After latest draft, Bulls have a full roster and unknown potential
After draft No. 2 of the Bulls' rebuild, are they one step closer to becoming a Finals contender?
That's impossible to say with the finish line still well in the distance. But the Bulls certainly have filled up the roster.
As of today, they would essentially return last season's starting lineup of Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Justin Holiday and Robin Lopez. There is now a full second group of Cameron Payne, Denzel Valentine, Bobby Portis, Chandler Hutchison and Wendell Carter Jr., and that doesn't even include David Nwaba, Jerian Grant, Sean Kilpatrick or Cristiano Felicio.
The Bulls chose Carter, a 6-foot-10 center from Duke, with the No. 7 pick of Thursday's draft and Hutchison, a 6-7 small forward from Boise State, at No. 22.
After the picks were made, Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson talked about how the team was in the process of accumulating assets, which could set the stage for bigger moves down the road.
"We're trying to draft as well as we can, put a core together we think can play together and win; put a team out there that can play hard and compete and play the right way," Paxson said. "We feel we're in the beginning stages of that."
Asked what the next move is, Paxson's answer was to be ready for anything. If a star player becomes available in a trade, the Bulls have some young players and a few expiring contracts. They'll also have decent cap space for at least a couple years.
"To give up assets, important draft assets, to move up a spot or two (in Thursday's draft), that didn't make sense to us and the way we're planning," Paxson said. "We continue to talk every day about being patient, being disciplined in how we make decisions.
"We'll go into free-agency the same way. If there's value out there that we think we can jump on, we'll certainly do that, we'll explore that."
The Bulls signing any player as a free agent this summer feels like a long shot, because the roster is so full. The main tasks in July will be attempting to re-sign restricted free agents LaVine and Nwaba. Expect the Bulls to hit training camp with essentially the same roster.
Of course, an important part of asset accumulation is hitting on the draft picks. Carter didn't post eye-popping numbers at Duke last season (13.5 points, 9.1 rebounds), but Bulls management had an answer for those who consider Carter a "safe" pick.
"In Wendell's case, I think because physically he looks like a man, you don't see that upside," general manager Gar Forman said. "We think there is upside to him."
The Bulls project improvement in lateral quickness, which would help Carter stay on the floor against smaller lineups.
"Our athletic performance staff, when they evaluated that, they think that's an area where they can make an impact," Forman said. "He's still 19 years old. Physically, he's a man because he's 6-10, 260. but they still think there's a lot of room for growth and there is in his game also. You don't want to put a ceiling on what he could become."
Fair enough. No rookies can be judged one day after the draft. Carter and Hutchison should get a chance to take the court next month at the Las Vegas summer league. From the Bulls' perspective, Thursday night was a good time for rosy reviews on the state of the rebuild.
"This is a really good night for our organization," Paxson said. "We feel like when you look at where we were a year ago and what we decided to do. And one year later, we feel like we've added five really good young, core pieces to build and that's important to us. We're excited about the future. We're excited about the direction we're headed."
Bulls add Loyola's Ingram:
Loyola forward Donte Ingram, best known for knocking down the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer in the Ramblers' NCAA opener vs. Miami, will join the Bulls for summer league. The 6-foot-6 Chicago native averaged 11 points and 6.4 rebounds for Loyola's Final Four squad.
• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls.