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The reality about Jordan Bell and the Bulls … it just might surprise you

The missteps have been frequent for Bulls general manager Gar Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson over the last five years.

Too frequent.

In a lake of mistakes, however, the Jordan Bell saga doesn’t exactly float the same way.

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The Warriors started Bell against the Bulls on Wednesday night for the second time this season. It feels like salt in a wound considering the Warriors acquired the rights to the 38th overall selection for $3.5 million on draft night and had the Bulls select the Oregon product for them.

That trade came after the Jimmy Butler trade to Minnesota earlier in the evening, signifying the Bulls’ decision to rebuild.

The invectives aimed at the front office — cheap, petty — came fast and furious.

The reality of the situation, however, was that Bell was never on the Bulls’ radar. He was an undersized four who had off-the-charts athleticism but added absolutely nothing from the outside, and would be another player in the logjam of fours behind Lauri Markkanen, Nikola Mirotic, Bobby Portis and even Cristiano Felicio.

Does he fit with Golden State? Absolutely. Bell is a rim-runner, rebounder and shot-blocker, something the Warriors were looking for. He is a perfect rotation player for the NBA’s gold standard.

Bell, however, is not better than Markkanen, Mirotic or Portis. Yes, he has shown more potential than Felicio, who continues to display diminishing skills, but two major points continue to be ignored:

1. Bell would have taken up another roster spot.

Consider this exercise: select either Player A (37 games played, 14.8 minutes per game, 5.2 points per game, 4.0 rebounds, 0.7 steals) or Player B (32 games played, 22.9 minutes per game, 7.4 points per game, 4.6 rebounds and 0.8 steals). Player A is Bell, while Player B is guard/forward David Nwaba, who the Bulls added after the draft as an insurance policy in case Zach LaVine’s knee had any setbacks.

Nwaba is also a more versatile defender and fits more into what coach Fred Hoiberg needed with the second unit. He also has shown an ability to close games, while Bell is a cheerleader in crunch time.

Could both have fit on the roster? Absolutely. But Bell would have been the hero of the
G League Windy City Bulls.

2. Banking the equity works.

If Bell didn’t fit, why not take that $3.5 million from the Warriors and keep it for a future draft pick that the team actually likes and wants to invest in? That’s exactly what Paxson did.

If there’s a player that catches the team’s eye in the upcoming draft, the Reinsdorfs have already shown that they like to buy picks. They have been doing it since 2003.

Yes, the Bell saga isn’t going away anytime soon. Especially since the 6-9 rookie has had no problem reminding the media that the Bulls sold him.

However, it’s the optics of the offseason move that look much worse than the reality of the situation.

There will be plenty of instances to continue dissecting Gar/Pax and the rebuild the next few years. Bell just shouldn’t be one of them.

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@suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com