In Defense of Chicago Bulls Executives Gar Forman and John Paxson

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Why Don’t We Trust Paxson and Forman?

Sep 29, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls general manager Gar Forman during media day at the Advocate Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

What current NBA GMs have the most success in the Draft? I can think of six NBA teams that became great exclusively through players they drafted: the two Finals teams, the Thunder, the Trailblazers, the Spurs, and the Bulls. The Cavs GM didn’t draft LeBron James, the Warriors GM didn’t draft Stephen Curry, and the Blazers GM didn’t draft LaMarcus Aldridge. That means they are eliminated and their predecessors were so bad they got fired despite drafting a superstar. This leaves the Thunder, Spurs, and Bulls. You can’t argue against the Spurs being the best team in the draft, but you can argue who is second between Chicago and Oklahoma City. The Thunder have drafted better players, but the Bulls have found, by far, better value. Every great player the Bulls have drafted the past twelve years has been under the direction of Paxson.

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  • The Bulls not only draft great players, they draft great players without being awful the year before—something that has been increasingly uncommon in the NBA today. Chicago has been under .500 once in the past 11 years—the one losing year causing them to land Derrick Rose in June. They got lucky then, but all of the other players they have acquired was through intelligence. They either have found great value late (Jimmy Butler) or made smart trades to put themselves in a position to draft great players. If you go through how they have turned players into draft picks, it is pretty astonishing. Eddy Curry was traded for draft picks that turned into Tyrus Thomas, Thabo Sefolosha, Omer Asik, and Joakim Noah. Sefolosha was traded for a draft pick that turned into Taj Gibson. James Johnson was traded for a draft pick that turned into Nikola Mirotic. Tyrus Thomas was traded for a draft pick that was used to move up in last year’s draft and get Doug McDermott. I don’t know if it’s possible to do better as far as setting up a franchise for such a long period of time.

    And what was Paxson and Forman’s alternative to acquiring elite talent through the draft? Making Chicago really bad for a couple of years. What would people have said if they employed that strategy? (Goodell Zone Alert) “I hate how NBA teams throw away a couple of seasons to become great. It’s cheating the system. I’m not going to pay money to see this awful team. See ya later Bulls. I’ll come back in six year when you guys are good again.” But the Bulls didn’t ever try to tank like many NBA teams do now. The Bulls managed to stay relevant for the past decade, improving along the way, by simply outsmarting other teams with talent acquisition.

    Next: Impressive Player Development