The Chicago Bulls have reclaimed a playoff spot with a win last night, with Charlotte in the midst of a five game slump, the Bulls actually jumped two teams and went from 9th in the East to 7th. Their draft pick went from 9th to 16th which could very easily be the difference between a starter with star potential and a reserve with starter position.
The NBA is littered with guys picked around 10 who've had all-star careers, not so many around #16. In a deep draft, the Bulls may have found a high quality player at #9, and maybe they still will at #16, we'll have to wait and see. We'll also have to see if the Bulls hang on.
What's worse, is it looks quite likely that Charlotte will fall out of the playoffs as well. If the Bobcats miss the playoffs then they'll almost certainly keep their draft pick. The Lakers look like they might climb up the draft boards against some of the East teams, but it's unlikely anyone else from the West falls to below the East, so the 9th best team in the East probably picks 10th at worst.
Meaning any missed playoff spot and the Bobcats should keep their pick.
From a future building standpoint, I was hoping the Bulls would enter this season with their own pick in the single digits, a pick from the Bobcats in the teens, and possibly another selection from a Luol Deng trade. Instead, it looks like the Bulls will battle it out for the East and a 1st or 2nd round exit and more likely than not enter the draft with their own pick in the teens only to watch Luol Deng walk away for nothing in the off-season.
This might create some minimal amount of satisfaction for the casual fans to watch a playoff run, but from a future standpoint, the Bulls will have missed an opportunity to cash in on a strong draft class and may or may not watch Luol Deng leave come season's end.
If the Bulls don't trade Deng now, they HAVE to sign him or will have made the team considerably worse while also minimizing their on draft choice. The worst case scenario for Chicago is that starting next year with Mirotic and an incoming mid/late 1st and outgoing Deng/Boozer. Especially when the Bulls could have had Mirotic, early first, and a mid first.
If the the Bobcats finish 9th with the Bulls being the team to push them out then it could work out better or worse for Chicago in the long run. Whether the Bulls would get better value from that Bobcats pick this season or whether it might be even better in a year or two is up for debate. The Bobcats don't strike me as a team with a lot of positive direction, so they could easily end up giving us an even better selection in the future but draft strength will play into it as well.
All things being equal, I'd probably take my chances with pick #15 this year if I could.