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Making a case for NBA prospects Mikal Bridges and Wendell Carter

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Locked On Bulls is back to discuss the Chicago Bulls latest workout of NBA prospects, the two most important being Villanova’s Mikal Bridges and Duke’s Wendell Carter Jr.

The guys expand their conversation on both players, how do they feel about the Bulls taking a player with experience rather than a project?

The guys talk about leadership and media training in the NBA Draft process, how some players are more readily prepared than others. Jordan makes the case that this shouldn’t be a knock on some prospects while Matt has some concerns about players who find themselves getting taken out of context.

What does it say about Mikal Bridges going from a redshirt, four-star recruit to one of the most important pieces on Villanova’s team National Championship team?

To finish up, the guys take a deeper look into Wendell Carter’s upside as an NBA prospect and how he might mesh with this young core. Jordan explains why he feels like Carter’s potential is still very much unknown and part of that could be from playing with other top recruits at Duke.

Did Carter get put in a role instead of being allowed to flourish more offensively at Duke?

The guys also talk about his three-point shooting ability, his foul trouble, and what he could bring to the table to help Lauri Markkanen develop. All of this and so much more on Locked On Bulls.


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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  1. Michael J Roth

    June 6, 2018 at 10:16 pm

    If they don’t plan on signing anyone except Lavine in free agency, I think drafting Carter at 7 makes the most sense. This is going to be a hard worker from day 1, a 10 year starter, and make those around him better (much like how he did for Bagley I believe. Because of Carter, Bagley had better numbers). No MPJ, Mikal, or Young, Sexton. Just a glue guy like Carter who compliments Lauri. Bulls, please keep it simple and do the right thing.

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Chicago Bulls

Chandler Hutchison Is Latest Example Of Bulls Tunnel Vision

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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.

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Chicago Bulls

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.

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Chicago Bulls

Bulls introduce draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison

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Locked On Bulls is back and the guys kick off the show talking about the Bulls introductory press conference for Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison. The guys discuss the highlights of the press conference, what Fred Hoiberg had to say about both players, the front office’s pitch about the players, as well as hearing from Carter and Hutchison for the first time.

The guys use the second half of the show to play all the post-draft night voicemails from Bulls fans. The guys try to dissect each reaction and follow up with what they thought about Carter and Hutchison. Should the Bulls have traded a variety of assets to move up with Memphis or Atlanta? Are Bulls fans as a whole satisfied with both picks? Do the Bulls need Carter to be a star in order to win or for this to be a successful draft? The guys also talk about how they believe Carter will exceed expectations similar to Lauri Markkanen. All of this and so much more on Locked On Bulls.


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