John Paxson

John Paxson disappointed in Bulls' Lottery results: 'It didn't work out, but I'm very confident'

John Paxson disappointed in Bulls' Lottery results: 'It didn't work out, but I'm very confident'

Another year, another loss and another seventh overall pick.

The Bulls were smack dab in the middle of Tuesday night’s NBA Draft mayhem that saw teams with the 7th, 8th and 11th best odds jump into the top-3 with the New York Knicks. The New Orleans Pelicans earned the first overall pick and the rights to Zion Williamson with just a 6 percent chance. The Memphis Grizzlies had the same odds and moved into the second slot, while the Knicks earned the third pick and the Lakers moved up from No. 11 to 4.

That meant the Bulls, who were slotted with the fourth best odds entering the night, were bumped three spots and will draft in the No. 7 spot a third consecutive year.

It was the same result as a year ago but in a different, more crushing capacity. Last season the Bulls entered Lottery night with the sixth best odds and only moved back one spot. But the Sacramento Kings, who shared the same odds with the Bulls, moved up four spots to No. 2 after initially losing a tiebreaker with Chicago. Had the Bulls lost the tiebreaker, ironically, they would have earned the second pick.

So the Bulls will pick at No. 7 once again after selecting Lauri Markkanen in 2017 as part of the draft-day trade involving Jimmy Butler, and Wendell Carter Jr. in 2018. While the Bulls have had success picking that far down in the draft each of the last two seasons, VP John Paxson admitted his disappointment at striking out once again.

“You always come into a situation like this hoping, and we got lucky years ago. It didn’t work out. But I’m very confident. I say this all the time. We got the seventh pick this year. We’re confident we will get a player we can add,” Paxson said. “Now obviously in this draft there’s a generational type of guy and New Orleans is better off for it, but this is about building a team and I’m always confident we’re going to find value where we draft.”

They’re not the ones they wanted, but at No. 7 the Bulls will have options. Williamson, Murray State point guard Ja Morant and Duke’s R.J. Barrett will certainly be off the board – likely in the top 3 picks – but picks 4 through 14 are cluttered and could mean someone the Bulls value higher than No. 7 falls to them at that spot.

Names include, but this early in the process are certainly not limited to, Texas Tech shooting guard Jarrett Culver, Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland, Virginia forward De’Andre Hunter and North Carolina point guard Coby White. It’s considered a weak draft class after Williamson, which is why falling to No. 7 stung more than it did perhaps a year ago.

But Paxson and his staff will now begin the process of identifying targets that they both like as fits in Chicago and believe will be there when they go on the clock.

“I’m not going to give away where we’ve slotted guys but we’ve gone on our board already and there’s more than seven (players) there that we like. I know that we’ll, again, we now get to go through the process of bringing guys in for workouts, getting to know them a little bit better, and that’s what this is all about. That’s the fun part for us and we’ll get at that right away.

“We do tier guys but now we have to get in to the process of getting to see them and know them and really dissect them. Our scouting department does a terrific job. It’s how we get to the point where we think we know who is in that next group. So we’ll just get to work now and we’ll get to have a lot of these young men into our building, get to know them. We’ll study them deeply and we’ll go from there.”

Whereas the pick would have been made for the Bulls had they received one of the top three picks – Williamson, Morant and Barrett are the consensus top-3 picks – the Bulls now may be able to steer away from simply taking the best player available. With so much parity in the range where the Bulls will be drafting, it’s possible they choose to address the point guard need that Paxson has publicly discussed.

It could open the door to the Bulls going after one of Garland or White, though Phoenix looming at No. 6 and also being in need of a point guard could muddy that situation. Still, Paxson didn’t denounce the possibility of going after a certain target if he addressed a need.

“I think if you’re looking at comparable guys in a tier, sometimes need takes precedent over (best player available),” Paxson said. “And I’ve talked to our entire group about keeping an open mind on things like that this year. There’s other things you can do with picks to get better. You can trade them, you can do a lot of different things. So again, now that we know where we’re at, thankful to know and we’ll get to work trying to find a way to make best use of it.”

Paxson put on a brave face when discussing the state of the rebuild, which just became a lot more difficult without the help of Williamson or Morant. The Bulls clearly still feel confident in the core group they have with Zach LaVine, Otto Porter, Markkanen and Carter.

“Who knows?” Paxson responded when asked if this pushes back the team’s rebuild timeline. “I do know that we made a trade at the trade deadline last year for Otto Porter. We feel that at the 2, 3, 4, 5 spot we’re really solid, and again, I’m confident we’ll find a player in this draft that fits us and suits us.

“We’re pretty disappointed, too, but there’s luck involved. We didn’t have the luck tonight. I stay committed, along with my staff, to get this right. Again, we’re going to add another good player in this draft, we’re gonna go out and try to spend some money in free agency, we’re gonna add some vets that can help our team."

Michael Reinsdorf says Bulls have right people, a good plan in place for rebuild

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NBC Sports Chicago

Michael Reinsdorf says Bulls have right people, a good plan in place for rebuild

Tomorrow is a significant day in the Bulls rebuild.

The NBA Draft Lottery could change the shape of multiple organizations depending on which way the ping pong balls bounce. Whatever happens, Bulls president Michael Reinsdorf believes the Bulls have a good plan and the right people in place to see through the rebuild.

In an interview on 670 The Score’s Mully and Haugh on Monday morning, Reinsdorf said he has heard from fans who are unhappy with the state of the Bulls, but Reinsdorf stuck by his guys. Reinsdorf backed coach Jim Boylen, who recently signed a contract extension.

“I think we knew towards the end of the season that Jim was the right person for us,” Reinsdorf said. “We had enough experience with him and so it was just a matter of getting the contract done. I’m happy with Jim. I feel like he has put 100 percent effort behind coaching. I think he has worked his way up to the role that he is playing right now as coach of the Chicago Bulls. He has had almost every job there is in coaching, whether it’s through college or the NBA. He cares a lot. He’s got a plan and he also recognizes that he doesn’t always have all the answers.”

He also said he believes John Paxson and Gar Forman have proven themselves based on their track record in the draft and the contender they built in the Derrick Rose era.

“You can’t control injuries and I really do believe that if you factor in the Derrick Rose injury, we built championship-caliber teams,” Reinsdorf said. “They built a championship-caliber team. That team that was competing with Miami in the beginning of the decade. We had the best record in the league two years in a row. I’m not saying we would have won championships, but we certainly would have competed. We had the best record in the league two years in a row and we drafted Jimmy Butler. I look at the drafts that we’ve had, whether it’s drafting Mirotic at 22 and Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah at nine. I just think that they’ve done a really good job.”

Boylen, Paxson and Forman aren’t particularly popular figures among Bulls fans currently. That’s also something Reinsdorf said he is aware of from talking to fans in the past year.

While Reinsdorf did admit that rebuilds are painful, and even quipped that it’s “a lot of losses” between the Bulls and White Sox, he thinks they have a solid plan in place.

“I feel like we have a great opportunity with this year’s draft to add another player and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to think we can jump from where we were this year to a much better record,” Reinsdorf said. “I really think we’re set up. Time is going to tell. I don’t claim that next year we’re going to be a championship caliber team, but I think you’re going to see the next step next year and a big jump. Part of the fun and excitement of basketball or sports is when you’re climbing up that mountain. Obviously we have been at the bottom of that mountain the last couple years, but I think we’re going to be climbing up it nicely next year.”

He also emphasized the importance of not panicking and remaining patient in the rebuild.

“We’re going to follow this plan through,” Reinsdorf said. “We have some cap space this year to spend on players. I do think we need to add to our depth and we’ll do that. I’m excited.”

 

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NBA Draft: What the Bulls would get in Zion Williamson

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USA TODAY

NBA Draft: What the Bulls would get in Zion Williamson

It’s difficult to determine what’s more incredible about Duke freshman Zion Williamson: The amount of hype, headlines and hyperbole he’s received since he entered the national spotlight 5 months ago, or the fact that he’s deserving of every single ounce of it.

He’s the best NBA prospect since LeBron James in 2003 and the latest can’t-miss prospect since Anthony Davis. He’d be the first pick in just about any NBA Draft in the history of the league. What he does on a basketball court shouldn’t be possible, let alone for a player of his size. He’s part Russell Westbrook, part Draymond Green and part LeBron. There’s no argument against it, and any one that you do hear is someone simply arguing to argue: Williamson is a generational talent that will change the course of one team’s franchise in June.

He’s Shaquille O’Neal in 1992. He’s Tim Duncan in 1997. He’s LeBron in 2003. He’s Anthony Davis in 2011. He’s as can’t-miss as any of those foundational pieces who were selected first overall without any second guessing. Here’s why:

Let’s begin with his frame. Williamson, who officially declared for the draft on Monday evening, is listed at 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds. Both figures seem accurate, and seeing as he’s likely to skip on the Combine in May, we won’t get any official measurements. He’ll turn 19 in July but has the frame on a 27-year-old middle linebacker. He’s chiseled, has tree trunks for legs and the broadest of shoulders. He’ll enter the NBA as the second heaviest player in the league behind Philadelphia’s Boban Marjanovic, who has a listed 290 pounds on a 7-foot-3 body.

And yet, Williamson might be the most athletic player in the league next season. You’ve seen him jump out of the gym on dunks, race down the floor in transition and time up blocks on the defensive end. He moves incredibly well both laterally and straight-lined and a 6-foot-10 wingspan only adds to his unbelievable dimensions.

But can he play? Oh, this is going to be fun. Williamson’s raw numbers were stunning. In 33 games, he averaged 22.6 points on 68 percent shooting, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks in 30.0 minutes. Where to begin? He’s the first player in NCAA history to average 22 points and shoot 68 percent from the field; in fact, his closest competition was Blake Griffin, who as a sophomore averaged 22.7 points on 65.4 percent shooting. The last player to reach his rebound/block/steal combination? Nerlens Noel in 2013.

But let’s dig a little on these scoring numbers. Williamson was an absolute freak of nature inside. While it’s true that some of those possessions came on fast-break dunks, consider that Williamson averaged 1.502 points per possession around the basket, per Synergy Sports. What’s even crazier? Williamson broke the database and did so on 219 possessions. Only nine players in the country even reached 200 possessions. And the only other player in its database to reach 1.45 points per possession was 7-foot-1 Deandre Ayton, who went first overall last year to Phoenix. The combination of efficiency and volume was unprecedented.

Don’t let the 2.1 assists fool you. Williamson has elite court vision, constantly passing out of double teams and drives when entire defenses would come crashing down on him. He’s only going to get better in a more spaced NBA setting while finding more talented shooters at the pro level – Duke was 328th of 351 teams in 3-point field goal percentage last year (30.8%). Take out Williamson’s numbers and he was passing to players averaging a combined 30.1% from deep. He’s an outstanding passer. He’ll have no trouble averaging 4-5 assists out of the gate.

That being said, the outside shot is a concern. Williamson only shot 33.8% from beyond the arc and was just 3 of 8 on midrange attempts. Players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Ben Simmons have shown it’s possible to dominate without a jump shot in today’s 3-point-heavy era but it’s something Williamson will at least need to improve on. We’ll add here that he was pretty left-hand dominant, but that’s typical for an 18-year-old freshman. The good news is a jump shot and off-hand dribble are teachable. Everything that makes Williamson great is not.

If Williamson weren’t an historically good offensive talent, his defense would make him a top-10 pick anyway. Williamson’s instincts and timing, combined with his absurd athleticism, made him one of the best defenders in the country. He’s only 6-foot-7 but will have no trouble playing power forward – or center, for that matter – in the NBA. His 285-pound frame will be able to withstand the banging inside – think Draymond Green – and his footwork and quick side-to-side movement will allow him to switch out onto the perimeter.

The Bulls need a point guard. But don’t overthink it. The Bulls, like 29 other teams, could use a generational talent. While it’s true that drafting Williamson would put one of Wendell Carter Jr. or Otto Porter – with Williamson playing the 3 – on the bench, it’d be a minuscule sacrifice for what Williamson would bring to the Bulls.

They’d be able to run the offense through him and instead of Zach LaVine drawing away attention to free up Lauri Markkanen or vice versa, it’d be Williamson attracting attention to give the Bulls two open lethal scoring options. And that’s before considering Porter as a 3-point threat. He’d inject life into a Bulls defense that has been among the league’s worst over the last two seasons, and a Williamson-Carter combination in the frontcourt has serious potential.

The Bulls, like 29 other teams, would sprint to the podium and draft Williamson. The Bulls would instantly be contenders for a playoff spot and, depending on what happens this offseason, a top-4 spot. Williamson would also make Chicago a more attractive landing spot for free agents, specifically a point guard who would like to be surrounded by Williamson, Markkanen, LaVine and Porter.

He’s a franchise-altering talent. The moment he shakes Adam Silver’s hand on June 20th he’ll be one of the top 25 players in basketball. He’s everything a team is looking for and he’s 18 years old. He’s got a high floor and a higher ceiling. He’s the no-brainer first overall pick for every reason.

The only debate would be whether Williamson would be allowed to wear No. 1 in Chicago.

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