Big, warm, soft. And no sharp edges. That’s what the Bulls landed with the No. 7 pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday night.
They drafted their wubby.
Duke big man Wendell Carter Jr. by no means put the Bulls in the “loser” category during post-draft clean-up Friday morning. The problem is, he didn’t make them draft winners, either.
Carter is safe. He will produce and play hard and, more important, will keep front-office jobs protected for a few more years.
Last June, the Bulls traded a top-10 NBA player, Jimmy Butler, to jump-start a rebuild, stressing that it was time to move away from mediocrity. Yet they’re using the same old draft philosophies and bringing in the same kinds of players who led them to mediocrity in the first place. In a star league, the Bulls are focused on building merely a good team — the kind that creeps into the playoffs and gets bounced in Round 1. Their most promising star is forward Lauri Markkanen, a suddenly buffed-up kid from Finland with one season under his belt.
Forwards Marvin Bagley III and Jaren Jackson Jr. and center Mo Bamba were all higher on the Bulls’ draft board than Carter, and the Bulls tried to move up to grab one of those players — though just one of those attempts involved a set offer in hand.
Offering multiple picks wasn’t considered — specifi-cally No. 7 and No. 22, and possibly a protected first-round pick in 2019. The big question is, why? The Bulls could have combined Jackson with Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Markkanen, then landed a star next offseason with the serious money they’ll have available to spend in free agency. Instead, they now have Dunn, LaVine, Markkanen and Carter and likely will pick out of the top 10 again next June from what is right now considered a weak class.
Carter and No. 22 pick Chandler Hutchison are both considered “high-character guys” by general manager Gar Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson. So was Bobby Portis; Nikola Mirotic is among those with a different opinion now.
So while it wasn’t a bad draft for the Bulls, it didn’t exactly scream “Embrace the rebuild!” It was sort of sleepy. Perfect with a wubby.
Mavericks — They wanted Slovenian guard Luka Doncic and traded with the Hawks to move up and get him at No. 3 overall. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban takes what he wants. The Bulls obviously weren’t taking notes.
Suns — Yes, grabbing Arizona center Deandre Ayton with the first pick was a no-brainer, but then they somehow got the 76ers to trade Villanova swingman Mikal Bridges and added underrated French point guard Elie Okobo early in the second round. Maybe they finally have a direction.
Lonnie Walker IV — The standout Miami guard slid out of the lottery spots, but San Antonio is a great place to slide to.
Wendell Carter’s “Black Panther”-inspired suit — Wakanda forever.
Celtics — Texas A&M big man Robert Williams had lottery-level talent, but concerns about his attitude caused him to slip to the already-loaded Celtics and a player-friendly coaching staff.
Cavaliers — Whether LeBron James stays or goes, the Cavs landed Alabama guard Collin Sexton, whom the fans will love. The Bulls actually were debating about selecting Sexton one pick earlier, but the Cavs pounced at No. 8 when the Bulls took Carter instead.
Hawks — Not only did they overpay for Oklahoma guard Trae Young, but they got him wearing an awful shorts suit. “Be different!” No, thanks.
Michael Porter Jr. — The Missouri forward’s back surgery was just too big a concern for teams in the top 10. Now Porter will have an opportunity to prove a lot of people wrong in Denver after the Nuggets took him 14th.
Lakers — Drafting Michigan center Moe Wagner was a bit strange, especially if they’re serious about recruiting LeBron.
Jalen Brunson — All the Villanova point guard did was win, and there was hope he could land late in the first round. But when the 76ers passed on him at No. 26, the dream was over.
The NBA — It actually thought it could keep the media from leaking the picks out early? Nice try, guys.