The Chicago Bulls still have a chance of making the playoffs, but if they find themselves in the lottery, Deni Avdija should be their primary draft target.
Playoff aspirations are good to have but so is a sense of reality. The Chicago Bulls are walking that line like it’s a tightrope. That doesn’t mean the Bulls should give up on their goal of reaching the playoffs in an effort to tank. With the way the draft lottery works right now, tanking is foolish. Establishing a winning culture is what matters the most.
This is where having a competent front office comes into play. Do the Bulls have that? Well… Let’s not talk about it.
The players and coaching staff should continue to do all they can to win. They should be working their tails off to sneak into the playoffs. Winning at this level is hard. It takes time to learn how to do it. The front office, on the other hand, should be scouting potential lottery picks just in case things don’t go as planned on the court.
Deni Avdija should be the guy commanding all of the attention from every decision-maker in the Bulls’ front office. He’s the missing piece the Bulls need. He’s the truth.
Avdija is a guy who has been on the radar of die-hard hoops fans for a while, but he’ll soon be a name even casual fans know. Remember when Luka Doncic was just that foreign kid playing in the EuroLeague that nobody knew too much about? Well, everyone knows who Luka Doncic is now.
Comparing Avdija to Doncic is unfair, but it happens frequently. They have some similarities but are completely different players. The biggest thing they have in common is that they both grew up playing professional basketball in Europe.
Doncic is a once-in-a-generation type of talent. If Advija ends up as half the player Doncic is right now, he’ll have a ton of NBA success. He doesn’t have to be the next Luka in order to have an illustrious career.
The biggest hole in the Bulls’ roster right now is wing depth. A small forward rotation consisting primarily of Otto Porter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison has problems even when both guys are healthy, which is a seemingly rare occurrence. Avdija has good size, standing at 6-foot-9 but can also handle the ball and create plays for himself and teammates. In other words, he’s the perfect guy to slot in the starting lineup next to Tomas Satoransky/Coby White, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr.
Avdija’s biggest strength is his transition game, and coincidentally enough, the Bulls need a lot of help with transition offense. They’re dominating the league in steals per game at 9.9 (the next closest is Orlando at 8.7 per game) but they still struggle to score in transition.
Can you imagine how much better the Bulls would be if they did a better job of turning defense into offense? Avdija is the perfect guy to help them do that. He knows when to leak out for long outlet passes. He makes really good decisions with the ball in his hands. He’s crafty around the rim. He has a smooth spot-up jumper. He has everything the Bulls need.
Deni’s only a transition guy, though. He’s also really good in the halfcourt. He’s incredibly advanced as a pick-and-roll ball handler for someone who just turned 19 years old on January 3. He brilliantly uses hesitation dribbles and changes of pace to throw the defense off and get to the rim or hit the roll man with a pocket pass.
Avdija simply has an intuitive feel for the game that you can’t teach. He knows where to be and when to be there. Doncic has that same gift but has inflated it to a historic level. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, the blossoming second-year pro, is another guy with that gift. Having that much feel for the game is special. When you find a guy that has it, you have to get him on your team.
While he won’t enter the league as an A+ defender, Avdija’s instincts are actually pretty good on that end of the court. He’s a solid help-side defender and moves his feet laterally pretty well for a guy his size. He definitely won’t be a liability on defense, and that’s more than you can say about a lot of quality NBA players.
The 2020 NBA Draft is going to be weird. It’s not like other drafts. There’s not a clear-cut no. 1 pick. There’s no Zion Williamson. Every team’s big board is going to look drastically different. That means the Bulls have to have their ears to the ground, listening to what others have to say about Avdija. He’s the kind of guy worth trading up for in the draft if Chicago thinks there’s a team ahead of them that plans on taking him.
Missing the playoffs for the third consecutive season would stink, but getting a shot at drafting a guy like Deni Avdija would make the pain of this season sting a whole lot less.
The Bulls’ front office has a lot of work to do if they want to regain the trust of Bulls Nation. Finding a way to draft Avdija would be a step in the right direction.