3 rookies the Bulls likely regret not drafting after Summer League success

Kenneth Lofton Jr., Chicago Bulls (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
Kenneth Lofton Jr., Chicago Bulls (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images) /
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Jalen Duren, 2022 NBA Summer League, Chicago Bulls
Jalen Duren, 2022 NBA Summer League, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

1. Jalen Duren

Unlike the other two aforementioned players, Jalen Duren‘s tenure in the Summer League was cut short. Not because of injury, don’t be mistaken. But because he was simply too good.

After three games, the Detroit Pistons decided they had seen enough and were ready to move forward with Duren in preparation for the 2022-23 season. Seeing how well he performed, who could blame them? Averaging 11.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2 assists per game, Duren’s box score statistics likely won’t wow you. But if watching how he achieved each of his counting stats, it’s hard not to be impressed.

His vocal leadership on the court and ability to dominate the low block are two things this Pistons squad has been desperately missing. The best part? Detroit gave away essentially nothing for the rights to draft him.

With Charlotte intent on trading away one of their two first-round picks, the Pistons leapt on the opportunity. The Hornets realized they could still get their main target in Mark Williams at No. 15, so they dealt away the rights to the 13th pick to Detroit. The Pistons, of course, selected Duren.

What’s most surprising about this trade is that all it took to get the 13th pick was Milwaukee’s protected first-round pick in 2025 and a willingness to take on the rest of Kemba Walker’s expiring $9 million deal. Considering that draft pick is almost guaranteed to be far worse than 13th overall, the Pistons made out like bandits here.

This is especially frustrating as a Bulls fan, seeing as how the center position was a huge area of need for the team and Duren was the only player on the board left who appeared to have sky-high potential. The Bulls also would have been willing to take on a veteran point guard like Kemba in a trade, because they already willingly went out and signed Dragic anyways.

The 18th pick in the 2022 NBA Draft is obviously a better asset than Milwaukee’s protected pick in 2025, so this really just boils down to Detroit’s front office outplaying Chicago here. Duren was practically available for free and it seems the Bulls just didn’t pick up the phone to pounce on the opportunity.

Duren would have fit in incredibly well as a backup center to Nikola Vucevic and provided the Bulls a long-term option moving forward after Vooch’s contract expires. Duren and Kemba would have also filled the same holes the Dragic and Andre Drummond signings did, meaning the Bulls could have still allotted their entire MLE towards finding someone to hold down the forward position and perhaps even force Patrick Williams to compete for his starting position.

If the Chicago Bulls had swung a trade for Duren, they’d not only be a better team next season but also have a better long-term outlook moving forward. For that reason, missing out on Duren is easily my most frustrating of Chicago’s offseason.

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