Boise State coach Leon Rice believes Chandler Hutchison, Bulls are a 'match made in heaven'

Boise State coach Leon Rice believes Chandler Hutchison, Bulls are a 'match made in heaven'

The Bulls ended long-standing speculation and drafted Boise State senior wing Chandler Hutchinson with the No. 22 overall pick in the first round of Thursday's 2018 NBA Draft.

The 6-foot-7 Hutchison has been linked to Chicago since opting out of the 2018 NBA Draft Combine in May as he gives the Bulls a versatile and experienced wing on the perimeter.

A late-bloomer both during high school career in Mission Viejo, California and during his four years at Boise State, Hutchison has always been willing to put in the work to reach the next levels of basketball. Hutchison elevated from a mid-major recruit into a top-100 national prospect by the end of high school. And similar to his prep career, Hutchison blossomed into a first-round pick after a slow start to his career at Boise State.

Broncos head coach Leon Rice offered strong praise for his former star player, as Hutchinson became the go-to player for the Broncos during his junior and senior seasons. Because Hutchison can play multiple spots, rebound, defend and push off the break, he's an intriguing piece for the Bulls' future rotation. Hutchison should be able to play on the wing alongside other rebuilding pieces like Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr.

"I think the Chicago Bulls got a steal," Rice said to NBC Sports Chicago. "You look at the last four years, he's gotten better every year."

"I think it's a great fit. You've got a terrific coach out there for Chandler and the style that he is. It's just the same way. I think it's a really good match."

It wasn't always easy for Hutchinson at Boise State. Rice and former Broncos assistant coach Jeff Linder were both convinced that Hutchison had the ability to develop into a star from the time they started recruiting him. But Hutchison needed time to develop his strength and skill level before he became a standout player.

"Our assistant coach Jeff Linder, who I really think is one of our best evaluators, he went and watched this kid. And he calls me, and it's five minutes into the game, and he's like, 'I've seen enough. He's what we need,'" Rice said. "He's got a feel for the game, he's long. I think people labeled him a little bit because he's from Orange County. In my estimation, he didn't fit that label. He just wasn't developed yet. He was young and he looked young. He just wasn't mature yet, that's the bottom line."

When he arrived on campus, Hutchinson was a touted top-100 prospect -- a rarity for the program and the Mountain West Conference. But the program already had talented and experienced players ahead of Hutchison in the rotation. Earning playing time, and a spot in the starting lineup, wasn't guaranteed to Hutchison.

Junior wing Anthony Drmic was one of the best, and most competitive, players in the league as Hutchison had to earn his stripes by battling a veteran in practice every day as an underclassman. Forward James Webb III was another all-conference piece that was already in place for Hutchison to learn from. 

"By the time he got to Boise, there were a lot of strong guys to compete with. I think that brought him something positive. Things that he didn't have," Rice said. "Anthony Drmic is one of the fiercest competitors I've ever coached. Chandler got to go against him day-in, day-out as a freshman. I don't know if across the country, who had a tougher practice. It shapes who he is today."

When Drmic and Webb departed Boise State, Hutchison was ready to step up into a consistent double-figure scorer and go-to player before his junior season. Already putting in the work to become a more well-rounded wing, Hutchison set out to improve an inconsistent three-pointer that was never above 28 percent during his first two seasons with the Broncos.

The arrival of assistant coach Phil Beckner to Boise State was another huge part of Hutchison's personal development. An experienced coach who spent time developing Damian Lillard as an assistant at Weber State, Beckner also had NBA G-League coaching experience and trained NBA players. Beckner's work with Hutchison took the junior's game, and his jumper, to a new level during his final two seasons in college.

"I think the last two years there was a great jump. He got to work with Phil Beckner, one of our assistants, who has worked with Dame Lillard and a number of players. I think he's one of the best at player development. It was a lot of hours and a lot of time doing it. A lot of dedication," Rice said.

Hutchison saw his three-point percentage jump to 37 percent as a junior as he put up 17.4 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game, helping lead the Broncos to an NIT appearance. Senior year was even stronger for Hutchison. Elevating to 20.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game, Hutchison was named first-team all-conference while being named a top-10 national finalist for the Jerry West Award. 

"He led us in just about every category. And we had a good ballclub, too." Rice said. "He was a do-it-all player and he could do it at every position. He rebounded. He guarded big guys and small guys. Led the break. He's a great decision-maker with his feel."

Rice is also impressed that his star player was always coachable and easy to deal with away from the court. Hutchison earned his degree from Boise State, and even attended graduation in the midst of his pre-draft workouts in Chicago. Hutchison even flew straight back from his graduation and didn't miss his next pre-draft workout.

"He finishes. He got his degree and there's only two or three guys in the first round that got degrees and got it done. I mean, that's impressive," Rice said. "These guys that are elite-level players have so much demands on them with media and with the team and the workouts and all of these extra workouts. To get a degree while dealing with all of that is very impressive."

Hutchison has taken some time to find his footing in every level of basketball. Rice thinks playing around other talented, high-IQ players will help Hutchison's all-around game shine in the NBA. Rice in convinced that Hutchison's work ethic and versatility make him a great fit for the Bulls.

"That's what I love about him. I think he can fill a lot of different positions and a lot of different needs. Depending on what you need, night-in, night-out he can adjust his game and bring those things," Rice said.

"A great organization like the Bulls, he couldn't be more excited. It's a match made in heaven."

Bulls Talk Podcast: Media day recap and the biggest story lines heading into training camp

Bulls Talk Podcast: Media day recap and the biggest story lines heading into training camp

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Will Perdue recap Bulls media day and the start of training camp. They’ll discuss the battle for minutes at the small forward position, and the big expectations placed on Zach LaVine this season. Plus, Will and Kendall share their most memorable training camp stories during their careers.

You can listen to the whole thing right here, or in the embedded player below: 

After investing $100 million on offense, Bulls will only go as far as the defense takes them


After investing $100 million on offense, Bulls will only go as far as the defense takes them

Year 2 of the Bulls’ rebuild under John Paxson and Gar Forman began with the franchise committing more than $100 million to offense. The investments weren’t poor ones, either, as 23-year-old Zach LaVine is two years removed from a 19-point, 46-percent shooting campaign. Jabari Parker has averaged 17 points on 49 percent shooting over his last 82 games.

And yet even in a league that’s currently seeing its highest average point totals in 30 years, as well as offensive efficiency at an all-time high, the Bulls’ investments won’t matter if they can’t improve on the defensive end.

“We should be able to compete on that defensive end with our speed, our length and our athleticism,” Fred Hoiberg said at Monday’s Media Day. “There’s no reason in the world we shouldn’t be able to go out and make things tough for the other team. It’s not about one individual. It’s about getting all five on the same page and building the habits.”

Two teams were less efficient defensively than the Bulls last season: The Cleveland Cavaliers, built on putting as many shooters around LeBron James as possible, and the 21-win Phoenix Suns.

The NBA might be as offensively talented as its ever been, but consider: Six of the final eight teams in last year’s playoffs ranked in the top 9 defensively, and only Cleveland – who that that nice luxury of employing the world’s greatest player – finished in the bottom half of the league defensively. Perhaps teams aren’t willing to shell out cash for defensive prowess, as Parker infamously suggested days after signing with the Bulls. But it still matters.

So the Bulls will enter their second year of the rebuild looking for improvements on that end. Parker struggled mightily in all four of his seasons in Milwaukee – the Bucks were better each year defensively with Parker on the bench – and LaVine was routinely beat on that end of the floor, perhaps debunking Hoiberg’s theory that speed, length and athleticism equate to defensive ability.

But LaVine, the $78 million man, was refreshingly honest in his assessment of his own defense.

“Personally I’ve always been really good on the ball,” he said. “I’ve always had problems off the weak side. I think it’s just knowing the position and not relaxing. I’ve always been really good on the ball. Once that ball swings I relax. And that’s where I get caught off guard. I’ve watched a lot of film. I was watching with coaches…on how to stay engaged and always have your teammates’ back."

LaVine’s honesty and willingness to improve give a glimmer of hope. So, too, does the presence of his backcourt mate. Kris Dunn won’t be challenging Steph Curry for shooting or effieincy supremacy anytime soon, but the former two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year was rock-solid as a defender last season. Already 25 years old and, thus, the “veteran” of this young core, Dunn knows team defense reins supreme but understands the difference a leader can make on that end.

“That’s the coach’s job, to make sure that everybody’s in the right position and understand what we’re doing defensively. But it’s for me to communicate on-court what defensive schemes that we are in and making sure guys are in the right spot,” he said. “At the same time I understand it and I feel like I am the best defender we have.”

The Bulls also made an investment in Wendell Carter Jr. with the seventh pick in June’s NBA Draft. Dunn even joked that some players have been saying Carter Jr. is already the team’s best defender. It’s unknown how much a 19-year-old rookie who will likely begin the year behind Robin Lopez can help, but it’s a step toward complementing Lauri Markkanen’s game. Add in Markkanen gaining 17 pounds (primarily of muscle) and one can sense the pieces coming together.

That’s where Hoiberg, Jim Boylen and the rest of the coaching staff come in. Seeing as players can work individually on their offensive games over the summer, much of the past few weeks the Bulls have been together unofficially working out has been focused on the defensive end.

“It’s been a big focus. We’ve really worked on the basics these last few weeks heading into training camp to try to get ahead. We play in 5 days (Sunday against the Pelicans) so there’s not a lot of time to get these guys in here in September,” Hoiberg said. “You really try to work on the basics and get these guys in the right position. I talked a lot about if we can limit turnovers, if we can get back in transition and take away easy baskets we’re going to have a chance.”