McGraw: Bulls' roster has more talent, but lacks a key ingredient
The Bulls' roster heading into the new season should be good enough to win more than the 22 games they did last year.
But it doesn't necessarily speak well to the team's drafting and player development. One former first-round pick, Denzel Valentine, is not in the 10-man rotation. Another, Chandler Hutchison, is out with a hamstring injury.
On Sunday night, Hutchison tweeted the message, "Gonna shock a lot of people." The question is when?
So far, it seems as if the Bulls did well with their three-straight No. 7 picks -- Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Coby White. Markkanen and Carter are expected to start Wednesday when the Bulls open the regular season at Charlotte, while White will be one of the first players off the bench.
What the Bulls haven't had in a while is one of those surprising success stories, the low-drafted guy who becomes a star, or at least a valuable rotation player. They tried plucking a couple of those off other teams this summer, adding Tomas Satoransky and Luke Kornet in free-agency. But the closest thing they have to a sleeper pick right now is undrafted guard Ryan Arcidiacono, the king of scrappiness.
What seemed to happen was the Bulls delivered a couple of draft victories by taking older guys who stayed in college for at least three years -- Taj Gibson at pick No. 26 in 2009 and Jimmy Butler at No. 30 in 2011.
The Bulls tried sticking with the same philosophy and it stopped working. Hutchison and Valentine were both four-year college players. Trading up to draft college senior Doug McDermott in 2014 is a big reason the Bulls are in rebuilding mode right now.
Instead of McDermott at No. 11, the Bulls could have chosen Zach LaVine and paired him with Butler instead trading one for the other. To make it worse, both draft picks the Bulls traded that night have been better players than McDermott -- Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris.
Valentine and Hutchison could eventually join the rotation and still end up having good seasons. But it also seems possible drafting college seniors with relatively low upside has backfired. The 2016 draft wasn't a great one, but a couple of high-ceiling picks that paid off were Brooklyn's Caris Levert and Toronto's Pascal Siakam, both drafted after the Bulls took Valentine at No. 14.
The Bulls basically spent $14 million to buy the pick they used to draft Hutchison with the No. 22 pick in 2018. They sent Nikola Mirotic to New Orleans and took back Omer Asik's expensive contract. So Hutchison figures to get plenty of time to get healthy and start contributing.
The clock is ticking on others, though. Valentine and Kris Dunn did not sign contract extensions before Monday's deadline, so they'll be restricted free agents next summer. At this point, neither appears to be in the Bulls' long-term plans.
The Bulls tried to rebuild through the draft and that's not easy in the superteam era, especially with no lottery luck. They're overdue for a late-draft success story and the rebuild might stall out because to it.