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Bulls’ same old safe draft philosophy is being examined from within

Bulls general manager Gar Forman’s mission statement is clear this time of year.

“Our philosophy has been we’re going to draft the best player on the board at that time,’’ he said when discussing the team’s draft philosophy during his tenure. “We take from physical tools to their skill level to their ceiling, obviously their background work. All those things are taken into account.’’

It sounds good on paper, but it’s also very vague, GM-speak 101. And it also sounds very safe.

Safety first has been this front office’s trademark in most cases. The draftees generally have been upperclassmen from big-name programs with some NCAA-tournament experience. Denzel Valentine and Doug McDermott come to mind as the most recent examples.

When Forman has gambled and gone outside the box, failure has been the result in most cases.

Tony Snell was the pick in 2013 even though then-coach Tom Thibodeau wanted Gorgui Dieng. A year earlier, Thibodeau and former assistant coach Ron Adams coveted Draymond Green, but Forman was rumored to be talked into Kentucky point guard Marquis Teague by Wildcats coach John Calipari.

So it’s time for a change in philosophy. Enter Michael Reinsdorf, Bulls president and COO.

The Sun-Times reported earlier this season that Reinsdorf was taking more responsibility in running the Bulls, and he has his own views on the direction of the organization.

Several sources indicated that Reinsdorf was examining every aspect of the franchise throughout the season, including Forman’s draft history, and that bodes well for Bulls fans.

The practice of seemingly handing out lifetime scholarships to front-office personnel — a trademark under Jerry Reinsdorf — might be revoked under Michael.

The NBA Draft on Thursday will be a good starting point to gauge if Forman is starting to feel that pressure and accountability.

If the Bulls use the 16th pick to grab North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, it’s the sad business-as-usual approach. He would be safe, athletically challenged and not what this roster needs.

If Terrance Ferguson, OG Anunoby or Donovan Mitchell is the pick — all athletes with a high upside — maybe Forman has gotten the message.

The third scenario churning through the rumor mill is a trade of Jimmy Butler to the Celtics. Again.

As of Monday, the Bulls were only taking calls on Butler, not making them. That has been the approach since the February trade deadline.

Sources indicated that the asking price for Butler remains almost insurmountable, and that won’t change as Thursday approaches. So while many on the outside have enjoyed trying to connect the Butler-to-Boston dots, they’ve failed to take into account Michael Reinsdorf’s competitiveness.

Butler has reached All-NBA status at 27, and the feeling is that he wants Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson to prove they can build around that type of talent.

That starts with adding more young players in this draft and appraising assets from the last few drafts (Bobby Portis and Valentine).

“To say, just blow it up, when you don’t have some certainty that this is really you taking a major step [forward],’’ Paxson said at the end of the season, “it’s easy to say it. It’s tough to do.’’

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.



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