Which position and player do the Chicago Bulls need to target in this year's NBA Draft?
The Chicago Bulls are headed for the lottery. There's no denying this fact, and a record of 10 - 27 is perfect evidence as to where this team should be going. An ugly loss against the Toronto Raptors is one that needs to be visualised to fully comprehend: even though it was a six-point loss, the Bulls could've eked out a rare away win had Kris Dunn hit a jumper and Kawhi Leonard wasn't afforded an opportunity to hit two free throws which effectively iced the game.
Regardless, the Bulls were unlucky and if this recent run of bad luck - injuries, coaching changes and a historically bad offense - continues, they may have the first overall pick in the stacked 2019 draft.
The shape of the current Bulls
It's not as though the Bulls are a bad team, after all, three of their starters - Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr are solid pieces to build around.
LaVine is an amazing slash-and-drive shooting guard, who has proven he can put up impressive numbers on a regular basis. Dunn is a defensively aware pass-first point guard who can also get hot hands during stretches of game time on-court. Markkanen is the NBA's modern version of a power forward; a seven-footer who is a legitimate threat from behind the arc but can also body up to other players in the paint.
However, Carter Jr is perhaps the brightest gem of the lot: the 19-year-old rookie is so good at defense that he has already drawn comparisons with Al Horford. For the sake of a potential rebuild, we can assume both Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday won't be in the team's long-term plans - freeing up $18m in cap space between the experienced pair.
Lopez has been linked to the Warriors, who are in need of a center until DeMarcus Cousins is no longer on minutes restrictions - and he could prove good value for a late first-round or second-round pick. So which position do the Bulls need to look for in the draft?
What do the Bulls need?
Chicago need one more piece for this team to really find its feet among the league over the span of a whole season. Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine (ankle) are both solid role players, but not genuine starters on a team that sees itself trying to become a contender for the years to come.
Carter Jr has the center position locked in for the foreseeable future, the same goes in a similar vein for LaVine and Markkanen for their respective positions too.
This is where Dunn's place in the squad comes under scrutiny. As a point guard averaging 30 minutes per game, his stat line reads: 13.5 points, 6.2 assists, 5 rebounds per game with 47% FG and 25% from three. Sure, he's been rusty after missing four weeks due to injury, but a 25% 3PT statistic is brutal for someone in his position. Regardless, he should be a part of their 2019/20 plans, barring an unforeseen trade.
Jabari Parker has one of those regular head-scratching contracts which seems to be continually handed out by Chicago's incompetent front office. A $20m contract for a player who doesn't like playing defense and has sustained two ACL injuries at age 24? The move was puzzling, even more so when one thinks of the picks they could've had by absorbing bad contracts worth $20m.
The futuristic Bulls starting five reads out as:
Dunn (PG), LaVine (SG), Markkanen (PF), Carter Jr (C) - so it's clear there's one spot left untouched.
2019 is now upon us and Parker - alongside his bloated contract - has asked for a trade by the February 7 deadline, which GM Gar Forman should look to grant. That will see a vacancy at the small forward position, where the Bulls have no real options going forward. If the Bulls get the first pick, the answer to this question is Zion Williamson.
Regardless of position, it's quickly becoming clear that Zion is expected to be drafted first this summer. Standing 6'7 and weighing 285 pounds, he's a tank and even currently, would be among the league's most heavy players.
That's not all: he also has jaw-dropping athleticism and his dunking compilations seen across the world on YouTube have now transformed themselves into seemingly impossible collegiate (NCAA) statistics: averaging 19.8 points to go alongside 65.2% shooting, 9.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.9 blocks in 26.2 minutes per game.
He is showing otherworldly ability - that of a rim protector, glass-cleaning rebounder, highly intelligent transition dunk aficionado all at once. One who plays at small forward and is improving all the time.
If Dunn is headlined in a trade for a slick passing point-guard with an outside shot, say, Derrick Rose makes his much-welcomed return, the Bulls' starting five could look like this:
Dunn/Rose, LaVine, Markkanen, Zion Williamson, Carter Jr
In roughly two seasons of a rebuild, the Bulls would be able to run plays with two dunking, athletic, drive-based players who can finish at the rim - LaVine and Zion - and three players who all have a solid three-point shot in Rose, LaVine and Markkanen while playing a defensive rim-protecting, shot-blocking menace at center.
With all of that in mind, it's only right that Bulls fans should be excited about what may lie ahead in the future.