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Bulls Tip Their Hand with a ‘Promise’

The Bulls have apparently made a promise with Chandler Hutchison, a 6’7”, 22-year-old wing player who spent four years at Boise State, to take him with the 22nd pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.

Hutchison recently withdrew from pre-draft activities in Chicago. Shortly thereafter, rumors surfaced that he had apparently “found a safe landing spot” at 22 with the Bulls. This move likely comes in response to Michael Porter Jr’s draft stock continually rising, making it far less likely he’ll be around by the time the Bulls make the 7th pick and forcing them to fill their need at wing elsewhere.

When it comes to the NBA Draft, though, a promise is far from a guarantee. Boston made a promise to take Junior-College standout Kedrick Brown with the 11th pick in 2001, and the Celtics made good on their promise. Unfortunately, Brown never did, and averaged less than four points per game in his brief NBA career.

Since that time, promises are still made on a yearly basis, but they’re not always kept. Just two years ago, the Bulls had another ‘promise’ in place to take Wade Baldwin with the 14th pick but opted for swingman Denzel Valentine instead.

It’s safe to say that promises, especially outside of the lottery, are murky territory.

There’s a chance that these promises are just a smoke screen. Teams can make these promises to drum up interest in players who are suddenly “off limits” in hopes that prospects who they value more eventually end up slipping to them. Prospects could reap the rewards of the resulting bidding war, but they also risk having the rug pulled out from under them. After all, basketball is a business.

But let’s imagine for a second that this promise holds true, and Hutchison ends up coming to Chicago. That means the Bulls are attempting to address one of their biggest needs, a versatile wing scorer, with the 22nd pick.

Hutchison, who started every game in his Junior and Senior seasons at Boise State, was a late bloomer at the NCAA level. While he doesn’t get the pub as some of the higher-ranking prospects like Porter Jr or Mikal Bridges, he has a similar skillset.

He averaged 20 points per game last season while shooting 36% from deep. His PER of 25.9 is higher than Porter, Bridges and even Kevin Knox, another wing player projected to go ahead of him.

He also pulled down nearly eight rebounds per game and is currently the strongest defensive player of the bunch. While the Mountain West Conference isn’t exactly a powerhouse on the NCAA scene, Hutchison received All-Conference honors in the past two seasons and lead the Broncos back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015.

In terms of getting value at 22, I actually like the pick and hope the promise holds true. But that also means there’s a much higher probability that they’ll use the 7th pick to address their other (and arguably their) biggest need: a center to pair in the front court with Lauri Markkanen.

As I’ve written about before, I strongly believe that the Bulls’ best bet to shore up that need is to trade up to secure the number one overall pick to take DeAndre Ayton. An interesting development on that front is that the Phoenix Suns, current owner of the 1st pick, are now open to trading that pick. But either way moving up from 7th to 1st would be as costly as it would be prudent.

Additionally, Sun Times reporter (and former classmate at Loyola) Madeline Kenney has heard that the Bulls have essentially ruled out moving up from the 7th pick.

Bummer, Maddie.

Surely, a lot can change in the 30 or so days left until players actually hear their name called on draft night. But if we’re led to believe that the Bulls are sticking with the 7th pick, you’d have to hope they’re targeting a center, especially with Hutchison waiting in the wings.

Wendell Carter Jr. is likely the only impact center who will be left on the board at the 7th pick. Mohamed Bamba is the best defensive center in the draft, and he seems to be rising in mock drafts by the day.

Carter Jr., while shorter than Ayton or Bamba, is actually the best three-point shooter of the bunch. He converted over 41% from deep in his only year at Duke while still managing to accumulate almost three blocks per 36 minutes. He’s not the offensive player Ayton is; he’s not the defensive player Bamba is. But he’s clearly better than either player’s weakness.

If the Bulls hold on to the 7th pick, that’s about as good of a player that you can hope for. He’s probably not going to deliver the immediate impact of an Ayton or a Bamba on one side of the ball, but he’s equipped to make a decent impact on both ends.

Unfortunately, Maddie wasn’t done ruining my day: she also noted that the Bulls haven’t ruled out drafting a guard, namely Trae Young, even though they claim to be comfortable with Kris Dunn as the starting point guard going forward.

A ‘promise’ to a wing player like Hutchison should hopefully mean the Bulls are targeting Wendell Carter Jr., while still holding out a sliver of hope that Bamba or Porter Jr fall into their laps. However, passing on a player who’d fill a need to opt for an erratic commodity like Trae Young reeks of “only the Bulls.”

When it comes to the Bulls front office, the 7th pick can become as big of an obstacle to their rebuild as it could be a commodity. Let’s pray they do the right thing.