Bulls must find their diamond in 2019 NBA Draft, no matter where it may be hiding


Bulls must find their diamond in 2019 NBA Draft, no matter where it may be hiding

Holding the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA Draft is great, but finding a diamond can happen anywhere. Just pay attention to the NBA Playoffs. The teams that are thrilling us this spring have rosters featuring draft picks that most franchises missed on. They didn't all look like Zion Williamson. Actually, none of them did. They weren't that obvious and some weren't even first round selections. There were living outside the United States, hiding in mid-major schools and, in some cases, found via trade.

Bucks - Milwaukee built their team around the most stunning diamond in the rough. By now, we all know that 14 NBA franchises undervalued the Greek Freak, as Giannis Sina Ougko Antetokounmpo is now arguably the best player in the NBA. It's easy to see how he slipped through the cracks, having started playing the game in Greece just six years before getting drafted. The Bucks didn't miss him, though they've also teamed him with more talent that was once undervalued on draft day.

George Hill and Kris Middleton did plenty of damage against the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Middleton was a second round pick by the Pistons, while Hill was the 26th overall pick out of little IUPUI. The Savvy Spurs later turned him into Kawhi Leonard. More on that guy later. The bottom line is this: Brook Lopez is Milwaukee's only player who was drafted in the top-10. Their bench features four former second round selections

Raptors - Toronto doesn't have a single player that was drafted in the top-14. Kawhi Leonard was traded by the Pacers to the Spurs and later to the Raptors, but he was drafted 15th overall in 2011. He just put up the highest scoring average in a playoff series since Michael Jordan and won it with an insane buzzer beater. Playing at San Diego State didn't matter. Stars come from all over and the same goes for role players. The Raptors start two second round guys, a 24th overall pick and a 27th.

Blazers - Did you see CJ McCollum in Game 7 against the Nuggets? There's a 10th overall pick taking over a game (from the same draft as Giannis). Nine teams passed on McCollum. He entered Sunday averaging more than 26 points per game in the Western Conference semifinals. With Portland star Damian Lillard struggling, McCollum put the Blazers on his back to the tune of  37 points and nine rebounds in the series' deciding game.

While Lillard was off in Game 7, he's been All-World in the playoffs. The Blazers found Dame at No. 6 in 2012. That's Weber State and Lehigh University carrying Portland to the Western Conference Finals.

Warriors - You don't build dynasties without hitting on some draft picks. Adding Kevin Durant was huge, but Golden State built their foundation with incredible draft success. Steph Curry was the 7th overall pick in 2009 out of Davidson. Klay Thompson went 11th out of Washington State in 2011. Draymond Green was a 2nd rounder (No. 35 overall) and a pick the Warriors got from the Nets.

Together that's a combined 50 times NBA general managers passed on the Warriors original 3. The rest is history.

If that's not enough? See Nikola Jokic (41st overall), Jimmy Butler (30th overall) and, to a lesser degree, even Joel Embiid (third overall).

The Bulls must find their diamonds no matter where the ping pong balls drop, wherever they might be hiding.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

NBA teams ‘impressed’ by Bulls’ front office hires, monitoring Jim Boylen decision

NBA teams ‘impressed’ by Bulls’ front office hires, monitoring Jim Boylen decision

When the NBA went dark on March 11 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bulls got busy.

A front office overhaul that was first reported as a possibility during All-Star weekend in Chicago kicked into overdrive during the league’s hiatus with the hiring of Arturas Karnisovas as executive vice president of basketball operations and Marc Eversley as general manager, the firing of Gar Forman and the re-assigning of John Paxson to an advisory role. 

It’s the dawn of a new era in Chicago. Energy is palpable throughout the fanbase. Bulls players have expressed enthusiasm for the direction of the franchise, as well.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Bulls news and analysis.

And around the league, competitors have taken note. Take it from NBC Sports NBA insider Tom Haberstroh, who stopped by the Bulls Talk Podcast recently to discuss the league’s impending restart, and the state of the Bulls.

“I think it’s a brighter future,” Haberstroh said on the team’s front office changes. “I don’t think any NBA team is happy about what [the Bulls] did, because it means that their lives are going to be a lot harder to win a championship. 

“The Bulls have been in a rough spot over the last several years, just trying to rebuild after the Tom Thibodeau era, and never really quite having an identity. And I think with the change, the identity change with Arturas Karnisovas, he’s shown that he is a people person, he’s a gym rat. He hired Marc Eversley who has a really strong reputation around the league.”


Indeed, the rebuild catalyzed by the Jimmy Butler trade (which yielded Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn) has yet to fully bloom. The Bulls are just 71-151 since the trade, and poised for a fourth consecutive top-10 draft selection after going just 22-43 in an abbreviated 2019-20 season and being left out of the NBA’s 22-team restart in Orlando, Fla. — a season which began with self-imposed playoff expectations.

That has led to widespread speculation on the future of head coach Jim Boylen. Boylen owns a 39-84 record since taking over for Fred Hoiberg 24 games into the 2018-19 season. He signed a three-year extension in May 2019, and assembled his own staff — headlined by Chris Fleming and Roy Rogers — last offseason.

Haberstroh added that those aforementioned competitors are monitoring the Bulls’ coaching situation closely. For now, as NBC Sports Chicago has reported, Karnisovas is empowering Boylen as coach of the team and withholding final judgements until he is able to observe him in the Bulls’ building and establish a relationship with him. Boylen recently participated in a Juneteenth march alongside Wendell Carter Jr. and other Bulls’ staff, and has been active checking in on players, both individually and on team Zoom calls.

“I think the big question that people around the league are wondering is ‘What is going to happen for Jim Boylen?’” Haberstroh continued. “And I think the head coaching position is going to be a canary in the coal mine for how this is going to be run going forward. 

“If Arturas or Marc believe that they need a new voice running the team and they are met with some reservations from either ownership or from elsewhere, do they have the autonomy to make that decision? Or is it going to be a situation where, ‘Hey, we don’t want to pay another head coach, we already have this deal with Jim Boylen, we don’t want to have to pay another coach to be in here.’ I think that’s going to be an indicator of how things are going to be running going forward. So it will be interesting to see. People around the league are very, very impressed (with the hires) that they’ve made. But I do think they want to see how much autonomy, in reality. They can say all they want now in press conferences, but we’ll see when push comes to shove whether they’re going to have full autonomy making decisions about not just the head coach but just everything in the organization.”

“All indications are that they’re going to have that full autonomy. But I think from around the league that is the big question mark, and they’re watching the head coaching position.”

Listen to the full conversation with Haberstroh here or via the embedded player above.

RELATED: The case for Coby White's All-Star potential 

Bulls Talk Podcast


Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

NBA releases scrimmage schedule for 2019-20 season restart in Orlando

NBA releases scrimmage schedule for 2019-20 season restart in Orlando

Before the NBA officially restarts its season on July 30, all 22 of the invited teams will participate in three inter-squad scrimmages, as a means of final preparation.

The league released each squad's schedule for those scrimmages on Saturday. Scrimmages run from July 22 - 28 and are mostly interconference, presumably to avoid teams getting premature reads on potential early-round playoff opponents:

Not announced is whether or not the games will be televised, or a broadcast schedule.

Click to download the MyTeams App for the latest Bulls news and analysis.

And one other matter of note: As Caitlin Cooper pointed out on Twitter, teams will intermingle between hotel locations for the three scrimmage games. Take the Lakers' scrimmage schedule, for example: They face the Mavericks, Magic and Wizards. While the Lakers will stay at Gran Destino Tower during their stay, the Mavericks and Magic will inhabit the Grand Floridian, and the Wizards the Yacht Club.

According to the league's 113-page health and safety guidelines for the bubble, players will be allowed to socialize with players at different hotels starting with "Phase 5," which begins July 22, but any meals shared with a player or staff member from another team must be eaten outside. Before that, players will only be allowed to socialize with teammates or others staying in the same hotel as them.

Teams are set to travel to Orlando on a staggered schedule from July 7 - 9; from there, regular COVID-19 testing and symptom monitoring will go into effect. After a period of quarantine and producing two negative PCR tests at least 24 hours apart, players and staffers will be allowed to participate in group activities with their teams.