Jimmy Butler back in town is a reminder of old-regime draft mistakes

It’s been over a decade since the Bulls grabbed Butler with the last pick of the first round, and then watched him eventually emerge as an All-Star. Since then there have been a lot of misses and a lot of wait-and-sees with the old regime’s drafting. A bad recipe for a rebuilding franchise.

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The jury is out on Bulls draft picks Wendell Carter Jr., Coby White and even Denzel Valentine, who still have time to prove their long-term value.

Notwithstanding, a visit by former Bull Jimmy Butler and the Heat on Friday night was a reminder of just how many draft picks the Bulls have missed on since grabbing Butler with the 30th overall pick in 2011.

Bulls coach Billy Donovan acknowledged it’s hard for a franchise to overcome that, but expressed patience with his young players.

“The way I would describe it — and I dealt with this a lot in the college ranks — you missed on a lot of the players, [but] I still think the story hasn’t been written on [these Bulls picks],” Donovan said. “I think clearly you can take a lot of guys, maybe like [the Mavericks’ Luka] Doncic or [the Celtics’ Jayson] Tatum, that are really young, that have kind of exploded on the scene, so to speak. . . . But I think Wendell, [drafted]one year of college; Lauri, one year of college; Coby, one year of college. . . . Yeah, some guys have obviously [been drafted] right out of high school — some guys have gone in after one year and made an impact, and by their second year, third year, been [on the] cusp of [being] All-Stars. I totally get that. But the one thing I’ve always realized is everybody matures and grows at their own pace. So it’s early, because these guys are young, to draw those kinds of conclusions or opinions.”

In the five drafts after Butler was selected, the Bulls chose Marquis Teague (2012), Tony Snell (2013), multiple players whom they traded for Doug McDermott (2014), Bobby Portis and Valentine (2016). Only Valentine remains and has been mostly a role player.

Donovan said there are different paths to greatness.

“Like a guy like Zach [LaVine] — finally made the All-Star Game, but it took him a period of time,” Donovan said. “Even Zach would tell you, ‘I kind of learned and grew at my own pace,’ and everybody kind of gets it at a certain time. So I’ve got a lot of confidence and belief that these guys will continue to get better and improve.”

ONE STEP AT A TIME

There has been some movement on the Chandler Hutchison front. The Bulls forward is now dressing for games after 15 games on the sideline dealing with what has been described as personal issues.

Donovan said he still can’t predict when Hutchison will rejoin the rotation.

“One of the things we’re trying to do with Chandler, and I think this is really important, is have him continually be around the team as much as possible,” Donovan said. “To dress him, to make him active, to have him warm up, to do those things. But he’s still not at a place where either he or I feel comfortable or think he’s ready to come back and play at this point in time.”

Since being selected 22nd in the 2018 draft, the Boise State product has played in just 79 NBA games, and only seven this season because of injuries and now the latest setback, which the Bulls have deemed “a sensitive situation.”

He’s owed $4 million next season, then has a $5.8 million qualifying offer for the 2022-23 season.


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