How NBA’s plan to lower draft age to 18 affects the Chicago Bulls

Dalen Terry, Chicago Bulls (Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports)
Dalen Terry, Chicago Bulls (Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports) /

Entering the 2022-23 season, the top priority for the Chicago Bulls has to be winning as many games as possible, making a playoff push, and contending for a championship. In the event the Bulls fail to meet these goals over the next few seasons, however, I still believe there’s hope for their long-term outlook.

With the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) soon set to expire, a wide variety of issues are to be discussed and negotiated between the team owners and representatives of the NBPA. Among the topics at hand, we can expect the two parties to deliberate on potentially modifying the 82-game season length, an in-season tournament, and methods to protect the mental health of the players.

However, perhaps the most interesting case of all will relate to whether or not the NBA dismisses the ‘one-and-done’ rule that forces recruits to participate in at least one year of collegiate or professional basketball before making the leap to the NBA. If this were to take effect, scouts would not only need to keep their eyes on the college level, the G League, and overseas, but also the dynamic youth coming out of high school.

Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the news with his report that the league is looking into reducing the draft age from 19 years old to 18 for the first time since 2005, a move that would radically alter the outlook for every team in the NBA.

Eliminating the ‘one-and-done’ NBA Draft rule would have massive implications for the future of the Chicago Bulls.

Some of the greatest talents in NBA history have transitioned directly from high school to the big leagues. LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, and Dwight Howard are all players who have made a massive impact on the modern game without making a stop to college first.

That being said, a great many more project players have failed along the way. There is an enormous inherent amount of risk associated with drafting high school talent, as there’s no way to know for sure if a prospect’s skill set will translate against the bigger, stronger, faster, and more skilled competition of the NBA. After all, not every rookie is a LeBron-esque freak of nature who’s sure to succeed at any level.

For the Chicago Bulls, great risk also means great opportunity. By moving the draft age down a year, the NBA will be effectively sliding two draft classes into one to create a mega-draft loaded with star potential. It’s impossible to know just when this rule change would actually kick in, but the absolute earliest we could see it roll into effect is as soon as the offseason of 2024.

It’s hard to predict who will rise to the top years in advance, but for now, ESPN’s projections for the top 60 prospects in 2024 and 2025 help provide a little insight as to who might be available if things do get underway sooner than expected. By mashing these two classes together, Chicago’s odds of drafting a franchise-altering player increase dramatically.

As we’ve seen time and time again, teams need a top 10 caliber player — or at the very least, one with the potential to reach it — to truly contend for a championship. Fortunately for the Bulls, they’ve managed to keep much of their future draft capital intact.

Although they traded away a haul of picks to acquire DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic, and Lonzo Ball, Chicago owns all but one of their first-round picks from 2024 onwards. Even then, the one pick that is owed to San Antonio in 2025 is protected if it falls in the top 10, meaning Chicago has a fair bit of flexibility in the event they decide to bottom out and trade away their star talent.

For all intents and purposes, I hope the Chicago Bulls can continue to compete at a high level not only this year, but for years to come. If they’re not up to the task, however, this draft realignment grants them the perfect opportunity to blow the core up and acquire the draft capital necessary to quickly bounce back. Either way you slice it, there’s a lot for Bulls fans to look forward to, and that’s never a bad thing.

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