The Chicago Bulls altered their lineup and sat regulars in an effort to get a better draft pick.
As it turned out, they would have gotten a better result by finding a way to tank the random drawing with Sacramento for the No. 6 draft position.
The Bulls won the drawing, but the Kings had their numbers called at Tuesday’s draft lottery. Sacramento moved up to the No. 2 overall pick, behind Phoenix, while the Bulls dropped one slot.
The Bulls have the No. 7 pick at the June 21 NBA draft. The Bulls and Kings had the same number of lottery combinations. The random drawing meant if neither team moved into the top three, the Bulls would choose sixth and Sacramento seventh.
A league official confirmed that, yes, had the Bulls lost the random drawing, they would have had Sacramento’s Ping-Pong ball combinations and moved up to No. 2 if the same numbers were drawn.
“Obviously, you’d love to get up there so you can control things for your franchise, but we got Lauri (Markkanen) last year at seven,” said John Paxson, Bulls vice president of basketball operations. “I’m very confident we’ll get a player we like a lot that will fit the direction we’re heading.”
The NBA held the draft lottery in Chicago for the first time, downtown at the Palmer House Hilton. The shift from New York allowed potential lottery picks, in town for the pre-draft combine, to attend the event.
The team with the worst record won the lottery for the fourth straight year. Phoenix will select first, followed by Sacramento and Atlanta, which moved up from fourth to third.
Paxson watched from the audience, while team president Michael Reinsdorf represented the Bulls on stage and Reinsdorf’s son Joey was in the drawing room. Asked about players who will interest the Bulls at No. 7, Paxson emphasized one trait.
“The game is at such a state now where versatility is a big thing, especially at the wing,” Paxson said. “You look at some of the teams still playing, how versatile they are. … You see in the playoffs, everybody’s switching. You need versatile players to be able to do that, especially on the perimeter.”
Paxson wouldn’t rule out drafting a big man, if that player is versatile enough to shoot from the perimeter and guard multiple positions, and there may be a few guys who meet that criteria in this year’s draft.
One reason the Bulls are in the lottery is last year’s decision to trade all-star Jimmy Butler to Minnesota. The Bulls received point guard Kris Dunn, shooting guard Zach LaVine and Markkanen in return.
With those three players serving as the main rebuilding blocks, the Bulls’ obvious needs are small forward and center.
“You never want to look back, but if I do look back, I think it was the right decision,” Reinsdorf said. “I think our fans understand where we’re at and they’re excited. We saw some progress with a lot of the young players. We drafted Lauri Markkanen No. 7. That’s a heck of a draft pick at No. 7 and so we’re hoping we’ll get some of the same luck this year.”
The Bulls also have the No. 22 pick in the first round, which they acquired from New Orleans in the Nikola Mirotic trade.
With the draft order set, here’s a very early guess at how the lottery picks could go:
1. Phoenix: Luka Doncic, 6-8, SG, Real Madrid
2. Sacramento: DeAndre Ayton, 7-0, C, Arizona
3. Atlanta: Marvin Bagley III, 6-11, PF, Duke
4. Memphis: Jaren Jackson Jr., 6-11, PF, Michigan State
5. Dallas: Michael Porter Jr., 6-10, SF, Missouri
6. Orlando: Trae Young, 6-2, SG, Oklahoma
7. Bulls: Mikal Bridges, 6-7, SF, Villanova
8. Cleveland: Mo Bomba, 7-0, C, Texas
9. New York: Wendell Carter, 6-10, PF, Duke
10. Philadelphia: Miles Bridges, 6-7, SF, Michigan State
11. Charlotte: Collin Sexton, 6-2, PG, Alabama
12. LA Clippers: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, 6-6, PG, Kentucky
13. LA Clippers: Robert Williams, 6-9, PF, Texas A&M
14. Denver: Kevin Knox, 6-9, SF, Kentucky
• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls