Bulls

Admitted promise or not, the Bulls knew they wanted Chandler Hutchison – and they got him

Admitted promise or not, the Bulls knew they wanted Chandler Hutchison – and they got him

Neither John Paxson nor Chandler Hutchison himself would admit to what many called the worst kept secret in the pre-draft process. So whether you believe the Boise State senior had a promise from the Bulls that they would select him with the 22nd pick if still available, what Paxson and Gar Forman made clear was that they wanted Hutchison. And they got him.

“There are storylines and rumors all the time in this business and to keep trying to respond to them is often difficult. We liked Chandler a lot,” John Paxson said at the Advocate Center. We scouted him early, we scouted him often and we had our eye on him. He knew we liked him. Most players know when you like them, if you show up a lot and you’re around.”

There was plenty to like. Hutchison blossomed as an upperclassman at Boise State - after a unique basketball upbringing - averaging 18.7 points and 7.7 rebounds in his final two seasons with the Broncos. His 6-foot-7 NBA-ready frame kept him closer to the basket, leading to the efficient scoring and a blistering 72 percent at the rim, but keeping him a work in project on the perimeter.

He projects as a plus-defender who can defend on the wing and on the block in small-ball lineups and, as a four-year college player, should find minutes in a wing-depleted rotation. Put another way: he’s versatile at a position the Bulls have needed since the day Jimmy Butler walked out the door. Any shooting will be an added bonus.

But was there a promise, Chandler?

“I didn’t have any guarantee on where I was going," he said. "It could have been anywhere. Honestly, my heart was racing from 15 on. It was an exciting moment, though.”

The Bulls drafting Hutchison kept the theme of the night in Chicago trending after they took Wendell Carter 7th overall: complementary pieces to help an improving roster. Where Hutchison excels – physicality, scoring at the rim, defending multiple positions – the players he’ll share the floor with don’t. It’s easier to hide Denzel Valentine, Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen defensively with a physical perimeter threat.

Paxson and Forman mentioned Hutchison's “slashing” multiple times, and that physical, quick style will help a Bulls offense that ranked 28th in the NBA on shots 5 feet and in. That inefficiency was one of the major reasons the team finished 28th efficiency and often struggled to find secondary scoring.

That versatility spans more than just defending, too. Hutchison was asked to become a do-it-all for a Broncos team whose second leading scorer averaged 11.8 points, second leading rebounder averaged 6.6 boards and second leading passer averaged 2.6 assists. Hutchinson did it all for the 23-win Broncos. His usage rate was 33.0, 10th highest in the country and a slight tick above Alabama point guard Collin Sexton (32.5%). His passing, shot creating and eventual shooting make him a Swiss army knife on the wing.

“We think he can put it on the floor and create. He got to the lane a lot as a ball handler. His shot is getting better and better, we think he’ll be able to shoot it from NBA range at some point but that’s an area he’ll have to continue to work on,” Paxson said. “The more guys you have that can handle and create and pass, with the way our game is and the way our floor is spaced, we think he can do those things.”

Promises aside – Hutchison is represented by Chicago-based Mark Bartelstein of Priority Sports, who has plenty of ties to the Bulls – Hutchison checked all the boxes the Bulls were looking for, especially after they passed on wings like Mikal Bridges and Kevin Knox with the 7th pick.

“He addresses a position of need,” Paxson said. “We had debates all through this draft on wings and the type of player we wanted at that position. He fits.”

Bulls VP John Paxson says Zach LaVine 'deserves' to be an All-Star

Bulls VP John Paxson says Zach LaVine 'deserves' to be an All-Star

On Thursday, Zach LaVine will find out whether he makes his first All-Star game as a coaches’ reserve selection.

“Zach deserves to be an All-Star,” executive vice president John Paxson said. “I know we don’t have as many wins as we all would like. But nobody can ignore what he has done and it would be [an oversight] if he doesn’t get recognized.”

If he doesn’t, LaVine, and the Bulls, will be disappointed. But missing out shouldn’t obscure what is becoming a special season for LaVine.

Saturday’s masterpiece of 44 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in a road victory over the Cavaliers is just the latest example. With averages of 30 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists in January, he’ll also draw strong consideration for Eastern Conference player of the month.

Each summer, LaVine tries to add something to his game. This season, his focus centered on consistency and improving defensively. The 14 straight 20-point games is a sign of the former. And while he admittedly still occasionally drifts off the ball, his 1.4 steals per game mark a career-best.

LaVine is on a streak of 14 straight 20-point games. His fourth 40-point effort of the season came with all defensive attention on him because Lauri Markkanen missed his second game of an extended absence with a hip injury. And that’s on top of the Bulls playing without Otto Porter Jr. and Wendell Carter Jr.

LaVine’s eight assists highlighted the improved decision-making that is defining this breakout season. And it also allowed him to join Michael Jordan as the only Bulls in franchise history to record at least 44-10-8 in a game.

That’s not the only time LaVine is getting mentioned in the same sentence as Jordan this season. He became the second-fastest player in franchise history behind Jordan to score 3,000 points in a Bulls uniform, needing 24 more games.

And he became the first player in franchise history to sink 300 3-pointer in 132 or fewer games.  He’s on pace to set the single-season franchise record for 3-pointers this season.

LaVine is averaging career-highs in scoring at 25.2 points per game, 3-point percentage at 38.9 and rebounding at 4.2. After a slow start, LaVine has increased his free-throw attempts to 5.6 per game, just .4 off last season’s career-high. He has increased his free-throw attempts per game every season he has been in the league.

Some critics still paint LaVine’s accomplishments as empty calories. There’s another line of thought that LaVine needs to be ball dominant — his usage rate of 31.2 ranks 10th — to be successful.

LaVine still takes the occasional heat check. But his forced shots are way down and he’s carrying such an offensive burden mostly because he has to for this Bulls team. An example of his do-whatever-it-takes mentality: He has led the Bulls in rebounding since Carter went down to his sprained ankle.

LaVine has said he'd be more likely to participate in Saturday's slam dunk contest — and the 3-point shootout if he's invited — if he lands in Sunday's real All-Star game. What a weekend it could be. But even if it doesn't happen, LaVine is focused on this goal for the right reasons. He wants the Bulls to win.

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Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Zach LaVine drops 44 in Cleveland

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USA Today

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Zach LaVine drops 44 in Cleveland

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, John Sabine, and David Watson discuss the Bulls win in Cleveland, create their own Bulls Royal Rumble and squash the beef with Mark Giangreco.

1:00 - Jim Boylen's best moment of the season

2:30 - Another All-Star performance from Zach LaVine

4:30 - Luke Kornet had a good game for Luke Kornet

5:45 - Reaction to some criticism of LaVine's game

8:15 - Can one game change a players All-Star chances?

9:00 - The newest edition of "Guess what D-Rose did?"

11:30 - Guys react to viewer comments

14:00 - The Chicago Bulls Royal Rumble 2020

22:30 - Guys react to more viewer comments

25:10 - The guys squash the beef with Mark Giangreco

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Outsiders

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Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.