Where Will Carmelo Anthony and Kawhi Leonard End Up This Summer?
The question everyone is asking is where will Carmelo Anthony and Kawhi Leonard end up this summer?
…Nobody, because I have a trade to announce. If the Bulls are as serious about their rebuild as they claim to be, there’s only one logical conclusion as to who they should be drafting June 21st, 2018: DeAndre Ayton.
To do that, the Bulls need to be prepared to ship off the 7th pick and multiple additional pieces (I'm looking at you, Kris Dunn) to Phoenix to secure the number one pick.
A tall order to fill, sure, but one that needs to be filled.
Luckily, neither team carries any trade restrictions on draft picks this season or beyond, which is why this proposal is even possible. Don’t let the misery of the Derrick Rose saga dissuade you from the idea of holding onto another number one pick. It works far more often than not.
Sure, Towns is the better defender and shot blocker. But Ayton is taller, oozing with athleticism and already averaged nearly 12 rebounds per game in college, all big reasons why it’s not hard to see that gap closing in the future.
Ayton's real selling point comes from his offense. His Usage Percentage (USG%, amount of plays involved in) was a whopping 26.6%, which is higher than any big man projected to go in the draft aside from Brandon McCoy out of UNLV.
Pair that with a Player Efficiency Rating (PER, per-minute rating of performance) of 33.6, which was second highest in the nation, and you can see why Ayton has the entire league salivating.
Put simpler: Ayton already has experience as a primary option as a freshman in one of the nation’s elite conferences; he passed that test with flying colors.
And it gets better: Ayton is already more successful from beyond the arc than Towns was coming out of college. Towns only attempted eight threes while at Kentucky and didn’t crack 33% from deep until he was in the NBA. Ayton is already converting at a 34% clip, which at the very least means he’s more comfortable with his shot.
Since then, Towns has developed into a premiere perimeter threat, converting over 42% from deep to outpace guys like Kevin Durant. And he did that as a center.
So it’s not farfetched to project Ayton, with a similar frame and more developed offensive skillset, matching that trajectory. Especially with the league trend swinging more towards the perimieter.
You couldn’t ask for a better fit for the current Bulls system. Fred Hoiberg's scheme is based on rhythm and spacing. A player who can create stops, be a threat in transition, bang in the post, and confidently step out behind the arc at will would be his ultimate weapon.
The reason I’m advocating so hard to trade up for Ayton is three-fold:
Primarily, and unfortunately, the Bulls are delusional about the current talent on their roster. Granted, Lauri Markkanen is a stud (and, go figure, another former ASU big man with range), but the jury is still out on the likes of Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Bobby Portis and Denzel Valentine.
Internally, the Bulls view Markkanen as their primary option among their own “Big Three,” accompanied by LaVine and Dunn. Never mind the fact that those three play worse when they’re all on the court at the same time, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who views Markkanen as a primary option on a championship-caliber team that’s not on the Bulls payroll.
No successful rebuild can be pulled off with more question marks than sure things; adding Ayton will instantly swing the balance to the proper side.
Secondly, no player tabbed as a consensus lottery pick comes close to Ayton in terms of assured production. By crossing their arms and waiting for the best available talent at number seven, you're likely to be left with names like Mohamed Bamba, Wendell Carter Jr. or Collin Sexton.
With all due respect to these guys, we're talking about a defensive-minded center who will need time to develop with Bamba and a less productive, less athletic version of Ayton with Carter Jr.
Sexton could be a good move here, as he's shown himself to be a two-way slasher with plenty of clutch moments, but his playmaking abilities are suspect.
Beyond that, Michael Porter Jr. would fill a need but has already had serious injury problems; Trae Young may be the most unpolished prospect in the lottery; Marvin Bagley III and Jaren Jackson Jr. are both primarily power forwards, and you're already set there with Markkanen.
Why create another question mark?
Finally, Ayton gives the Bulls their best chance to add a top-flight free agent within the few years. Granted, it’s something the Bulls haven’t been able to do in decades thanks in part to a toxic front office.
Executives aside, the Bulls simply haven’t had the talent or promise of playing time to attract a big-name talent. Stars aren’t exactly lining up to play with guys like Eddie Curry (remember him?). When the Bulls did court a competitive team from 2010 to 2013, there weren’t a ton of minutes to go around.
By bringing in Ayton, you could potentially have the second coming of the Twin Towers. Two versatile big men that can create all of the mismatches and spacing Hoiberg’s heart could desire.
While Ayton will raise the talent level, you can almost bank on the Bulls being a lottery team in next year’s draft regardless of who they take, which likely means a shot at one of the many dominant, off-ball wings projected to be drafted in 2019.
If your front court is set for the next decade and either LaVine or a 2019 pick emerges as a strong compliment on the wing, could you imagine a point guard who wouldn’t want to come into that situation?
In a major market like Chicago, June should be a month for meaningful basketball. Instead, fans have grown accustomed to spending that time praying for ping-pong balls to bounce the right way.
This one trade can go a long way towards ending that trend. If you don't believe me, have a look for yourself.