Chicago Bulls NBA Draft Recap
Let me be clear. I am NOT happy with the Bulls 1st selection in this year’s 2018 NBA Draft. With the 7th overall pick, Chicago selected Duke’s PF/C Wendell Carter, Jr.
Wendell Carter is 6’10” 259. He played one average year at Duke for Coach K. But what is Carter? Is he a center? A stretch four? A regular power forward in the Karl Malone, Charles Barkley, Al Horford, or Elton Brand mold? An undersized center? Underperforming shooter, scorer, and student? Yes. A kid with helicopter parents that seem to be leaning toward becoming the next Mr. and Mrs. LaVar Ball? Yes, unfortunately.
The Bulls could’ve had Villanova’s SF 6’7″ Mikal Bridges, who was selected at #10 by Philadelphia but was then traded to Phoenix. Ugh sauce! Mark it down: The Bulls will painfully regret taking Carter over Bridges. The 6’7″ Mikal Bridges is a lanky, athletic shooter with good 3-point range and the ability to drive to the hoop and slam dunk the ball dramatically. He is an excellent defender with long arms. Does this sound familiar to Bulls fans? Yes it does. You know what I’m thinking. Bridges is a Doberman. Bridges is the next Scottie Pippen, who was also 6’7″.
And we could have had him. Instead, we took the next Elton Brand, at best. I am furious about this pick!
On the other hand, I’m intrigued by the 22nd pick, 6’7″ Chandler Hutchison from Boise St. I’ve never watched Hutchison play. I’ve only seen his highlight package and he does look impressive. He’s very similar to Mikal Bridges, to be quite honest. He’s lanky. He’s a slasher. He worked hard on his game and improved a ton throughout college. So I can see what the Bulls were thinking here. They were probably against taking Bridges at #7 because they felt like they could take Hutchison at #22 and he’d be just as good.
Well, maybe the Bulls brass is right. Over the years, both John Paxson and Gar Forman have had their ups and downs. Drafting Jimmy Butler? Genius. Drafting Marquis Teague? Unacceptable. But that’s sports. You win some, you lose some.
As a 12-year-old, I remember being very upset when the Bulls drafted 7’0″ C Olden Polynice from Virginia (whom I knew from watching college basketball) and trading him for a no-name from Central Arkansas (whom I knew absolutely zilch about). That dude was…… Scottie Pippen. Polynice ended up with an undistinguished journeyman career for 10 teams, averaging 7.8 ppg and 6.7 rpg.
On the other hand, Pippen ended up in the Hall of Fame after winning 6 rings! He averaged 16.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 5.2 apg, and 2.0 spg. He set many NBA records including career playoff steals. In general, Scottie simply dominated his opponents as Michael Jordan’s sidekick. He became an icon and one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players of All-Time. Most experts put Scottie in their top 25 players ever.
So what’s my point? My point is I’ve been wrong before and I’ll be wrong again. I hope I’m wrong about Wendell Carter but I have a bad, bad feeling that we just let the next Scottie Pippen slip through our hands.
If I were the Bulls brass, I obviously would’ve taken Mikal Bridges at #7 to build around young stars Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, and Kris Dunn. At #22, I would’ve drafted another Villanova player, legacy and phenom PG Jalen Brunson. Brunson ended up going to the Dallas Mavericks at #33 overall, the 3rd pick in the 2nd round. Mark it down: Jalen will have a solid if not spectacular career. He’s a smart point guard who led his team to the state or national titles in three of his last four seasons. Think about that.
He’s a winner. He’s a leader. He’s a smart kid, trust me. Most of all, Jalen is a good person. Self disclosure is I am biased since I have known Jalen since his early days at Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, IL. From the minute we saw him in high school, we all knew he was going to the NBA.
How does the Naismith College Player of the Year and the John R. Wooden Award Winner (along with many other outstanding NCAA awards) not get taken until the 33rd pick? Only one reason….. his height. Jalen is somewhere between 6’1″ and 6’3″. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again. JB is the best player I’ve ever seen at his height. He’s the best high schooler I’ve ever seen in my 43 years. Period. The best word to describe Jalen is “poise”. His maturity was there from the very beginning. He knows how to control tempo, give his team confidence and energy, and of course, he knows how to score and pass. JB averaged 26.1 ppg his Junior year in high school but he’s the kind of young man who could have scored way more, probably 35 ppg if he wanted to be selfish. We knew he could. He once scored 57 against Lake Forest HS (underrated team, maybe the 2nd best in Illinois in ’14 and ’15) and an IHSA state playoff record 56 points against Jahlil Okafor and Whitney Young in the IHSA state semifinals. So he’s proven he can be like James Harden. But that’s not Jalen. He’s a team guy. A winner. Overall, Jalen is one of the greatest young athletes I’ve ever known. Classy, unselfish, smart, and talented. What a kid!
Jalen’s father Rick played for 9 years in the NBA. Trust me when I say that Jalen is way better than his dad. He’ll have a long and prosperous career. Will he be a great player? I don’t know. But what I do know is I wouldn’t doubt him. What I know for sure is that he’ll be a solid NBA player for a long, long time. The Bulls could’ve used him as a backup to Kris Dunn, at worst. Knowing Jalen, he would probably beat out Dunn as the starter before too long.
Overall, the Bulls could have had Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson, two superstars from the college ranks that know how to win. That’s all they did at Villanova under head coach Jay Wright. They won two National Championships in three years.
Instead, Pax and Forman took an unathletic 6’10” power forward with some red flags and a project from Boise St. Maybe the Bulls will prove me wrong, but in this case I feel very strongly that Bridges and Brunson would’ve been the better choices.
Who would you rather have? Bridges and Brunson, or Carter and Hutchison?
After I wrote this column on July 2, 2018, Jalen announced he was returning to Stevenson High School (where I work) to host his first youth basketball camp as a pro. My son participated and we got to visit with Jalen before he headed off to his next event. Here’s a photo from the camp on July 24. It was awesome to see JB and congratulate him on his accomplishments including finishing his degree in three years. Needless to say, we’ll be cheering for him and the Mavs and watching his career with great interest.