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Chandler Hutchison Is Latest Example Of Bulls Tunnel Vision



chandler hutchison bulls draft

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.

A Chicago native, Matt is an actor-turned-sports guy. Chicagoans may recognize him as Bodhi from the screen to stage hit Point Break LIVE! He studied under ESPN1000's Jonathan Hood as part of his training with the Sportscasters Mentoring Group. In addition to Locked On Bulls, he hosts The 312 on 1590 WCGO, which covers all 5 of Chicago's major teams. His work has been featured on FanRag, Bleacher Report, the Chicago Tribune, WGN & Sports Mockery. He's also a recurring guest on CLTV's Sports Feed. Follow him on Twitter @Bulls_Peck

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