Bulls

Bulls can't replicate Lottery success from a decade ago, will select 7th in 2018 NBA Draft

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USA TODAY

Bulls can't replicate Lottery success from a decade ago, will select 7th in 2018 NBA Draft

The Bulls weren’t able to replicate their Lottery success from a decade ago and will select seventh in next month’s NBA Draft. The Bulls entered Tuesday night’s drawing at the Palmer House Hilton in Chicago with a 5.3 percent chance at the first pick and an 18.3 percent chance at a top 3 pick, tied for the sixth best odds in the league.

But the balls didn’t bounce the right way and instead the Bulls will move back a spot from where they were at the beginning of the evening. It’s a disappointing finish, all things considered, for a team that began the year 3-20, traded its leading scorer and saw its remaining three leading scorers miss a combined 102 games.

Still, the Bulls picking seventh marks the highest they’ve selected since a year ago. They drafted Lauri Markkanen with the 7th pick in last year’s draft after dealing Jimmy Butler to the Timberwolves.

The Bulls will also pick 22nd overall with the draft choice they acquired in the Nikola Mirotic trade in February. The Bulls have not selected and kept two players in the first round since 2011, when they left that draft with Nikola Mirotic and Jimmy Butler.

There appears to be two consensus top-3 picks in Arizona center Deandre Ayton and Slovenian guard Luka Doncic. Assuming both players are gone, the Bulls will still have their pick of players such as Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr., Michigan State center Jaren Jackson, Duke’s Marvin Bagley, Texas center Mo Bamba, Villanova wing Mikal Bridges and Oklahoma point guard Trae Young.

At his end-of-the-year press conference in April, John Paxson said the Bulls would likely look at a wing with their first pick. He said the Bulls felt comfortable with their depth at point guard in Kris Dunn and Cameron Payne, and both Lauri Markkanen and Bobby Portis look like foundation pieces for the future.

“I think we need to look at the wing position. That would be an ideal spot. Size and length at the wing as a shooting component, a defensive component, would be something that, if you’re looking at an area we would like to improve, that would be it,” Paxson said.

But Paxson also added that “it’s hard to overlook talent even when you’re looking at a specific need.” The Bulls are a month removed from a 27-win season and don’t exactly have a surplus of talent past Markkanen, Dunn, Portis and Zach LaVine. Taking the best player available is always a winning move, especially that high in the draft.

The Bulls could also trade up using that 22nd overall pick, though a pick that late in the round doesn’t hold as much value in a league where top-tiered talent reigns supreme. Trading down is an option, perhaps with a team like the Clippers, who hold the 12th and 13th picks.

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Loyola's March Madness hero Donte Ingram will play with Bulls' Summer League team

Donte Ingram's 2018 keeps getting better and better.

The March Madness hero, who buried a game-winning 3-pointer in the first round of Loyola's win over Miami, will play on the Bulls' Summer League team.

Ingram, a Simeon Academy graduate, had himself an incredible senior season with the Ramblers, who advanced all the way to the Final Four as a No. 11 seed.

In five NCAA Tournament games Ingram averaged 7.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists for the Ramblers. He also had 18 points in the MVC Conference Championship Game to secure the Ramblers' March Madness berth.

He'll join first-round draft picks Wendell Carter Jr. and Chandler Hutchison on the Las Vegas Summer League team, which will begin play early next month.