The Chicago Bulls walked away from Thursday’s 2018 NBA Draft filling two major holes on the roster. By selecting Duke center Wendell Carter Jr. at No. 7 and Boise State forward Chandler Hutchison, the roster definitely has been upgraded.
Yet, Bulls fans should come away feeling conflicted. Both players fit the standard GarPax profile: Solid pros with high floors and relatively low ceilings. If either becomes a superstar, it would be surprising.
When it comes to Carter, Michael Porter Jr’s slide to No. 14 creates internal conflict. The Bulls had the chance seven spots earlier to pick Porter, who could have superstar ability if healthy.
And that’s a big “if.” The medical reports certainly gave plenty of teams pause to make him slide. But the Bulls had the choice to go bold by selecting Porter. In a league where stars reign supreme, the risk might have been worth it.
Instead, the Bulls played it safe with Carter. He has the tools to be a good player in this league, possessing solid rim-protecting skills and a nice array of low-post moves. He also has a decent jumper and has the ability to expand his range.
Could he be an elite 20-point, 10-rebound guy, though? That would be the best case scenario, and it would earn him trips to All-Star weekend. Think Al Horford.
But that isn’t necessarily a guy who leads you to a title. A pick like this would never be criticized at seven, but having Porter there could make it hard to swallow. Porter drew comparisons to Kevin Durant before the collegiate season began.
When you compare their best-case-scenario comps with all things equal, you would never pick Horford over Durant, right? As our Ryan Wooden pointed out, the pick will be panned for years if Porter becomes an alpha-level star.
Whether it’s free agency or the draft, stars have eluded the Bulls in the GarPax era. The only star under the current regime was Derrick Rose, and he came via a lucky lottery ball bounce in 2008.
Even if it was the right move, the decision to choose Carter over Porter played perfectly into the narrative that GarPax never make the risky moves needed to be a future title contender. Yes, 11 other teams (the Clippers picked twice) passed, giving credence to concerns over Porter’s back. While the Bulls might not get killed nationally like the Knicks, Sixers and Clippers will, the taste locally will still be sour if he hits.
What’s even more conflicting is that the Bulls could’ve had their cake and ate it too. With Porter dropping out of the top 10, GarPax might have had an opportunity to shop the No. 22 pick to move up and get him. The Nuggets reportedly were looking to move the Kenneth Faried’s bad contract and potentially risk the No. 14 pick in the process.
The Bulls might have been able to entice the Nuggets by offering No. 22, Bobby Portis and another asset for No. 14 and Faried. Maybe the Nuggets weren’t interested once Porter fell, but the fact that no reports have surfaced about any potential effort to move up is a bit disconcerting. In fact, the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson reported that the Bulls had little to no interest in Porter at all.
Instead, the front office decided to induce eye rolls by taking Hutchison at 22. The Bulls reportedly promised the Boise State forward in May that he would be their pick later in the first round.
Hutchison might actually turn out to be a pretty good player. In most cases, he would’ve been the right pick in the latter half of the first round. However, making a guarantee to someone at No. 22 is infuriating. Don’t hate the player. Hate the promise.
Hutchinson actually projects to be a solid pro in the league. He possesses great length and he’s developed a very nice mid-range/3-point game that could make him very valuable piece going forward.
In fact, if he somehow morphs into a Luol-Deng-level All-Star, it’s a fantastic pick. And if he somehow morphs into a superstar? We’ll all bow before GarPax. But superstardom for Hutchison is highly unlikely. His likeliest path is that of a solid role player.
The additions of Carter and Hutchison should upgrade the roster to a playoff contender in a weak Eastern Conference, pushing for 45-50 wins in about a year or two.
But a title contender? The Bulls are still back at square one, waiting for a superstar.