The argument has been made here since the season began.
Where the Bulls draft has very little to do with the success of their rebuild.
Bulls vs. Denver Nuggets at the United Center, 7 p.m. Wednesday
Radio: WSCR 670-AM
Outlook: Denver (38-33) was in playoff position a few weeks ago but has gone 5-7 over the last 12 games, including a loss to Memphis that ended the Grizzlies’ 19-game losing streak. Top scorer Gary Harris (17.7 ppg) is out with a knee injury, leaving C Nikola Jokic (17.5 ppg), SG Jamal Murray (16.5) and SF Will Barton (15.0) as the top scorers. The Bulls dropped a tough one at Denver on Nov. 30, losing 111-110 on Barton’s driving lay-in with 3.2 seconds left. Barton finished with 37 points that night.
Next: Milwaukee Bucks at the United Center, 7 p.m. Friday
— Mike McGraw
With the NBA draft filled with one-and-done college players, it has been tougher to predict how they’ll pan out. The latest example is Utah’s Donovan Mitchell. Chosen with the 13th pick, he has been the best player from the 2017 draft.
But there are exceptions. John Paxson’s first draft after becoming general manager of the Bulls was 2003. He thought they’d be able to get Marquette’s Dwyane Wade at No. 7, but Wade was snapped up with the fifth pick by Miami.
Needless to say, the course of NBA history would have changed drastically if the Bulls chose two picks earlier in 2003. And that might explain why Bulls management seems determined to drop a few places in the standings before the regular season ends.
They put some cushion between themselves and the New York Knicks with Monday’s loss at Madison Square Garden. And they remain in no hurry to bring Zach LaVine (sore knee), Kris Dunn (toe) or Lauri Markkanen (back) to the lineup.
“Kris Dunn (toe) will not play (Wednesday vs. Denver),” coach Fred Hoiberg said Tuesday at the Advocate Center. “He’s in a walking boot. Had a bit of a setback a couple days ago, just getting out here moving around. had some swelling in his joint. He’ll be out tomorrow.
“The other two guys, we’re going to get them moving around today. I don’t think we’re going to do much contact with either of them.
“The plan with Lauri is to see how he responds with the noncontact portion and slight chance we get him out there if he feels great with contact. Zach will pretty much be non-contact and then we’ll evaluate him after today and tomorrow morning and see what their status is for the game.”
The Bulls have 12 games left in the regular season. One team they should be able to pass on the down escalator is Brooklyn, which has no reason to tank since it traded its first-round pick a year ago for Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. The pick now belongs to Cleveland.
Two of the Bulls last three games are against the Nets, so they’ll have a chance to gift Brooklyn a couple of victories. Sacramento also is just 1 game behind the Bulls in the win column.
So it’s an uncomfortable situation to be in, and perhaps unnecessary. But the Bulls seem committed to a poor finish.
LaVine talked Tuesday about the state of his knee.
“Just a little bit of tendinitis,” he said. “Just nursing it right now, trying to get it back feeling 100 percent. Going forward just making sure it feels 100 percent good before I get back out there and test it. I don’t want to hurt myself or the team. That’s the main thing.”
Hoiberg continued to insist LaVine and Markkanen will play again when they feel healthy.
“If he feels good, we want to get him back out there,” Hoiberg said. “Same thing with Lauri. All those guys want to get on the floor. If there’s no risk for further injury, then we’ll get them back out there. If there is any concern at all, we’ll take the cautious approach and continue with the plan as it is.”
• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls