Bulls Q&A: What position will they address in the draft? How will Zach LaVine's contract talks go?

Here’s a Bulls’ post-season — not postseason — mailbag. I’ll be filing these regularly during the offseason. So if your question isn’t answered below, that doesn’t mean it was deleted. But it might have been, as I have no idea what Michael Porter Jr.’s ceiling is.

What position do you think the Bulls will address in the draft? I’ve always been a believer in the “best available” logic, especially in today’s game where positions don’t matter as much. That being said, I like our core of Dunn, Markkanen and LaVine. And I feel Valentine has done enough to earn the starting spot at small forward, assuming he continues to work on his body in the offseason. That leaves center. Jeff, Chicago

John Paxson answered this publicly, so luckily I don’t have to think. He said wing is the position the Bulls most need to address. He later added the qualifier that you can’t overlook talent, so the “best player available” philosophy could win out. But the Bulls seem to view Denzel Valentine as more of a reserve rotational piece. That’s not to say if they drafted, say, Mikal Bridges, he would start right away. But it does appear as if they’re searching for a starting small forward.

Let’s assume Ayton, Doncic, Bagley, Jackson and Porter are off the board when the Bulls are on the clock. Do the Bulls bet on Mo Bamba? Or do they go with the safe pick in Mikal Bridges, who ticks all the boxes that Paxson said he requires in a wing? Kurt, Chicago

You’re also assuming the Bulls draft sixth. You don’t believe in lottery luck? There’s going to be a lot of guessing and mock-draft-dom between now and June. This is just my initial gut feeling, but I think if the Bulls stay at 6, that’s too high for Bridges. I do agree he fits what Paxson described. So maybe they try to trade down? Again, it’s way too early to speculate on what the Bulls will do since they haven’t had anybody in for workouts or interviews and don’t know their draft slot.

If the Bulls fail to move up in the lottery, are they more likely to lean toward a high-ceiling project (Porter, Bamba) or a more polished wing (either of the Bridgeses)? A. Onatende, Chicago

Again, mostly guessing here, but I do think the Bulls know they need to address athleticism. So I’d guess a high-ceiling project, but again, they haven’t worked out or interviewed anybody, only scouted.

With Kris Dunn having a very inconsistent season, do you expect the Bulls to take a serious look at either Trae Young or Collin Sexton with the sixth pick? Rick Z., Streamwood

I’d disagree that Dunn had a very inconsistent season. Maybe injury-plagued. But there was enough of a body of work to feel confident with him as the starting point guard for the future. That said, if the Bulls love either of those players — and I’d guess they would favor Sexton over Young based on size — I don’t think you’re in position at the front end of a rebuild to be picky. You add who you think is the best talent. And that’s not saying the Bulls believe that about either of those players.

I keep seeing mock drafts that are sending Trae Young to the Bulls at No. 6. I don’t really understand the fit. Young is a good playmaker and shooter who is a “meh” athlete by NBA standards. Kris Dunn is an incredible athlete who is already a solid defender and an emerging playmaker. I know the Bulls need an alpha scorer, but shouldn’t they be focused on fixing their horrendous defense by drafting dominant athletes with incredible physical tools? Does Trae Young really have more potential to be an impact player than Kris Dunn? Brian F., Astoria, N.Y.

That’s two questions, but who’s counting? They’re called mock drafts for a reason. I personally agree that Young is just an OK fit for the Bulls. He’s undersized. And the Bulls better hope they have at least some alpha scoring in Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen. I think you need to draft size and athleticism. I also believe Dunn has more potential to be an impact player than Young. But I’m guessing.

This one stumped me all season. I noticed the Bulls once again led the league in attendance. However, from watching the games, it sure didn’t seem like a packed house or anything similar to the crowds during winning seasons. Any idea how these attendance numbers are computed and how a lottery team led the league? Mike G., Chicago

You mean, the same lottery team that led the league in attendance in the post-dynasty, Tim Floyd years? First of all, the figures are computed by tickets sold. So if a ticket is purchased — season tickets would be an example — and the person doesn’t show up, it still counts. Also, while I agree it wasn’t packed all the time as in standing room only, often crowds were arriving late. So when a crowd shot took place near tipoff, it looked a lot emptier than when the game ended. Finally, the United Center is a big barn. So while the Bulls led the NBA in average attendance, they were tied for 11th in capacity filled.

John Paxson didn’t mention Jerian Grant at his season-ending press conference. Is there a market for Grant? D. Brown, Gary, Ind.

There wasn’t one in February at the trade deadline.

What was the point of bringing in Sean Kilpatrick? He’s a journeyman player who you would figure isn’t part of the Bulls’ long-term future. Yet he shot the ball well, and without him playing, the Bulls would likely have one to two more losses. Seemed like a counterproductive move by the front office. David, Los Angeles

Or, as the World Wide Web dubbed him, Sean Kildraftpick. I’d lean toward agreeing. I’ve reported one reason was to keep alive trade exceptions. There’s discrepancy as to whether his deal has outgoing, $2.1 million trade value between now and June 30, as the new collective bargaining agreement changed this if a contract has two seasons of non-guaranteed money following. If one of those seasons is a team option with a favorable guarantee date, then you could add him having value as a trade chip. Lastly, I’d guess the Bulls would say there’s some value in getting a look at him. Depending on what they do in the draft and with David Nwaba a restricted free agent, they could bring back Kilpatrick as he clearly can score. But, yes, I’d say he probably meant one victory, possibly two.

What’s the likelihood the LaVine contract negotiations are long and drawn out? Or is there common ground already in terms of years, money? Dan A., Los Angeles

There’s common ground in that LaVine wants to be the centerpiece of the rebuild and the Bulls traded Jimmy Butler for him to be that centerpiece. There will be some bumps. Negotiations typically feature those. But I think this deal gets done more easily than not this summer.

Do you think management wants another top pick in 2019, or will the Bulls be active in free agency and try to compete for a playoff berth instead? Diovanni, Chicago

Those are kind of mutually exclusive. Paxson answered whether the Bulls will tank — er, feature player development that also features bad lineups — again next season. But they’re not going all-in on free agency either. They’re going to try to compete for the playoffs with internal improvement from their core of LaVine, Dunn and Markkanen.

I know that rooting for losses this season was difficult for fans to stomach and even harder for John Paxson to discuss publicly. But they have to be pretty happy with how things played out, correct? Markkanen outperformed expectations and showed a high ceiling. Dunn looked like a different player, albeit with room to improve. And LaVine flashed enough to consider him a core piece. The Bulls most likely will be picking sixth. Was picking in that spot what the front office expected before the season started? Anthony R., Schaumburg

I largely agree with your points, although I think there’s more skepticism regarding LaVine among the fan base. I’ve also reported that the Bulls absolutely hoped for a top-three pick when they made the Butler trade. And most preseason prognostications pegged them to get one. That said, if you merely take LaVine playing at all — and showing some strong flashes — as a positive, then, yes, there’s some to like from last season. Markkanen and Dunn looked legit to me.

Things have really soured in San Antonio with Kawhi Leonard where it seems like he may never play in a Spurs uniform again. If the Spurs decided to try to get something back for him instead of watching him walk away for nothing in 2019, do the Bulls have a shot at him? He’s the ideal “3-and-D” guy that Paxson has been talking about, still fits the “younger and more athletic” mold and the Bulls look to have the cap space to sign a max guy in 2019. Matt, Chicago

There are still plenty of hoops to jump through, but if it got to that point, yes, the Bulls would have a shot. Now, prepare yourself: The minimum ask would be Markkanen and/or LaVine, at least one first-round pick and another major rotational player if it’s not Markkanen and LaVine. Signing Leonard in free agency would obviously be the preferred method. And don’t rule out Leonard remaining with the Spurs. This is nowhere near as messy as Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, and that relationship got salvaged. Plus, Leonard could sign a supermax deal with the Spurs and not anybody else.

If the Bulls luck into the No. 1 pick, would management, which is typically reserved, make an aggressive play for Kawhi Leonard with a package centered around that pick? Jeff, Chicago

Hmmm, now that’s an intriguing option I hadn’t considered. I’d make that call, for sure. Although sliding Deandre Ayton into this young lineup would look pretty swell as well.

Which free agents do you think the Bulls will pursue this year, if any? And if they pursue any big-name free agents, will it hurt the rebuild by speeding it up too fast? Michael, Beloit, Wis.

Well, if they added LeBron James or Kevin Durant, the rebuild would be going pretty swimmingly. But they’re not coming here. So in lieu of doing due diligence to make sure of it, I don’t see the Bulls being that aggressive in free agency this summer. In fact, Paxson pretty much said as much at his season-ending news conference. I’d guess they’ll try to add solid veteran types on short-term deals. Avery Bradley, Trevor Ariza, Wayne Ellington, Wesley Matthews, Ersan Ilyasova and Jamal Crawford are players who may fit that bill. Also, I got this same question from Jeb in Paris, but Beloit rules.

A lot of mock drafts have the Bulls taking Trae Young. If they do end up going this route, do you think GarPax would want to bring in a veteran guard presence like Allen Iverson? He’d be a great role model and looks to be in great shape sitting courtside at 76ers games. J. Smith, Libertyville

Longtime readers of this mailbag will get this reference: This regular Iverson joke is replacing Cleetus in mailbag fame. Also: The Answer is busy with his Big 3 duties, sir.

Using Radiohead as a baseline for comparison, which Bulls players and prospective draft picks are the respective members of the band? Brendan H., Austin, Texas

Zach LaVine is Thom Yorke — the athletic frontman (have you seen Yorke’s rubbery dance moves?). Kris Dunn is Jonny Greenwood — creative, composer, orchestrator, brilliant, occasionally distorted. Lauri Markkanen is Ed O’Brien — stately, subtly and cumulatively powerful. Robin Lopez is Colin Greenwood — essential, sturdy, often overlooked. Denzel Valentine is Philip Selway — steady, not flashy, dependable. Bobby Portis is Clive Deamer — at first glance repetitive but then oh-so-needed. John Paxson is Nigel Godrich — OK, this is getting hard. The top-10 pick, whoever it is, is Stanley Donwood — needs to wrap it all up in a nice, visual package. P.S. Markkanen is more than a sidekick that the O’Brien reference suggests, but stately fits. And, man, that’s the best question in Bulls mailbag history.

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