cannon that might be swayed by a star name. Dangling one year of opt-in Wade and the No. 8 pick would probably be enough to get him to trade down. I mean, it sounds crazy, but look at his track record as an owner with Vlade Divac running things. Of course, they have beefed up their basketball operations department, so that increases the difficulty slider for opposing GMs.

The trade is Wade, Canaan, and No. 8 for Anthony Tolliver, Arron Afflalo, and No. 5.

Major upgrade is start power and a backup or straight bench guy who can occasionally shoot for Tolliver and Afflalo, who are both not doing much of anything. It seems fine to me, but I’m writing from the Bulls perspective. If we presume that Jayson Tatum is the guy at No. 5, it’s just a matter of trading back a couple of spots with decent guys available. Kings probably seem like a great fit for Tatum, as they already have Rudy Gay on payroll, but maybe they want to go another way and adding Wade seems like a fun one-year rental. Kings fans probably deserve better than this trade, but they must suffer for my twisted vision to be realized.

And we’ve done it, the long journey from the No. 16 pick, to trading out vets for scrubs and flipping all the way to No. 5 in the draft while still keeping Butler in Chicago. Gar Forman, go ahead and try this one out, it’s not like you could botch trades and draft picks any worse than you already have.

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