NBA Draft is dodging the Bulls this year

The Bulls aren’t part of the show this time, leaving it to other teams to set up future titles by aligning the stars.

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The Spurs took Hall of Famer Manu Ginobili with the 57th pick in the 1999 NBA Draft. The Bulls forfeited the 57th pick in this year’s draft.

The Spurs took Hall of Famer Manu Ginobili with the 57th pick in the 1999 NBA Draft. The Bulls forfeited the 57th pick in this year’s draft.

Kamil Krzaczynsk/AP

You look at the NBA Draft coming up Thursday and go down the list of teams in their draft order, searching for the Bulls.

The Spurs are No. 1.

The Clippers (“from Milwaukee via Houston,” whatever that means) are No. 30.

That’s the first round. On to the second.

No. 31 is the Pistons.

No. 50 is the Thunder (from Miami via Boston, Memphis and Dallas). A human or a FedEx package?

No. 58, the last, is the Bucks.

The Bulls are nowhere. Unless you count their forfeited pick, which would have been No. 57. But that’s kind of silly.

The Bulls are sitting this one out.

So we’re left to think about what drafts mean, who gets what this time, what the risks are and how future championships are often written by the twin fortunes of tanking and pingpong balls.

Victor Wembanyama, the 7-4 French phenom, is the all-but-guaranteed first pick by the Spurs. Guard skills and an 8-foot wingspan don’t come along often.

That alone could mean the Spurs could build back to the dominance they had while winning five titles from 1999 to 2014. The first four of those teams were built around drafted phenoms David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

All four have been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. All except Ginobili, from Argentina, were first-round picks. The Spurs took Ginobili with the 57th pick in the 1999 draft.

The 57th pick. Hmm.

Who had the 57th pick this year? The Bulls. How did they lose it? As punishment for tampering in the signing of Lonzo Ball — who might never play again — during free agency in 2021.

Every pick in the draft is critical. Everything you do in it will manifest itself as good, average or bad in the years to come.

Nobody wins in the NBA without extreme talent. It’s not like Hickory High School, where a bunch of Hoosier hayseeds win the big one because Gene Hackman shows them that baskets everywhere are 10 feet high.

Global scouting is key. Think Dirk Nowitzki, Pau Gasol, Yao Ming, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert and so on.

There are so many new pipelines through which great young players develop that the old, basic, watch-’em-in-college progression is passé. Belated kudos here to late Bulls general manager Jerry Krause, aka “The Sleuth,’’ for spotting Croatian Toni Kukoc when the kid was a teenager playing for KK Split back in his home country. The Bulls took Kukoc 29th overall in the second round in 1990, and even though he didn’t join the team for three more years, he became a key part of three Bulls championships from 1996 to 1998.

Everybody knows who the most important draft pick in Bulls history was, the key to all six Bulls titles: Michael Jordan himself. Jordan wasn’t taken first but third in the 1984 draft, and you could be forgiven for drafting Hakeem Olajuwon first, which the Rockets did, but not for taking Sam Bowie second, which the Trail Blazers did.

Jordan, like Magic Johnson or Kobe Bryant with the Lakers, or Steph Curry with the Warriors, was the kind of difference-maker that teams can only hope to get a chance to draft.

There’s risk in every pick, of course. As good as Ja Morant is, do you want him and his gun issues? How about Miles Bridges, getting ready to break out as a superstar for the Hornets before felony domestic-violence charges made him miss all of this past season and will have him suspended for the first 10 games of the upcoming season?

The Hornets, which Jordan owns but is in the process of selling for a massive profit, are a lesson in how being clueless in the draft can undermine a team. Jordan chose Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (out of league) over Bradley Beal and Damian Lillard, and Cody Zeller over future Hall of Famer Antetokounmpo. This after taking dud Kwame Brown for the Wizards with the first pick in 2001.

The Hornets have never won a playoff game under Jordan’s ownership and haven’t made it to the playoffs for seven years, the longest current failure streak in the NBA.

Being a great player doesn’t mean you know how to draft.

And now we have the Bulls, stuck in mediocrity, watching from the sideline this year. Wembanyama, Scoot Henderson, Brandon Miller, Amen Thompson. Somebody will be a future superstar.

Unless they pull off a huge draft-day trade, the Bulls can watch it all from the comfort of their man caves.

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