The NBA Draft came and went on Thursday night, one in which I believed the Chicago Bulls were winners in. The Bulls added two players, Wendell Carter Jr. at No. 7 and Chandler Hutchison at No. 22, who look and seem to fit the mold of Chicago basketball players.
I look past the inability to move up into the Top-4 of the draft, which may have cost them future assets not deemed worthy of the jump. That’s fine, a deal with Atlanta seemed impossible with Orlando lurking for Trae Young at No. 6. The offer to Memphis at No. 4 was rumored to not even be in the same ballpark of what they wanted.
That said, Wendell Carter Jr. was the best player available at No. 7 and the Bulls took him. Fantastic. They went with a position of need at No. 22 with Chandler Hutchison with perks of being a four-year player, standout senior, and a high character guy. Great. While predictable, the Bulls came away with a reliable, modern big man who was by far the best player available. The Bulls also filled a position of absolute need with a wing player in Hutchison. The first round was a win in my book.
The mistake the Bulls made was at 9:43 pm local time in Chicago, where the Bulls front office took the podium for a post-draft press conference. At that very same time, the final pick in the first round was just minutes from being officially announced and the second round had not even begun.
This is where I found myself puzzled and a bit shocked. The Bulls, seemingly the only team in the NBA, holding their press conference while the draft was still in progress. It blew my mind. Sure, the Bulls have a half dozen or so members of the front office who were still closely monitoring the draft and should any deals arise, John Paxson or Gar Forman could step away if needed.
It wasn’t about that for me though, it was more so solidifying the argument that the Bulls hold little to no value in the second-round talent available.
Just 12 months ago, the Bulls were scorched by fans for selling pick No. 38 to the Golden State Warriors for the infamous $3.5 million dollars. The Warriors had the Bulls select Jordan Bell for them, who ended up contributing in his rookie season to an NBA title. Let’s not forget to mention, this was also the very first night declaring a rebuild was underway.
For the second consecutive season, it is now apparent that the second-round, in terms of player value, seems to have absolutely no impact on changing the dynamic of the Chicago Bulls…and well that’s quite disappointing.
What is the value of second round picks?
Look, the argument that second-round draft picks are pretty much useless in the NBA is just flat out wrong. Teams find value all the time in the second-round, the Warriors have hit on two consecutive picks in the second-round with Patrick McCaw in 2016 and Jordan Bell in 2017. The Celtics took Semi Ojeleye with No. 37 in 2017 who ended up playing in 73 games and 17 playoff games in his rookie season. The Milwaukee Bucks found Malcolm Brogdon at No. 36, who ended up winning 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the Year. The Pheonix Suns grabbed Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis at No. 34, who started more than half the Suns’ games this season.
That’s only in the last two years worth of second-round picks, not to mention players who have seen legitimate playing time such as Jake Layman (2016, No. 47), Wes Iwundu (2017, No. 33), Frank Mason III (2017, No. 34), Dillon Brooks (2017, No. 45), Sindarius Thornwell (2017, No. 48). Talent can be found in the second round of the draft.
Majority of NBA fans can agree that the rule of thumb with second-round picks, historically, is to rely very little upon them and expect next to nothing. I normally would argue that players like Isaiah Thomas or Draymond Green or Manu Ginobili are exceptions to that rule. True.
The idea that you could potentially find the next Marc Gasol or DeAndre Jordan or Draymond Green should be appealing enough for a rebuilding team to seriously consider, though.
Roster Flexibility & Lack of Depth
What I can’t get past is ignoring another potential opportunity to accelerate rebuilding only after one season. I asked the same question when the Bulls decided to sell No. 38 in 2016. The Bulls justification last season was roster flexibility, some may even point to that as a reason they were able to claim David Nwaba. One year later, the Bulls cite the same reason for holding their press conference during the second round, roster flexibility and lack of depth.
#Bulls brass conducted their press conference during 2nd round of draft last night b/c they didn't want a 3rd player for roster flexibility reasons, Gar Forman told @McNeil_Parkins. #Bulls also thought there wasn't good depth past late 20s in this draft.
— Cody Westerlund (@CodyWesterlund) June 22, 2018
The Chicago Bulls currently have 12 players (including the two first-round picks) on their roster. NBA rosters were recently expanded to 17, adding two-way contracts in 2017. The Bulls have the ability to add 3 more players on NBA contracts and one player on a tw0-way deal if they want to. NBA teams are not tied to draft picks unless they are signed, they also can be waived from the roster.
Roster flexibility, to me, does not feel like a satisfying enough reason to just completely dismiss 50% of the draft. Do the Bulls like guys who have already been on the roster better than a second round pick? Maybe.
Sean Kilpatrick and Paul Zipser have non-guaranteed contracts for next season, both seem unlikely to be back. The Bulls traded for Noah Vonleh late in the season, who has a qualifying offer of $4.7 million next season. Vonleh could still have some promise but with six front-court players on the roster (including Osik), it feels unlikely that he fits in Chicago.
So, that leaves three spots open on the roster and a two-way contract available. Assuming restricted free agents Zach LaVine and David Nwaba return, you still have one NBA contract and one two-way deal to give out. Why not try it on someone in the second-round, especially with success of recent from other teams? What do you have to lose as a team looking for any and all talent?
Look, an argument could be made for finding someone in Summer League, the Bulls found Antonio Blakeney last summer after a stand out performance with the team. The Bulls signed him to a two-way contract and he followed with one of the most impressive G-League seasons ever. Maybe the Bulls will find the same luck this summer, signed Loyal-Chicago’s Donte Ingram to a Summer League deal.
To the Bulls, it might just be a waste of money but, to the fans, it looks like you’re actively exhausting every resource possible in order to get closer to a winning formula. Does dismissing the talent after pick No. 30 really show they are actively looking for any and all opportunities? Beyond just the past two seasons, the Bulls have historically punted on the later part of the NBA Draft.
This chart hasn't been updated in a year (need to add Jordan Bell sold pick), but it answers your question pic.twitter.com/97VC4P8kOt
— Stephen Noh (@StephNoh) June 22, 2018
I just don’t understand the write off of the second round and I may never understand. In all likelihood, it might never really matter. The Bulls odds of being a team to find the next star in the second round are slim to none. It seems to be a hill in which the Bulls collectively feel fine living on, one that holds no value for second-round selections.
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.