TAL­ENT COMES 1ST

EX­EC­U­TIVE VP KARNISOVAS SAYS BULLS WILL LOOK FOR PLAYER WITH HIGH­EST UP­SIDE IN DRAFT

Chicago Sun-Times - - BULLS BEAT - BY JOE COW­LEY jcow­ley@sun­times.com @JCow­leyHoops

“I don’t think you ad­dress needs at [No.] 4; You get the best tal­ent. what we’re go­ing to be look­ing for is the high­est-up­side player. On [draft night] Oct. 16, you’ll see who it’s go­ing to be.’’

Ar­turas Karnisovas

This is un­charted ter­ri­tory for Bulls ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of bas­ket­ball op­er­a­tions Ar­turas Karnisovas.

Dur­ing his time in the Nuggets’ front of­fice, he never had a firstround draft pick higher than sev­enth, and he had mixed re­sults the two times he se­lected in that spot. He swung and missed on Em­manuel Mu­diay in 2015, then re­deemed him­self with Ja­mal Mur­ray the next year.

But this is also un­charted ter­ri­tory for the NBA. Not only are prospects be­ing eval­u­ated with as lim­ited in­for­ma­tion (film and scout­ing re­ports) as they have been in re­cent mem­ory, but get­ting guys in for per­sonal work­outs is un­likely be­cause of coro­n­avirus pro­to­cols.

That leaves a vir­tual com­bine from which Karnisovas must glean as much in­for­ma­tion as pos­si­ble.

‘‘I’ve said it in the past: I like to eval­u­ate play­ers live, five-on-five, which we had a chance this year in the sea­son that was cut short,’’ Karnisovas said in a Zoom meet­ing with the me­dia af­ter the Bulls landed the No. 4 pick in the NBA Draft lot­tery Thurs­day. ‘‘Then the com­bine and go­ing through a bunch of in­ter­views.

‘‘We ac­tu­ally did a lot of Zoom in­ter­views so far. We’ll see what the NBA is go­ing to come up with in terms of vir­tual com­bine. There will be a com­bi­na­tion of phys­i­cals and test­ing and, again, video in­ter­views. Just go­ing through the process, I think it’s go­ing to help us to get to the last week be­fore the draft when we’re go­ing to come up with a con­sen­sus.

‘‘We spend a ton of time with video and a lot of time in­ter­view­ing prospects. A con­sen­sus is go­ing to ar­rive. But it will prob­a­bly be more clear with a week to go be­fore the draft.

‘‘No mat­ter the po­si­tion, I al­ways scouted live. I al­ways wanted to see a player at least twice dur­ing the year. Be­sides the video, be­sides the in­ter­view­ing, be­sides see­ing them in the com­bine and bring­ing them in for work­outs be­fore the draft, I like live scout­ing. No mat­ter what, you’ve gotta go see them. It’s go­ing to be lim­ited now be­cause you don’t see them fresh. We haven’t played bas­ket­ball since March. So it’s go­ing to be a lit­tle more dif­fi­cult.’’

Karnisovas stressed his phi­los­o­phy in terms of pick­ing so high is sim­ple: Se­lect the best player avail­able. Needs are for teams lower in the draft to ad­dress.

Not that the Bulls don’t have needs. Their point-guard play has been spo­radic since they traded Der­rick Rose to the Knicks in June 2016. Yes, they es­tab­lished a de­fen­sive iden­tity un­der for­mer coach Jim Boylen, but it was a de­fen­sive iden­tity built on smoke and mir­rors. They gen­er­ated de­flec­tions and turnovers by us­ing three guards, but they also left the front­court ex­posed, fall­ing short in re­bound­ing and blocked shots.

As far as spe­cific po­si­tions the Bulls need to strengthen, start­ing small for­ward Otto Porter Jr. all but cer­tainly will opt in for the fi­nal sea­son of his con­tract, and backup Chan­dler Hutchi­son has spent more time in the train­ing room than on the court.

There’s a rea­son Deni Avdija and Isaac Okoro are be­ing linked to the Bulls in mock drafts. Both are small for­wards — al­beit with dif­fer­ent strengths — and ei­ther would be pen­ciled in to take Porter’s spot in 2021-22.

‘‘I think you ad­dress by select­ing the best player avail­able, es­pe­cially at the [No. 4 spot],’’ Karnisovas said. ‘‘I don’t think you ad­dress needs at [No.] 4; you get the best tal­ent. What we’re go­ing to be look­ing for is the high­est-up­side player. On [draft night] Oct. 16, you’ll see who it’s go­ing to be.’’ ✶

JONATHAN DANIEL/GETTY IM­AGES

Bulls small for­ward Otto Porter Jr. (shown in March against the Cava­liers) will be en­ter­ing the last sea­son of his con­tract, as­sum­ing he de­cides to ex­er­cise his op­tion and not opt for free agency.

GETTY IM­AGES

Bulls ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of bas­ket­ball op­er­a­tions Ar­turas Karnisovas says he will be look­ing for the player with the high­est up­side with the No. 4 pick.

Isaac Okoro

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