Since Gar Forman assumed the role of Chicago Bulls General Manager in 2009, the Bulls have had varying degrees of success, but all of the seasons have ended in disappointment, ultimately failing to capture an NBA Championship. Despite having an excellent record since 2009, the Bulls have not been able to return to the conference finals since their 2010-2011 season when they were ousted by the Miami Heat four games to one in the Eastern Conference Finals, and given their dim chances of even making the playoffs this season, that will hold true for another year.
Although they made an excellent pick in selecting Jimmy Butler in the 2011 NBA Draft, the front office has failed to build a team around him or his talented predecessors, including Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, and more. A major factor in this is that for the most part, Forman and Vice President of Basketball Operations John Paxson drafted players who never met expectations and/or their potential. Since initial success in 2009 and 2011, bad drafts have cost the Bulls an opportunity to build a complete, contending team.
Due to the makeup and small roster size in the league, the goal for the Bulls each draft is not to select a star player, especially considering they’ve always had mid-to-late-round picks. However, a realistic desire is to snatch a player who will become an ordinary on the roster, someone who regularly contributes to each game. Often, the Bulls have failed to fulfill this desire.
The Recent Failures
The verdict is still out on the players of this draft class. Typically, most rookies need some time before they really start to contribute to their teams, and such is the case here, but probably to a wider extent as this wasn’t a very deep draft class. As it stands, Valentine has a minor role in the Bulls operation, and will need to continue to work to move up the ranks. Yet, there are some players who have had a greater immediate impact on their team, as listed below, so it’s likely the Bulls did miss out on a couple of better pieces.
With only one pick in this draft, the Bulls were trying to make the most of their opportunity at number 22. Although many Bulls fans aren’t impressed with Portis, the reality is that there’s been no player selected behind him that’s clearly superior. Portis has averaged 6.5 points per game for his career, and recently has increased his output. There were a few players with mildly better numbers, but none of them have breached a career points per game average of over 10. Keep in mind, many of these players are still developing overseas, so only time will tell us the true stories of the 2015 draft. For now, Portis remains a mediocre pick.
Zipser has shown some promise, especially considering he went 48th overall, but it doesn’t look like he’ll make a resonating impact on the Bulls in the future.
After dealing the 16th and 19th picks to Denver for McDermott, the Bulls were probably feeling pretty good about the consensus national player of the year in 2013-2014 out of Creighton. As time has passed, McDermott has yet to mature into a solid starter in the NBA. Showing flashes of talent at times, McDermott morphed into an outside shooter, rarely working near the rim. Of the two picks the Bulls dealt to receive McDermott, one has recently emerged as a stellar center. Jusuf Nurkic, the 16th overall pick, has seen his points per game rise to 15.1 in ten games taking on a heightened role with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Puzzlingly, McDermott went south along with Taj Gibson and a second-round draft pick in a deadline deal a few weeks ago to Oklahoma City. With contracts soon expiring on both sides, one could say the Bulls, factoring in the draft night deal, spent three picks on McDermott.
Cameron Bairstow has, unsurprisingly, not emerged into a star player in the NBA, but the Bulls really didn’t have any better options with the 49th pick.
In slightly better position than years prior, the Bulls didn’t really capitalize in this draft. Opting for Snell at number 20, the Bulls passed on several better players and instead took a mediocre bench player. Although defensively solid, Snell was never able to grow much offensively, earning an average of 6 points per game throughout his career.
At 49, the field is brimming with future retirees and D-League players, but there’s always a few quality finds. Out of the University of Florida, Erik Murphy was not one of them. After several weeks, his points per game was sitting at 0.3, and Murphy quickly moved on from the NBA, and into Europe.
Selection: Point guard Marcus Teague, 29th overall.
I know the Bulls weren’t in the greatest spot at number 29, but Teague hasn’t even come close to NBA relevancy. After two years of frustration collecting just over two points per game, Teague was traded away to the Nets and has since declined into a D-League player. After being rated a top recruit out of high school, Teague had averaged 10 points and roughly five assists at Kentucky. For those pedestrian numbers, it seems like the Bulls were jumping the gun on high school talent.
The Strong Beginnings
The only positive aspect of GarPax’s legacy may be this draft. At 30th overall, Jimmy Butler was a diamond in the rough, and the Bulls scored big. A superstar today, Butler is the one player keeping this team treading water. Otherwise, they’d be sinking, and fast. Kudos to GarPax for this one, especially considering their incompetence elsewhere.
After trading the 28th and 43rd overall picks for him, the Bulls got a mediocre return for their 23rd spot in Nikola Mirotic. After spending some time developing in Spain, Mirotic stepped onto the NBA scene as a quality bench player in 2014. Annoyingly, he is still stuck in that same role, despite having nearly three years of experience and plenty of minutes. Over the course of this season, he’s averaging 9.1 points per game and 5.1 rebounds per game.
The Bulls only pick, Kevan Séraphin, was traded away to the Washington Wizards, along with Kirk Hinrich and more. In return, the Bulls received Vladimir Veremeenko, who has never seen playing time in the NBA. There’s no way to criticize or praise the Bulls here, since they never had a real pick.
Relatively speaking, this was a solid draft for the Bulls. Grabbing Taj Gibson at pick #26 out of USC was an excellent decision, as he saw lots of playing time and developed into a decent power forward.
However, their first pick, James Johnson, did not pan out in Chicago. Never becoming a starter in the league, Johnson only averaged 3.9 points per games his first year before the Bulls traded him away in his sophomore season. Frustratingly, Johnson has grown into a decent bench player for the Miami Heat, and so it seems the Bulls may have wasted some untapped potential there.
From Rose in 2008 to Butler in 2011, the Bulls built a strong record of quality picks, including some from Gar Forman and John Paxson. However, the decisions since then have been lackluster, and the Bulls have suffered the consequences. Never able to field a truly complete team, the Bulls have turned to free-agency to solve their issues, without great results. Instead of calling on Isaiah Thomas, Ty Lawson, Jusuf Nurkic or a multitude of others, the Bulls acquired underwhelming veterans like Marco Belinelli, Mike Dunleavy, Kirk Hinrich, and a few more.
Compared to some other teams, the Bulls’ recent draft history isn’t horrid, but it was and is still a restraint on their progress and success. Utilizing incomplete teams for the last few seasons has been hard on everyone involved: the front office, managers, players, and fans. The Bulls have undergone quite a transformation since 2011 and the Rose era, but only one major component of that is a draft selection, and that’s Jimmy Butler.
Who does Jimmy Butler have? An aging Dwyane Wade and players from the cover of “Sports Illustrated: Future D-League Stars Edition”. Wade was inked in free agency, and is probably out soon given his sentiments towards the Bulls’ front office. It looks like Butler will have no sidekick. As history has shown, he needs one.
No matter who the higher-ups are making the picks, it’s time for the Bulls to break their streak of bad draft choices.