NBA Draft Notebook: Bulls Linked to LaMelo Ball, Kira Lewis Jr.

NBA Draft notebook: Bulls linked to two point guards originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

“No, I haven’t had any contact with them. And fit in? I feel like I would fit in anywhere.”

In his NBA Draft Combine media availability session, that was LaMelo Ball’s answer when asked if he’d spoken with the Bulls or pondered his fit with the team. Later on, he deflected or denied communication with each team he was asked about, except for the New York Knicks, owners of the No. 8 pick this year.

Now, he’s been linked to Chicago via ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, who reported Thursday that Ball met with the Minnesota Timberwolves, owners of the No. 1 pick in the draft, on Tuesday; is “tentatively scheduled” to meet with the Golden State Warriors, owners of No. 2, soon; and expected to meet with the Charlotte Hornets and Bulls, Nos. 3 and 4, at some point.

That’s a more befitting interview slate for a prospect considered by many to be one of the three best in the class along with Anthony Edwards and James Wiseman. It’s unclear whether Ball’s meeting with the Bulls would be virtual or in-person, but the NBA is allowing in-person meetings, workouts and medical evaluations with prospects (under health and safety protocol pertinent to the COVID-19 pandemic) until Nov. 16.

For what it’s worth, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer recently said on 102.5 FM WFNZ that Ball’s interviews thus far haven’t helped his stock, and that teams picking later in the top 10 are prepping as if he might be available outside of the top 3:

Here’s what I’m hearing from the league at large. LaMelo Ball is not performing very well in job interviews. I’ve heard that from multiple sources. He is not improving his perception via job interview. There are people drafting later in the top 10 who were not preparing for the possibility of Ball still being around — and I’m not saying that he will not be a top 3 pick — I am saying that I know for a fact that there are teams later in the top 10 who are doing more research on him because they no longer think it’s a given he will.

Rick Bonnell on 102.5 FM WFNZ

Take from that what you will. Strategic leaks and smokescreens are known to run rampant this close to draft night.

Nevertheless, Givony’s report should only add to building buzz that the Bulls are targeting a lead playmaker Nov. 18. Ball’s elite court vision and passing dexterity as a 6-foot-7 point guard are his greatest attributes as a prospect — they shined in Australia last season during his tenure with the NBL’s Illawarra Hawks, even as his scoring efficiency lagged.

Ball averaged 17 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.8 assists in 12 regular-season games with Illawara, shooting 37.7 percent from the field, 25 percent from 3-point range and 72.3 percent from the line. Read our full breakdown of his game and fit with the Bulls here.

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Wildcard in the mix

Also: Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Wasserman reported that the Bulls worked out Alabama point guard Kira Lewis Jr., widely projected as a mid-to-late lottery selection, on Wednesday.

Could Lewis be an option if the Bulls find a trade partner and move down in the draft in an asset-stacking play? Our K.C. Johnson has hinted he could be a target in such a scenario.

The book on Lewis is that of a lightning-fast lead guard that can score at all three levels, create for others in transition and the pick-and-roll, and hunt passing lanes at the defensive end. He averaged 18.5 points, 5.2 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 1.8 steals per game in his sophomore season at Alabama while shooting 45.9 percent from the field, 36.6 percent from 3 and 80.2 percent from the line. He’ll be 19 on draft night and doesn’t turn 20 until April.

How would he fit with the Bulls compared to other lead guards near the top of the draft? His playmaking chops aren’t lauded on the level of Ball or Killian Hayes, and he’s not as positionally versatile (or yet as reliable a spot up shooter) as Tyrese Haliburton. Lewis struggled with turnovers at Alabama, committing 3.5 per game as a sophomore, and will need to pack on muscle to hang defensively and as a finisher at the next level.

But the combination of speed, scoring, passing and defensive potential he brings to the table is an undeniably intriguing package. He profiles as an exciting backcourt fit alongside either Coby White or Zach LaVine — possibly both, depending on the trio’s viability in three-guard lineup configurations.

Wasserman, citing a source, reported Lewis’ measurements Thursday. Especially encouraging is his weight, 180 pounds, which is up 15 from reportedly playing at 165 at Alabama:

Until draft night, expect the rumor mill to continue its churn. And the Bulls’ new front office to continue playing its strategy close to the vest.

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