Recent NBA Draft History is a new series I’m starting examining the past five years (2011-15) of draft classes for each team in the NBA. I’ll be looking at possible regrets, busts, hidden gems and then coming up with an overall grade each franchise deserves for their most recent draft picks. I’ll be taking into consideration a variety of aspects for each team’s grade, like projected growth of a player, where each was drafted and how trades might have impacted their future.
First, we’ll start with the Chicago Bulls, who have been notoriously good drafters near the end of the first round, finding impact talent more often than not dating back years prior to the 2011 season. The 2011 draft is the Bulls’ best of the past five, as they nabbed two All-Star type talents in the latter half of the first round.
Jimmy Butler was the 30th overall pick in that draft, and the Bulls managed to turn Norris Cole (who they selected with pick 28) and second-round guard Malcolm Lee into Nikola Mirotic, who might be as talented as Butler overall. Butler and Mirotic are potential building blocks of this year’s Bulls team and two major assets moving forward for the organization.
The 2012 draft was a different story. The Bulls tried to secure their backup point-guard spot for the future when selecting then-NCAA champ Marquis Teague with the 29th pick. The pick didn’t work out, and Teague was ultimately traded to the Nets in January 2014. He was then traded again to the 76ers in October 2014 before being waived immediately after being acquired by Philly. The youngster currently plays in the D-League.
In the 2013 draft, the Bulls made a solid selection at the 20th pick in New Mexico swingman Tony Snell before taking a decent flier on Erik Murphy, a sharpshooting power forward from Florida. Snell has developed into a decent two-way player, flashing greatness as a slasher and shooter last year while still developing his strength to help provide resistance on defense. Snell could be a significant piece to this year’s team with another offseason of growth and strength, but he needs to show a lot more consistency. Murphy wasn’t with the Bulls long, being waived in April 2014 after not even a season with the team. Murphy bounced around between the D-League and other NBA teams before recently signing in Turkey in July.
The 2014 draft hasn’t panned out quite how the Bulls planned so far, with forward Doug McDermott being a non-factor after a torn meniscus midseason locked him to the bench. McDermott’s range hasn’t translated to the highest level, and that’s troublesome for the lack of defense he brings on the other end of the floor. He can score in other ways, however, but his biggest asset was the shooting ability, something he’s yet to prove capable of at the NBA level (31.7 percent). The Bulls also selected second-round Australian Cameron Bairstow, who didn’t do much in his rookie season, although he showed an improved three-point shot during this past Summer League.
The 2014 draft looks bad now for the Bulls considering they traded two first-round picks (Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris) and some second-rounders to Denver in order to move up and select McDermott. However, playing for Tom Thibodeau might have hurt McDermott’s potential to make an impact because of Thibs’s unwillingness to give him a chance, so we shouldn’t give up on the Creighton product just yet. This upcoming season will tell us a lot about McDermott’s improvement as an NBA player; a season where he should show significant confidence and potentially flourish under new head coach Fred Hoiberg.
This year’s pick looks like a potential steal, as Bobby Portis has two-way potential, pick-and-pop ability and versatility to play either frontcourt spot. Portis was slated to be a mid-first-round pick, but fell into Chicago’s lap at No. 22. It’ll be intriguing to see if Portis can carve out some minutes in the Bulls’ loaded frontcourt rotation, as he certainly has the ability to contribute immediately after a promising Summer League.
When taking into consideration the past five drafts, the Bulls have made some solid selections, including two players who are a significant part of the future in Butler and Mirotic. The jury is still out on Snell, McDermott and Portis, but there’s promise with those players, and they may be key parts of the rotation moving forward as well. It should be interesting to see the growth of this core group, and when considering where each was selected, I think it’s fair to say the Bulls have done a pretty good job in the draft over the past five years.