Poof! Bulls 2021 first-round draft pick Magic-ally goes to Orlandoon June 23, 2021 at 12:51 am

Panic doesn’t seem to exist in the House of Karnisovas.

In the handful of Zoom meetings Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has had with the media since his takeover of the new regime, that point has been made very clear in both the way he speaks and carries himself.

Setbacks are for other organizations to dwell on. With Karnisovas there’s always the next plan.

After Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery saw the Bulls come up dry, that next-plan-up mentality is about to be tested.

Not that Karnisovas & Co. were banking on help from the lottery. That dwindled back at the March trade deadline when the Bulls went big swing in acquiring All-Star center Nikola Vucevic and forward Al-Farouq Aminu from Orlando for Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr., and more importantly, two first-round picks from both the upcoming 2021 draft and the 2023 draft.

The details of that ’21 pick were that the Bulls could still retain it because it was Top 4 protected, but in finishing the regular season in the eighth slot those chances were just 20.3%. Chances that ended with the bouncing of balls landing outside that protected area, officially awarding that No. 8 draft pick to the Magic.

A scenario that Karnisovas sounded very comfortable in dealing with last month.

“If we don’t get our pick we still have a second round pick,” Karnisovas said very matter-of-factly. “We have free agency and trades to get better. We have a lot of free agents this year and I think leading to Aug. 1 [the start of free agency] is going to be huge preparation for us.”

That’s all well and good, but in what was considered a very good ’21 draft class, especially in the lottery portion of it, Karnisovas’ preparation will need to lead to some real creativity.

The glass half-full approach is, yes, the Bulls can still try and hit on a second-round pick next month, but more importantly the deal with the Magic netted them a double-double machine in Vucevic, giving them a one-two punch with fellow All-Star Zach LaVine.

Teams with multiple foundation All-Stars – flawed or not – aren’t easy to find. As far as Karnisovas was concerned, that speaks louder to possible free-agent targets than a 19-year-old prospect who could reach an All-Star ceiling someday or have the ceiling crash around him by Year 3.

“I think when you have a foundation of let’s say two All-Stars in one place, I think it’s easier to add additional things that we need,” Karnisovas said. “So we’re going to discuss the needs of the team and we’ll attack it during free agency.”

As for the team the Bulls made that Vucevic deal with? Orlando not only landed the No. 8 from the Bulls, but also hit on No. 5 overall.

The two biggest winners on the evening, however, were Detroit, who landed the top overall pick and will likely select Oklahoma State point guard Cade Cunningham, and then Toronto, who pulled off what Karnisovas did last season, jumping from the No. 7 slot to the No. 4 pick.

There’s a good chance that Gonzaga point guard Jalen Suggs could be there for the Raptors, which is a real gut-punch for the Bulls.

The ultra-competitive Suggs would be the ideal point guard to play alongside LaVine, not only because of his defense and play-making, but how he has always displayed that “it” factor that impacts winning.

The heartache for the Bulls’ front office was that No. 7 spot seemed to be a lock with under two weeks left to go, but while Toronto basically folded up the tents and lost 10 of its last 11 games, the Bulls won five meaningless games in that time, including a May 13 win over the Raptors, moving to eighth.

Read More

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *