Can The Chicago Bulls Front Office Be Trusted In The Draft?

(Photo by Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images)
(Photo by Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Ready for a hot take? The Chicago Bulls will be picking in the lottery at this year’s NBA Draft. But can we trust the front office to get it right? Let’s find out.

In 2009, John Paxson was supplanted as GM by Gar Forman. Paxson didn’t leave entirely though, instead, he became the VP of Basketball Operations. This is the origin story of ‘GarPax’.  The two-headed monster that Bulls fans love to hate.

Regardless of my, or your opinion, they will almost certainly be pulling the strings when the NBA Draft comes around this year. So, should we trust them? Or should we all be nervous and concerned about these two gentlemen steering the rebuild ship over the next couple of years?

To decide, I will be analyzing every draft selection since the 2009 draft, grading it and looking at which players we passed up to draft that person. In some drafts, a case could be made that we made the best selection, but I’ll still present some players we could have picked. Buckle up, this might not be pretty.

2009 NBA Draft

R1 P16 – James Johnson

Drafted with the 16th pick, James Johnson would only play with the Bulls for a little over a season before being traded to the Toronto Raptors. In his rookie year, he averaged only 3.9ppg and 2rpg – a disappointing return for a player picked just outside the lottery. Johnson has slowly developed into a decent role player in the league, having now played with the Heat for the last couple of years.

Grade: D      Missed out on: Jrue Holiday (17) and Jeff Teague (19)

R1 P26 – Taj Gibson

It goes without saying that Taj Gibson is a name that belongs in most Bulls fans’ hearts. A hard-working power forward who put in eight years of great work with the Bulls. Taj slowly developed an offensive game that complimented his more natural defensive attributes. Gibson outperformed James Johnson in his first year, averaging 9ppg and 7.5 rpg in his rookie season.

Grade: A       Missed out on:  Demarre Carroll (27) and Danny Green (46)

2010 NBA Draft

R1 P17 – Kevin Seraphin

Kevin Seraphin was traded on draft night, along with Kirk Hinrich for Vladimir Veremeenko from the Washington Wizards. Did we miss out on a big talent in Kevin Seraphin? Not really. But could we have used the pick to pick up someone better? Definitely!

Grade: D-       Missed out on: Eric Bledsoe (18), Avery Bradley (19) and Hassan Whiteside (33)

2011 NBA Draft

R1 P28 – Norris Cole and R2 P43 – Malcolm Lee

In a three-way deal, Norris Cole ended up with the Heat, sending Bojan Bogdanovic to the Timberwolves and giving the Bulls the rights to Nikola Mirotic who he would eventually hop over the pond from Europe. I think it’s fair to say that Mirotic is the best player involved in that trade, so not a bad deal for the Bulls.

Grade: B       Missed out on: Cory Joseph (29)

R1 P30 – Jimmy Butler

Arguably the finest hour for GarPax in any NBA Draft. Drafting Jimmy Butler with the last pick in the first round of the draft turned out to be an amazing piece of business, with Butler developing into a genuine star in the league. Although we didn’t achieve astronomical success with Butler, he would eventually become the trade chip that kickstarted the next era we currently find ourselves in.

Grade: A+       Missed out on: Chandler Parsons (38) and Isaiah Thomas (60)

2012 NBA Draft

R1 P29 – Marquis Teague

From the finest hour, to one of the worst. Averaging 2.1 ppg and 1.3 apg in his rookie season, it didn’t take long to figure out who won the gene lottery in the Teague family. What makes this selection more infuriating is that we passed up on Draymond Green. This is apparently despite Thibodeau strongly pushing for the Green selection.

Grade: F       Missed out on: Jae Crowder (34), Draymond Green (35) and Khris Middleton (39)

2013 NBA Draft

R1 P20 – Tony Snell

Tony Snell was an average performer for the Bulls, often getting minutes under Thibs because of his defensive aptitude. Although not a dreadful pick, Snell has never really progressed further than a role player in the league, perhaps enjoying his best stint now with the Bucks.

Grade: C-       Missed out on: Tim Hardaway Jr. (24) and Rudy Gobert (27)

R2 P49 – Erik Murphy

Apart from sharing the same name as a character from my favourite show, Murphy really didn’t bring an awful lot to the party and was eventually waived at the end of his rookie year. That being said, there wasn’t much more talent in the draft to pick over Murphy.

Grade: C       Missed out on: James Ennis (50)

2014 NBA Draft

R1 P16 – Jusif Nurkic and R1 P19 – Gary Harris

In 2014, the front office thought it a good idea to trade up in the draft. Trading both the 16th and 19th pick in the process, to move us up to pick 11 – which saw us get our man in Doug McDermott. I’m trying to think of a creative way of saying that we traded two better players for one inferior player. I guess there just isn’t a great way of phrasing it. This was a failure. I was a big McDermott fan and really wanted it to work out, but it just never did.

Grade: E       Missed out on: Dario Saric (12) and Zach LaVine (13)

R2 P49 – Cameron Bairstow

Although Bairstow didn’t make it in the league, he showed some positive signs and wasn’t a bad pick in the late stages of the second round. No other players picked after him are still in the league.

Grade: B-       Missed out on: Jordon McRae (58)

2015 NBA Draft

R1 P22 – Bobby Portis

The king of talking about himself in third person, Bobby Portis was selected with the 22nd pick and seemed a good selection given that many mock drafts had him going late lottery. I believe this season, in Bobby’s third year in the league – we are starting to see some really great things from him. This year he is averaging career high stats across the board; 12.1ppg, 6.3rpg and is hitting a respectable 34.9% of his three point attempts.

Grade: B+       Missed out on: Larry Nance Jr (27)

2016 NBA Draft

R1 P14 – Denzel Valentine

Coming out of Michigan State, I believe Denzel Valentine was a solid selection with the last lottery pick of the draft. He has shown flashes of excellence, with perhaps his main highlight being the tournament winning buzzer beater he hit in Summer League. Early signs are that Valentine will be a solid player off the bench in this league, able to hit threes and make plays.

Grade: B       Missed out on: Juan Hernangomez (15) and Malcolm Brogdon (36)

2017 NBA Draft

R1 P16 – Justin Patton

As part of the Jimmy Butler trade, this would turn into the 7th pick in the draft which we would use to acquire Lauri Markkanen. The selection of Markkanen is looking more and more like a masterstroke. At just 19, I think the Bulls have got themselves a potential star who could produce for them for a long, long time.

Grade: E       Missed out on: John Collins (19) and Kyle Kuzma (27)

R2 P38 – Jordan Bell

The now infamous draft pick which the Bulls front office decided to cash in on by selling it to the Warriors, who would go on to select Jordan Bell. This will be forever regretted, as Jordan Bell looks like he is going to inevitably become a very serviceable player in the league. I’m also going to voice my anger here about the 16th pick being thrown into the Butler trade. Imagine if we’d negotiated to keep it, and didn’t sell the 38th pick. We’d come out of the draft with potentially Markkanen, Kuzma and Jordan Bell. Granted, that’s a lot of power forwards, but it’s also a lot of talent!

Grade: F       Missed out on: We missed out on Jordan Bell. And I’m not over it.

Can the Front Office be trusted in the draft?

So that draws a close to my recap of every draft that’s occurred while Gar Forman has been in the role of GM. What is clear is that there has been no consistency. It’s certainly easy for me to sit here with the power of retrospect and say – “why did you select Marquis Teague when Draymond was still on the board?!”. To be fair to the front office, there have been some highlights; selecting Butler with the 30th pick, Taj Gibson with the 26th and Markannen is looking like a great selection at 7th so far.

The issue is that for every highlight, there’s a lowlight; the Marquis Teague selection, the Doug McDermott trade and this past year’s waste of the second round pick. Just for fun, here’s a Bulls starting five of players we missed in the draft: Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, Zach LaVine, Draymond Green and Rudy Gobert. Not too shabby.

Next: LaVine's performance against Pistons offers hope

Do you trust the front office to rebuild the Bulls roster in the upcoming draft?

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