RIS­ING STAR OR ROOKIE STAR?

Lavine is face of fran­chise — un­less bulls get lucky in lot­tery, land ge­or­gia’s ed­wards

Chicago Sun-Times - - BULLS BEAT - BY JOE COW­LEY | jcow­ley@SUN­TIMES.COM | @jcow­ley­hoops

Zach LaVine has done ev­ery­thing asked of him since join­ing the Bulls in 2017. The guard can score at an All-Star level, and he has im­proved his de­fense, his re­bound­ing and his play­mak­ing. All the while, he has be­come the face of the or­ga­ni­za­tion on and off the court.

But is that enough?

Has LaVine proved that he can be an elite player able to carry the Bulls back to the post­sea­son, or is he just a bridge un­til the true heir ap­par­ent shows him­self ?

More im­por­tant, could that heir ap­par­ent be avail­able in the 2020 NBA Draft?

The fran­chise has de­fied the draft-lot­tery odds be­fore — see Der­rick Rose — but not since 2008. It has been triple sevens for the Bulls the last three drafts. They’ve had the sev­enth over­all pick each year since the start of the re­build in 2017.

With a 7.5% chance to hit on No. 1 this time and a 7.8% chance to land No. 2, what if Ge­or­gia scor­ing guard An­thony Ed­wards is there for the tak­ing?

Is he the next Bradley Beal with a streakier out­side game, or is he Den­nis Smith Jr., who showed prom­ise early with the Mav­er­icks but since has fiz­zled out with the Knicks?

The Bulls have time on their side with LaVine. They have one more sea­son to de­cide if they want to ex­tend the for­mer first-round pick and two more sea­sons of con­trol of his con­tract to see if his up­ward climb con­tin­ues.

That doesn’t mean that Ed­wards should be out of the pic­ture, though.

Three straight dis­ap­point­ing sea­sons, in­clud­ing be­ing one of the “delete eight’’ left out of the 22team restart bub­ble, should serve no­tice to the new front of­fice that the team isn’t good enough.

There should be no un­touch­ables, in­clud­ing at the two-guard spot, where LaVine is the starter and 2019 first-round pick Coby White is the backup. The Bulls need to de­ter­mine if White is a point guard or if he’s bet­ter­suited for combo duty.

The re­build still is in­com­plete. No stone

— or draft prospect — should go un­turned. The top shoot­ing guards:

1. An­thony Ed­wards, Ge­or­gia

Ed­wards is the best two guard in the draft, and he sits atop most draft boards. His of­fen­sive game is based on ex­plo­sive­ness and strength, but his out­side game re­mains in­con­sis­tent.

Like most play­ers in this draft class, there are flaws in his game, start­ing with his en­ergy on de­fense. His ath­leti­cism and size should make him an elite de­fender, but his will­ing­ness to play both ends of the court has been called into ques­tion.

The good news is that he has the tools to em­brace the de­fen­sive side of the floor.

In a draft with al­most no sure things, Ed­wards could be the player who be­comes a su­per­star.

2. Devin Vas­sell, Florida State

Much like ex-Bull Jimmy But­ler was com­ing out of Mar­quette, Vas­sell is a tweener, able to play the off-guard be­cause of his ath­leti­cism, but at 6-7 he also can be a wing.

He checks two key boxes for which­ever team grabs him: He shot 42 per­cent from three-point range last sea­son, and he was a will­ing de­fender.

3. Tyrese Maxey, Ken­tucky

In his one year at Ken­tucky, he never lived up to the hype he had com­ing out of high school, es­pe­cially with his in­con­sis­tent of­fense.

What he did show, though, was an abil­ity to de­fend and a tough­ness to be­come a solid NBA starter for years to come. ✶

SAM HODDE/AP

GETTY IMAGES

An­thony Ed­wards Bulls guard Zach LaVine is un­der club con­trol for two more sea­sons.

GETTY IMAGES

Devin Vas­sell

GETTY IMAGES

Tyrese Maxey

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