According to Arturas Karnisovas, there’s a solid foundation to build around within his own facility.
The Bulls’ executive vice president of basketball operations made that clear during the March trade deadline when he acquired Nikola Vucevic from the Magic -— sacrificing the team’s first-round draft capital from this year’s deep talent pool in the process — then he reminded the media of it in his end-of-season address.
“I think when you have a foundation of, let’s say, two All-Stars [in Vucevic and Zach LaVine] in one place, I think it’s easier to add additional things that we need,’’ Karnisovas said. “So we’re going to discuss the needs of the team, and we’ll attack it during free agency [on Aug. 2].’’
One problem: The rest of the Central Division wasn’t waiting around for free agency to add star power.
At least potential star power.
The Bulls did use the 38th pick Thursday to take hometown kid and Illinois standout Ayo Dosunmu, a selection that definitely appeased the fan base. The combo guard and Morgan Park grad averaged 20.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists last season and was expected to be a versatile rotation option if he adds some strength.
What he already comes with is a chip on his shoulder for slipping that far down.
“My friends and family know where my talent is,’’ Dosunmu said in a zoom call with the media. “They know there wasn’t 37 people better than me in this draft, so when I was selected by Chicago, my home city, they know the motivation I’m going to have and I’m going to play with. It was a dream come true. This was a blessing in disguise.’’
One that Karnisovas felt was worth the wait.
“We interviewed him during the combine and we found out how big of a fan he is of the Chicago Bulls,’’ Karnisovas said. “To tell you the truth we didn’t think he was going to be there at 38th. It was a long wait but it was worth it.’’
Dosunmu was a solid selection, but not the first-round top talent that others in the division profited from.
The Pistons, Cavaliers and even the Pacers took advantage of a 2021 NBA Draft class considered to be one of the most talented since the 2003 class of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh.
The Pistons made Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham the No. 1 overall selection.
In Cunningham, Detroit feels it has a generational point guard with a Luka Doncic-style ability to control the tempo of a game. At 6-8, Cunningham can score around the rim and from outside, but it’s his unselfish playmaking that stood out for scouts. He’s also a versatile defender, able to guard one through four comfortably.
The Rockets took explosive scorer Jalen Green with the second pick, setting the stage for Cleveland to add yet another solid piece to the post-LeBron rebuild. The Cavaliers took 7-footer Evan Mobley from USC. The Mobley comparisons to Bosh are there for a reason. He’s an inside-outside threat who excels in the shot-blocking department.
The Cavs added veteran Ricky Rubio in a predraft deal and are building a talented stable with Mobley, Isaac Okoro, Darius Garland, Collin Sexton and Jarrett Allen. As soon as they can rid themselves of the Kevin Love contract, it will be interesting to see if they can attract some veteran talent to jump aboard.
Then at No. 13, the Pacers added one of the top perimeter shooters in the draft, grabbing Oregon guard Chris Duarte. While Duarte likely won’t start like Cunningham or Mobley, he is expected to give the Pacers scoring depth off the bench.
Indiana finished three games better than the Bulls, and that was despite all kinds of health issues surrounding Caris LeVert and Myles Turner.
As far as what could have been for the Bulls, that’s where it got interesting. The Magic used the No. 8 pick they received in return for Vucevic and added versatile forward Franz Wagner. With their own pick at No. 5, the Magic took point guard Jalen Suggs, who would have been the perfect fit in Chicago.
While the Bulls had to live in the what-could-have-beens, the Lakers captured the night, living in what is. Before a name was even muttered in the draft, news broke that the Lakers had acquired Russell Westbrook to join James and Anthony Davis in Hollywood.