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Chicago Bulls disinterest in second round draft picks is quizzical

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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.

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.

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.

Jordan Maly is a writer and podcast host who originates from Naperville, IL. He is a graduate of Indiana University. Jordan’s history of coverage includes the Indiana Pacers, Indiana University Athletics, and NCAA basketball. Jordan currently writes for SB Nation’s BTPowerhouse and FanSided’s Busting Brackets. Jordan’s previous work has been featured on Bleacher Report, Sports Illustrated, FOX Sports, Seth Davis Draft House, FanSided, and the Chicago Tribune.

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Chicago Bulls

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