NBA Draft: It’s not a Finals, but it’s a big exam

It is difficult to put a letter to the era of Arturas Karnisovas.

The Bulls’ executive vice president of basketball operations appears to have hit a home run by pinning Illinois star Ayo Dosunmu in his backyard with a second-round pick last summer while the jury is still out on Patrick Williams bearing the burden, the number 4 to be overall pick in 2020 draft.

Then there was that sneaky draft-and-stash second-round pick in the same class of 20: Marko Simonovic, who put up some stellar numbers. . . for the Windy City Bulls of the G League.

Let’s play it safe and call it a B minus.

The actual test comes on Thursday. Karnisovas & Co. design in the land of mediocrity — the place where a team is just good enough to make the playoffs but there’s no danger of going deep.

It’s where an organization can bet on a Goga Bitadze while a Matisse Thybulle is just falling out of reach.

The pick and hit at No. 18 is a testament to the front office and the confidence it has in the scouting department, which is still trying to establish its place in the NBA draft hierarchy. This year’s draft will reveal a lot.

Hopefully much more than the annual “NBA Mock Draft Sure to Go Wrong by Pick No. 4.”

1. Orlando Magic

Jabari Smith, PF, Auburn

Great shooting contact at 6-10 and a willing defender in Switch play. Big man Chet Holmgren is a strong possibility, especially with the Minnesota connection he has with Jalen Suggs.

2. Thunder from Oklahoma City

Chet Holmgren, C, Gonzaga

His physique is still an issue, but the skills for the 7-footer are Watchman-like in many ways. The latest version of a “unicorn”? Holmgren could very well be.

3. Houston missiles

Paolo Banchero, PF, Duke

Banchero is the safest pick in the top three and seems best suited for the NBA. If he continues to stretch the floor offensively, he could prove to be the best player of the draft.

4. Kings of Sacramento

Jaden Ivey, SG, Purdue

This is where the design could take a number of odd turns. It usually does with the kings. #4 will be the trading spot for other lottery teams, especially if they covet Ivey.

5. Detroit piston

Keegan Murray, F, Iowa

Detroit would love to pair Ivey with Cade Cunningham, but if there’s no deal the up-and-coming Pistons can pull through, Murray is the next logical choice to fill a serious need.

6. Indiana Pacers

Benedict Mathurin, SG/SF, Arizona

Malcolm Brogdon could be on the move and Mathurin continued to gain momentum in his private workouts. The Pacers could play wild card on draft night.

7. Portland Trailblazer

Shaedon Sharpe, SG, Kentucky

Damian Lillard’s understudy, or immediate replacement if Dame Time is postponed? Either way, Sharpe is a solid piece for Portland’s rebuild.

8. New Orleans Pelicans

Dyson Daniels, G/F, G League Ignite

The Pels have most of the roster signed and hopefully a healthy Zion Williamson. Daniels is a great gamble that would give them better wing defense right away.

9.San Antonio Spurs

Jalen Duren, C, Memphis

Jakob Poeltl could retire from San Antonio sometime this season, and Duren is a force in the color with a 7-5 span.

10. Washington Wizards

Ochai Agbaji, SG, Kansas

He defends the perimeter and can make the three-pointer. What is not to like, especially with Bradley Beal, there is always a rumor going around.

11.New York Knicks

AJ Griffin, SF, Duke

The son of former Tom Thibodeau assistant Adrian Griffin, AJ would give the Knicks three-point shooting and a player with the skills to develop at a high level defensively.

12. Thunder from Oklahoma City

Johnny Davis, PG/SG, Wisconsin

With the choice of Holmgren, Davis gives the Thunder a versatile guard that makes the players around him better. OKC could also trade against future assets at this point.

13. Charlotte Hornet

Jeremy Sochan, PF, Baylor

Charlotte has been a punchline defensively at times, and the Baylor product excels on that side of the ball. It almost makes too much sense given the Hornets’ draft history.

14th Cleveland Cavaliers

Malaki Branham, SF/SG, Ohio State

Collin Sexton could be out sooner or later, and Branham could develop into an upgrade due to his three-point shooting and willingness to play defense.

15. Charlotte Hornet

Mark Williams, C, Duke

Could Charlotte grab numbers 13 and 15 to move up? Secure. But if not, they snag a rim runner in Williams that LaMelo Ball will love in the open court.

16.Atlanta Hawks

Tari Eason, PF, LSU

John Collins could be on the move and Eason would be an instant plug-and-play replacement given his defensive mindset.

17. Houston missiles

Ousmane Dieng, SF/PF, NZ Breakers

Lots of raw skill and a pick that could be a homer with a few seasons of development. The Rebuild Rockets can afford to gamble.


EJ Liddell, PF, Ohio State

The jumper continued to improve, he was reportedly impressive in his training with the Bulls and he plays with physicality and a high motor. Patrick Williams needs a nudge.

19. Minnesota Timber Wolves

Walker Kessler, C, Auburn

With Karl-Anthony Towns looking to continue playing like a little big man, Kessler would give Minnesota a willing rim guard.

20.San Antonio Spurs

Jalen Williams, SG/SF, Santa Clara

Few have been as assisted through the preliminary draft process as Williams, who could emerge as a bargain at No. 20 due to his potential to be an elite two-way player on the wing.

21. Denver Nuggets

Blake Wesley, SG, Notre Dame

Another athletic cutter for playmaker Nikola Jokic to capitalize on? Absolutely.

22. Memphis Grizzlies

Kennedy Chandler, PG, Tennessee

Tyus Jones could be on the move, and the quick Chandler would be a good fit coming off the bench, especially in the pick and roll.

23.Philadelphia 76ers

Jaden Hardy, SG, G League Ignite

Ego is still bigger than the game for Hardy, but he has top 20 talents that just need to be tapped.

24. Milwaukee Bucks

Nikola Jovic, SF, Serbia

For the team that already has almost everything, there is a prospect here that could develop into the best national player in the draft.

25.San Antonio Spurs

Ty Ty Washington, PG, Kentucky

The buildup continues as the Spurs land the secondary ball handler for Dejounte Murray and the point guard with the second unit.

26. Houston missiles

MarJon Beauchamp, SF, G League Ignite

His inconsistent jumper is a problem, but Beauchamp’s motor skills and athleticism suit a young squad looking for identity.

27. Miami Heat

Dalen Terry, SF, Arizona

Another winner in the pre-draft circuit, Terry is a perfect fit for “Heat Culture” and has the ability to trump his talent with effort and attitude.

28. Warrior of the Golden State

Caleb Houston, SF, Michigan

A first-round sure thing was now a mystery, Houston could be a steal or just burn out. The warriors can afford the risk.

29. Memphis Grizzlies

Jake LaRavia, F, Wake Forest

A Jake of all trades, a master of none, La-Ravia brings a smart presence to both sides of the ball.

30. Denver Nuggets

Kendall Brown, SF, Baylor

“Joker” & co. could use a little more athleticism off the bench, and Brown ticks many of those boxes on both ends.

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