Of all the criticism I’ve heard directed toward the Chicago Bulls over the last calendar year — and believe me, there’s been a lot — some of it has been particularly valid, and some of it… less so. There is one fault, however, that I do think many have overlooked as the Bulls have rushed to acquire star talent and contend now.
Where is this team’s young core, exactly? Do they even truly have one?
A lack of promising young talent is to be expected when the Bulls have given up on each and every single draft pick this team has made before 2019. Even then, Chicago has traded away their 2019 second-round pick Daniel Gafford, even after a very promising rookie season. Is this really a feasible method of team-building?
Chicago’s lack of young talent becomes especially poignant when you look around and see how many former Bulls are thriving in new environments around the NBA today. It feels like the Bulls’ development staff just isn’t getting the best out of these players like other teams are, so I went and compiled all of Chicago’s biggest missed opportunities over the past few years,
This list isn’t an evaluation of player talent in a vacuum, but rather an assessment of how big of an impact each player could have made if they remained with the Bulls. That’s why you won’t find a player like Wendell Carter Jr. listed here, as I still believe Chicago made the right decision to cut ties and pursue an upgrade in Nikola Vucevic, even if things haven’t panned out perfectly on that front just yet. I’m happy to see the strides Wendell is taking in Orlando, but that doesn’t mean he was the answer for the Chicago Bulls.
I believe these five players, however, would have made a significant difference for the Chicago Bulls if the team had committed to them with long-term contracts and the right role to maximize their talents.
The Chicago Bulls seem to struggle to develop their young talent, seeing as how many former players become success stories after leaving.
5. Max Strus
Max Strus was born in the suburbs of Chicago. He attended high school 12 miles away from the United Center. He even played college basketball at DePaul University before graduating and setting his eyes on the NBA. You’d be hard-pressed to find many active players in the league with as deep of roots to the city as Strus.
Even so, Chicago gave up on him before he even had a chance to thrive. Ironically, Strus was acquired before the start of the 2019-20 season due to losing a battle to current Bulls forward Javonte Green for the Celtics’ 15th and final roster spot. This allowed the Bulls to scoop him up on a two-way deal, but Strus would suffer a torn ACL just one month into his stint with the team. The Miami Heat would then scoop him up during training camp the very next season before Strus could ever leave his imprint on the Bulls.
Now in his third season with the Heat, Strus has earned a sizeable role in the rotation and even supplanted their $90 million investment Duncan Robinson in the starting lineup. Strus is averaging 14.7 points and 3.9 rebounds per game so far this season and has been an incredibly efficient high-volume shooter — knocking down over 40% of his three-point attempts over the last two years.
Strus has thrived in Miami’s system, leaving naught but regrets that the Chicago Bulls weren’t more patient with the homegrown talent as he recuperated from injury.