Bulls have a Luke Kornet problem thanks to a second-round rookie

Kornet was signed in the offseason, and the Bulls had some big plans for the stretch four in the rotation. In steps Daniel Gafford, and there goes the plan. So what happened?

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Luke Kornet

Tony Dejak/AP

When someone is taken in the second round of the NBA Draft, it means the league found holes in the player’s game.

Daniel Gafford, the 6-10 big man selected by the Bulls with the 38th pick out of Arkansas, knows which teams showed real interest in him but still passed.

“I don’t put [that chip] on my shoulder,’’ Gafford said Saturday. “I just let my game do the talking. I don’t do too much talking where it’s like, ‘Oh, a bunch of teams could have picked me before.’ I know the teams that had interest in me, and when we play those teams that slipped up on me, I just show them. Simple as that. No reason to talk or anything like that. I keep it to myself and let my game do the talking.’’

The Bulls are listening. They went from having big plans for free-agent acquisition Luke Kornet at the start of the season to making Kornet a fixture at the end of the bench with Gafford getting his minutes.

So is it a Kornet problem or has Gafford simply made the most of his opportunity?

Coach Jim Boylen said it’s a little of both.

“It’s a combination of things,’’ Boylen said. “[Kornet had] the sinus surgery and [wasn’t up to par] early physically, and Gafford has emerged with his single-mindedness, his athleticism and his energy. Our intentions [in signing Kornet] were good. You don’t know what you have sometimes with a draft pick. You hope they can learn and grow, and I think he’s done a heck of a job, so you have to credit him more than critique Luke.’’

It isn’t like the Bulls threw a heavy check in Kornet’s direction. It was only for two years and $4.5 million.

Gafford, however, has given the second unit some much-needed toughness and a physical presence around the rim.

“I’m just playing the basketball that I’ve always played,’’ Gafford said. “Come out and be a real energetic, high-energy guy. I block shots and grab rebounds and just catch what comes off the rim. I do all the little things.’’

The Hutch dilemma

Forward Chandler Hutchison was healthy enough to play just under 40 minutes for the Windy City Bulls on Friday night, but he remained inactive Saturday.

So what gives with Hutchison, who has been dealing with a sore right shoulder for six weeks? Call it being overly cautious.

“I’m happy with what he did [Friday] night, the minutes he played,’’ Boylen said. “We’re not going to take a chance with him. I like his progression. We’ll re-evaluate him [Sunday] as far as practicing with us. For the coming week, we’ll re-evaluate where he’s at.’’

In that G League game, Hutchison scored 14 points, shot 6-for-20 from the field and grabbed 11 rebounds.

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