Bulls exec Arturas Karnisovas is no stranger to second-round pay dirt

With the first-round pick lost to the Magic in the Nikola Vucevic trade, Karnisovas and Co. still have a chance to impact the roster in the second round of Thursday’s NBA Draft.

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Bulls vice president Arturas Karnisovas has experience finding talent in the second round of the NBA Draft.

Bulls vice president Arturas Karnisovas has experience finding talent in the second round of the NBA Draft.

Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas knows a little bit about finding value with second-round picks.

He was in the Nuggets’ front office as an assistant general manager when they grabbed Nikola Jokic, a Serbian big man, with the 41st pick of the 2014 draft.

That turned out OK.

Even on his coaching staff, there are reminders of second-round gold: Mo Cheeks was drafted 36th overall and went on to have a Hall of Fame career.

So when Karnisovas was discussing his offseason to-do list a few months ago, he defiantly said, “We still have a second-round pick.’’

Some organizations approach second-round picks with a blindfold and a dartboard, but for Karnisovas, life outside the first round means opportunity.

It’s an opportunity to show off his scouting chops and to showcase the development staff he has put together for prospects once they enter the practice facility.

The Bulls don’t have a first-round pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday because of the Nikola Vucevic deal with the Magic, so it’s a good time to test what Karnisovas has built after one season.

In Karnisovas’ first draft with the organization last season, Patrick Williams was taken with the fourth pick, and in the second round, the Bulls grabbed then-raw big man Marko Simonovic from Montenegro with the 44th pick. 

A one-year draft-and-stash, Simonovic has been working out at the Advocate Center the last month and is expected to officially join the roster in August with the start of the 2021-22 fiscal year.

The early reports on the versatile center are good, and the hope is that he can become a rotation player in his first season, especially with the Bulls possibly thinning out in the frontcourt as Daniel Theis and Cristiano Felicio are unrestricted free agents and Lauri Markkanen is a restricted free agent.

So what could Karnisovas have up his sleeve with the 38th overall pick? The good news is that he has a deep pool to pick from.

Second-round prospects to keep an eye on:

JT Thor, Auburn, power forward: The offense is sushi-raw, but if Thor slides out of the late first round — a big if — his ridiculous 7-3¼ wingspan and willingness to develop on both sides of the floor would be hard to pass up.

Ayo Dosunmu, Illinois, shooting guard/point guard: The Bulls were linked to Dosunmu throughout the predraft-camp process. The combo guard is a creative scorer and an above-average ball-handler. If the Bulls have plans to move on from Tomas Satoransky, a versatile backcourt player such as Dosunmu could be a solid target.

Charles Bassey, Western Kentucky, center: The Bulls were inconsistent with their physicality and shot-blocking last season, and the big man would quickly change that off the bench. Offensively, he has that rim-running ability that Daniel Gafford showed, but he’s also not afraid to launch a few threes if left open.

Juhann Begarin, Paris Basketball, shooting guard/small forward: If the Bulls want to play the draft-and-stash game again, Begarin is the perfect candidate. He’s one of the younger prospects in the class at 18 and has a lot of developing to do on both sides of the ball.

Kessler Edwards, Pepperdine, small forward: The defense is NBA-ready, and the offense and perimeter game are coming. Edwards could become what Chandler Hutchison was supposed to be when the Bulls selected him in the first round of the 2018 draft.

Josh Christopher, Arizona State, shooting guard: The scorer could sneak up into the first round, but if he slips, the Bulls definitely have to kick the tires on him because of the shot-making ability he could add off the bench.

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