Bulls fans didn’t need the cleverly worded spoilers of Adrian Wojnarowski or any other NBA reporter to know what was coming with the 22nd pick of the NBA Draft last Thursday night. Boise State wing Chandler Hutchison was the name we all expected, and it was the name Adam Silver called. Whether or not you believed the rumor circulating weeks ago that a draft promise prompted Hutchison to withdraw from the NBA Combine, you assumed the Bulls would take him if he was available. Because it was such a Bulls move in so many ways. And in one big way, it’s the biggest criticism you can lay on this front office for the results of this draft and many others.
John Paxson and Gar Forman had plenty of their typical reasons to draft Hutchison, and some of them are legitimate. 1) He’s a four-year player who made big leaps as an upperclassman and looks like one of the more NBA-ready players from this draft class. 2) He’s a high character young man with a great work ethic. 3) He absolutely fits a position of need, especially after the Bulls went big with their #7 pick. 4) He’s a high floor, low risk player.
But perhaps the biggest reason the front office opted for Chandler – and this is the one worthy of criticism – is that they decided ages ago that they really liked him. He’s the latest example in a long list of players who draw the attention of this Bulls front office early in the draft scouting process and evolve into a somewhat unhealthy obsession. All the while, other potential draftees who might have higher upside while also fitting in the team’s roster and system go unnoticed or overlooked. Essentially, this is classic Bulls Tunnel Vision.
When asked about the draft promise rumor, Paxson did everything but aggressively nod and admit it was true. His answer went something like this, “We scouted Chandler early, and we scouted him often. We really liked him, and he knew we really liked him.” So…that’s a yes. The Bulls promised they’d draft him if he was available at 22.
Let me take a quick tangent here – I think Hutchison can be a very good player in the NBA, and I’m not upset that the Bulls drafted him. He needs to work on certain elements of his game. His three point shot improved significantly as a junior and senior, but his release needs to be quicker and his accuracy still has room for improvement. His midrange game is nonexistent, and his skills as a ballhandler will struggle initially in 1-on-1 situations. That said, he’s an excellent rebounder, and coach Fred Hoiberg raved about his ability to grab and go in transition offense. When in transition, Hutchison showed a knack for getting to the hoop for easy buckets or free throws. Defensively, his 6’7 frame and 7’1 wingspan gives him the versatility this roster desperately needs. He’s going to be decent in isolation defense from the start, and he has the work ethic to improve his reaction times and first step that are currently a bit slow.
I really liked Jacob Evans of Cincinnati, and wanted the Bulls to take him at 22. He doesn’t have quite the size and reach Hutchison does, but he’s entering the NBA as a better three point shooter and tougher defender. The Bulls passed on Evans, who went 28th to the Golden State Warriors. To me, that hurt more than the whole Jordan Bell debacle from last year’s draft that most Bulls fans still can’t let go. The difference in the upside between Evans and Hutchison wasn’t so severe, though, that I can’t still look optimistically at the latter’s potential now that he’s in Chicago.
Now, back to my main point. I couldn’t help but wonder, as I watched Hutchison greet Silver on the draft stage in Brooklyn, if the Bulls did their due diligence by looking extensively at Evans and every other potential wing that might be available at 22. Or did they just hone in on Hutchison (who they began scouting as a sophomore) and that was that?
It’s hard to assume otherwise given this front office’s track record with scouting obsessions. In multiple cases, even if they didn’t get the guy they wanted on draft night they continued to pursue him. Allow me to run through some examples:
In 2003, they were obsessed with Dwyane Wade and failed to trade up to get him. Seven years later, they went after him in free agency and failed. Six years after that, with an aging Wade’s game in decline, they grossly overpaid for his services because they could finally get the guy they wanted for more than a decade.
In 2012, Gar opted to take Marquis Teague with the 29th pick despite pleas from Tom Thibodeau to take Draymond Green. Draymond played for Tom Izzo in one of college basketball’s biggest and most successful programs. It’s not like scouting him was hard. This was a simple case of the front office having their eyes set on one guy, and ignoring the scouting advice of their coach. We all know what happened. Teague busted out of the league early and Draymond is an irreplaceable force on the league’s best team.
In 2014, Gar couldn’t resist his Ames, Iowa connection. The Bulls traded up in the draft to select Doug McDermott, giving up Gary Harris and Jusuf Nurkic for the Creighton star. McDermott didn’t even last three seasons with the Bulls before being traded. Harris and Nurkic, meanwhile, have carved solid roles for themselves in the league. The Bulls also passed on Rodney Hood and Clint Capela. How much scouting of people not named Doug McDermott did Gar and his staff actually do? The gut says not much.
Speaking of McDermott, the Bulls sent him to Oklahoma City with Taj Gibson and a second round pick to get Cameron Payne. [Cue laughter and shouts of anger from the masses.] Why does this qualify? Because the Bulls heavily scouted Payne before the 2015 draft. They really wanted him. Why? I’m guessing it had something to do with high praises from William Small, the man who recruited Payne to Murray State and also worked under Tim Floyd at UTEP and currently serves as an assistant coach at Iowa State. #AmesMafia strikes again. Bulls Tunnel Vision? Strikes again.
That brings us to the latest example: Kris Dunn. The Bulls were so obsessed with Kris Dunn (another classic Bulls four-year guy) coming into the 2016 draft that they nearly traded Jimmy Butler to two different teams. First to Boston so they could take Dunn at #3, then to Minnesota to take Dunn at #5. Both deals fell through, and Gar’s old pal Thibs did take Dunn at #5 for the Timberwolves. Here comes that tunnel vision. A year later, the Bulls front office got the guy they wanted in a Jimmy Butler deal all along. Zach LaVine was a nice perk, Lauri Markkanen was the surprise. But Dunn is the guy they coveted.
This isn’t all to say that Hutchison was the wrong choice at #22. I remain hopeful that he turns out to be a great pick and a strong addition to this rebuild. But it’s worth noticing and mentioning that the way in which the Bulls front office drafted him looks an awful lot like the continuation of a bad habit. Tunnel vision can be a good thing in certain situations, but it shouldn’t be the regular practice for a front office and scouting staff. Plain and simple. Unfortunately for Bulls fans, it’s something we have to live with as long as this regime is running things.
Have thoughts on Chandler Hutchison or the Bulls front office’s draft strategy? Comment below or continue the conversation with me on Twitter @Bulls_Peck.
Which Bulls player will come up consistently clutch this season?
Locked On Bulls is back with a fresh episode, the guys pick up where they left off on yesterday’s episode talking about what the fourth quarter of games might look like. Jordan and Matt dive into clutch time statistics, what they mean, how they are important, and where the young Bulls core ended up last season. The second half of the show the guys kick off their newest segment of “Most Iconic Moments in Bulls History” with 32 different storylines that have defined the Chicago Bulls. The guys start with Michael Jordan’s “I’m Back” fax vs. Derrick Rose’s press conference asking “Why Can’t I Be MVP?”. The guys discuss the importance of both and ultimately which one moves on. Vote for either on Twitter (@LockedOnBulls) and join the discussion at (331)-979-1369.
Bulls Voicemail: Who are you relying on to take the clutch shot?
Locked On Bulls is back with their weekly Bulls mailbag show, the guys kick off the episode with a voicemail about comparing Lauri Markkanen to Rasheed Wallace. The guys compare both players, why Matt and Jordan don’t necessarily see a connection and ultimately what Markkanen should be working on this season. Second voicemail is in response to an early question asking how Fred Hoiberg can get back into the good graces with Bulls fans who don’t believe in him. Third voicemail is a call about not necessarily needing to sign a top-tier free agent in 2019 in order to compete. Last voicemail of the show asks who we would like to see take the last shot in close games this season. Matt and Jordan dive into some clutch time statistics from last year to try and make a case for any of the five Bulls core players. All of this and so much more on Locked On Bulls.
Three Factors That Will Determine Bulls Playoff Chances
The Chicago Bulls won 27 games last season making it their lowest winning season since 2004. The Bulls were 26th in the NBA in points per game and 27th in points allowed per game. They were also 29th in the league in total point differential at -577 points. Although the Bulls had their worst season of the decade, the new and young additions to the roster may induce a playoff berth in a struggling Eastern Conference.
When deciding whether or not the Bulls are a playoff team, these questions come to mind:
- Can an injury-prone starting lineup remain healthy?
- Will Jabari Parker finally become the elite player he got drafted to be?
- Are other teams in the East too good?
Let’s not ignore the elephant in the room, this Bulls starting lineup has a long history of significant injuries. Whether they can remain healthy is a question that could make or break their playoff chances. The two biggest concerns for the Bulls regarding health is Jabari Parker and Zach LaVine. Parker and LaVine have a combined three ACL tears in the past two years. We know from previous years with Derrick Rose that it is difficult to stay healthy and yield the same production after an injury like Parker and LaVine suffered. But it wasn’t just Parker and LaVine who were recovering from injuries throughout last season.
Kris Dunn missed 11 games due to a concussion after a hard fall in January. He missed a few more games due to minor injuries like a dislocated finger, patella tendinitis, and a big toe sprain.
Bulls sophomore Lauri Markkanen missed a total of 14 games last season dealing with some minor injuries. Markkanen’s “back stiffness” was the main reason for most of his missed games. You could argue that some of Markkanen’s “rest days” came at the end of the season when the Bulls were trying to get a better draft pick.
Health is perhaps the biggest factor in whether the Bulls can make the playoffs. A healthy Bulls team can be a productive one with this young and talented lineup. No player necessarily needs to be a star if the team is healthy. Each player in the starting lineup is capable of scoring 15 per game with ease. If they all remain healthy, it’s not hard to see them as the 8th seed in the East.
After the Bulls offered Parker a questionable $20 million deal, expectations have never been higher for the Simeon legend. Many Bulls fans are wondering if Parker can be the scoring threat he once was with the Bucks. As much as I hate being reminded of it, I can’t help but think of Rose’s struggles on the floor after his ACL tear.
It’s not just about whether Parker can remain healthy. Can he still show the explosiveness and athleticism he had prior to the injuries? Driving to the rim and creating his own shots off the dribble are substantial elements of Jabari’s game. If that is taken away from him due to his injuries, we may not see the player the Bulls paid for.
The East has been the significantly weaker conference over the past several seasons. It’s for this reason the Bulls’ chances of making a playoff appearance are a lot greater than they would be if they were in the West. There were a total of five teams under 30 wins in the East last year and every team that didn’t make the playoffs was under .500. There were only four teams in the East that had 50 or more wins. One of those teams was the Cleveland Cavaliers. Obviously, the Cavs will struggle to reach the playoffs this season without LeBron James.
The Bull could pull off a mediocre 42-win season and still manage to make the playoffs. Not many teams in the East improved their roster quite like the Bulls. They drafted what looks to be one of the more talented and NBA-ready rookies in the league in Wendell Carter Jr., signed a proven scorer in Parker, and continue to develop young and talented players like Markkanen, Dunn and Bobby Portis.
The Bulls are one of the most improved teams in the NBA if they can remain healthy and Parker can live up to everyone’s expectations. They have scorers all over their starting lineup and players like Portis and Antonio Blakeney wanting to prove themselves off the bench. Whether you want the Bulls to make the playoffs or not, there is no doubt they will be a fun team to watch come October.