Could the Bulls Land a Top 10 Draft Pick This Year?

NBA Draft 2021

Getty NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 29: A general view of the board after the first round of the 2021 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on July 29, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Arturo Holmes/Getty Images)

The Chicago Bulls traded disgruntled forward Lauri Markkanen to Cleveland in a three-team trade last summer, in which they received a lottery protected 2022 first-rounder from the Portland Trail Blazers.

In a trade column for Bleacher Report, salary cap expert Eric Pincus notes a way in which the Bulls could stand to benefit greatly, if the Blazers are serious about wanting to trade for Philadelphia Sixers star Ben Simmons.

Lifting Lottery Protections

In the article, Pincus notes that the lottery protection (1-14) Portland put on the draft pick going to Chicago could prevent the Blazers from offering draft compensation to the Sixers in a Simmons trade.

Complicating matters, the Blazers sent their 2022 first-rounder to the Chicago Bulls in the deal that brought Nance from the Cleveland Cavaliers. Protections leave Portland with absolutely no firsts to offer unless the team can convince Chicago to take the pick unprotected in 2022 (perhaps with a second-rounder as compensation).

This is due to the fact that Portland’s lottery protection on the outgoing pick to Chicago is covered over such a long stretch of years, it disallows them from sending Philadelphia future draft picks.

Due to the Stepien Rule, a team cannot trade consecutive draft picks if they don’t have any substitutes, and given that the current projection on the pick going to Chicago runs until 2028, no one really knows when it’ll convey. That means the Blazers can’t trade a pick unless they solidify the pick they owe the Bulls.

Further complicating matters is the fact that no team can trade a pick more than seven seasons out, meaning 2028 would be the latest Philadelphia could receive a pick. Only, the Bulls will still be in the mix up until that year, unless the pick conveys earlier.

The Blazers can thus offer the Bulls their pick this season, unprotected, which frees them up to move future first-rounders, such as their 2024 and 2026 selections. By doing that, the Blazers set a firm date on when the pick conveys to Chicago (draft night, 2022), removing the uncertainty.

The Blazers are currently projected to pick seventh, per Tankathon. For a Bulls team with the NBA’s fourth-best record, meaning their own pick is slotted at No. 27, landing the No. 7 pick would provide a huge asset.

Portland has Alternative Path

The Blazers needn’t necessarily lift protections this year, and could instead propose the Bulls to keep the lottery protection in place for this season and then make the pick unprotected in 2023 when Simmons is integrated and the Blazers project to land outside the lottery.

That way, the Blazers can put in language that states Philadelphia receives a first-round pick two years after the pick to Chicago pick has been conveyed.

That means, should the Blazers make the playoffs this season, the first available pick for the Sixers would be in 2024. Should the Chicago pick instead convey as an unprotected pick in 2023, the Sixers will get a pick at the earliest in 2025.

Regardless of how it plays out, for the Bulls to potentially benefit in the sense of getting a less protected first-round pick is only good news for the front office.

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