How Arturas Karnisovas is Repeating a Dark History for the Bulls

Chicago Bulls Media Day
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Nearly four years ago to the day on April 13, 2020, Gar Forman was relieved of his duties as General Manager and John Paxson was reassigned to become the Senior Advisor of Basketball operations. To replace those two, the Chicago Bulls chose Marc Eversley as their General Manager and Arturas Karnisovas as their new Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations.

After a handful of years working in the NBA Basketball Operations office, Karnisovas would become the Assistant General Manager of the Denver Nuggets in 2013 and be promoted to General Manager in 2017.

Upon coming to Chicago, the expectations from many was a new era of Bulls basketball after several years of irrelevancy. With the Nuggets turning into a contender that season, the hope was that Karnisovas could do the same for Chicago. Almost four years later, AK has put the Bulls in basketball purgatory, a place they have been for most of the post-dynasty era.

Since joining the front office, one of the biggest criticisms that AK has received is his lack of trades and other moves to help the team improve while preaching continuity. While he did make a trade for then Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic in March 2021 (a trade that would play a role in the offseason additons of DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball), that has been the only in-season trade AK has made during his tenure as EVP of Basketball Operations. The last three trade deadlines, AK has not made a trade to help a Bulls team that has struggled post-Lonzo Ball injury.

In his four offseasons with the team, AK has made moves with little improvement to the team. While it is clear to many that the trio of Zach Lavine, DeRozan, and Vucevic does not work, AK has stuck by the trio saying they can compete in the East. After the 2021-22 season fell apart, AK would sign Andre Drummond and Goran Dragic, neither of whom addressed the Bulls' major problems.

Last offseason, the Bulls would sign Jevon Carter and Torey Craig in hopes to finally address the team's problems. While Craig has had an impact with the team, Carter has struggled to get time on the court and has performed below expectations.

AK has also been criticized for giving up on players too early. Two prime examples of this include Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr.. After having a few up and down seasons with Chicago, AK would trade Markkanen to the Cleveland Cavaliers as a part of a three team deal, receiving Derrick Jones Jr, a 2022 first-round pick and, 2023 second-round pick as a part of the trade. Since then, Markkanen has been traded to the Jazz, where he's blossomed into a star with an All-Star appearance to his name.

Wendell Carter Jr. would be a part of the Vucevic trade, a trade that many Bulls fans have considered one of the worst in the franchise's histroy. Trading Carter after less than 100 games with the team, he has blossomed into a key starter for the Magic. At the same time, Vucevic has been on the decline during his Bulls tenure.

Another criticism that AK has received is his use of the team's draft picks. AK has drafted several players who are not league ready, focusing more on player development. Chicago's first draft picks under AK were Patrick Williams and Marko Simonovic. Williams was drafted top four over players including Tyrese Haliburton and Tyrese Maxey with Bulls nation divided as to whether he is a bust or has a future with the team. Simonovic spent the majority of his career with the G-League Windy City Bulls and is now playing overseas.

In 2021, AK would make easily his best draft pick with Ayo Dosunmu. After a promising rookie year and down sophomore year, Dosunmu has turned into a reliable sixth man who guarantees double digit points every night. Re-signing Dosunmu for a three-year $21 million deal this past offseason, AK has receievd credit for the deal with the success the young guard has seen this season.

In 2022, the Bulls would draft Dalen Terry, who has received the bust label from many fans, seeing almost no time on the court and struggling to make an impact when he is on the court. In 2023, the Bulls would draft Julian Phillips, who has shown some promise on the defensive end, but is another player who needs to develop.

The 2021 and 2023 first-round picks would be traded to Orlando would become Franz Wagner (2021) and Jett Howard (2023). Wagner has become a borderline All-Star in only three seasons and is a core piece of the Magic. The 2025 first-round pick is going to San Antonio (unless it falls in the top-10) as a part of the DeRozan trade. With Zach Lavine's time in Chicago likely coming to an end by the 2025 trade deadline, the fear many Bulls fans have is that AK will give up another first-round pick to get off of his contract.

With the outlook for the team not looking great in the coming years, many within Bulls Nation have lost faith in AK, comparing him to previous Bulls management. GarPax made many of the choices AK has made during his tenure, trading away promising pieces and making questionable choices with the roster. In the 18 years the front office duo was in charge, the Bulls drafted and immediately traded several future stars including LaMarcus Aldridge and Jusuf Nurkic.

To this day, many look back at the 2017 Jimmy Butler trade as one of the worst alongside the Vooch trade. Trading Butler to the Timberwolves for a package including Zach Lavine and Lauri Markkanen, the Bulls failed to rebuild while Butler has made two trips two the NBA Finals as the number one player on his team. Following the Butler trade, GarPax was not even able to build a competitive team, finishing near the bottom of the East for several years before AK was hired.

With another rebuild inevitable in the next handful of years, the expectations from Bulls nation are low. AK's tenure with the Bulls has looked similar to run of GarPax, having a few stretches of luck while the team has mainly disappointed. Even though AK is not 100% at fault for the Bulls play over the last handful of seasons, he is the one who has taken most of the blame. If AK does not make changes to the Bulls, history will continue to repeat itself in Chicago.