Could Bulls end up kicking themselves for not tanking enough for Luka Doncic?
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DALLAS — During a Bulls road trip to New Orleans last January, Nikola Mirotic walked by and stopped in his tracks when he heard what was being discussed.
‘‘No, no,’’ Mirotic said. ‘‘It’s Niko first and then [Luka] Doncic.’’
All forward Paul Zipser could do was laugh.
A reporter was polling the NBA’s European players about the best player they had seen growing up overseas. To a man, the answer was Doncic.
Well, unless that man was named Mirotic, who half-jokingly went out of his way to correct Zipser on his answer.
So much was different for the Bulls on that night. Zipser, Mirotic and rookie Lauri Markkanen — three Europeans on the Bulls’ roster — each praised Doncic’s talents, and the Bulls still had hopes of possibly landing the Slovenian standout.
‘‘I think Luka has it all,’’ Zipser said that night. ‘‘He plays the right way, he can shoot, he’s athletic, he’s got ball-handling, size, he can defend. So, yeah, he has all the tools. There’s nothing he can’t do.’’
Zipser and Mirotic are no longer with the Bulls, and the team’s hopes of landing Doncic in the draft all but disappeared after a three-game winning streak late in the season moved them down the draft board.
The No. 7 pick wasn’t going to get it done. That became evident when Doncic was selected No. 3 overall by the Hawks before being traded to the Mavericks for point guard Trae Young.
‘‘When you have a guy like that, with that type of size and skill set, you know they’re going to go pretty high,’’ Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said when he was asked Monday if the team knew slipping to No. 7 was going to push them out of the sweepstakes for the 6-7 Doncic.
‘‘I mean, Doncic is an unbelievable talent. Just his ability with that size, with the skill set that he has, makes him such a difficult cover. His handle, his ability to shoot the ball, his ability to pass it and, more impressive, the way he can deliver the ball in tight spaces on target to shooters. Also throw the lob. He’s got the behind-the-back in the paint.
‘‘So he just does so many things that make him a tough player, and he’s been doing it for a long time. And what he did last year, the youngest MVP in the EuroLeague, was pretty impressive.’’
The other Bulls rookie
Speaking of Mirotic, the draft pick the Bulls received when they traded him to the Pelicans before the deadline last season ended up being wing Chandler Hutchison.
And while he has seen limited playing time so far, that might start changing.
Hutchinson jumped into the rotation Monday against the Mavericks, coming in after Zach LaVine picked up two fouls in the first quarter.
‘‘I think there’s a role for him,’’ Hoiberg said. ‘‘I think Chandler’s a guy who, as he learns the league, can give us good moments on both ends of the floor. He can play in the open court, he has great size to be able to play the perimeter defensively and he has good instincts.’’