Gar Forman’s mission statement is very clear this time of year.
“Our philosophy has been we’re going to draft who we feel the best player on the board is at that time,’’ the Bulls general manager said, when discussing the draft philosophy used in his tenure. “We take from physical tools to their skill level to their ceiling, obviously their background work, all those things are taken into account.’’
It sounds good on paper, but also very vague. GM-speak 101. And at the end of the day, it sounds very safe.
That’s really been the trademark of this front office’s draft in most instances. An upper classman, big-name program, and some NCAA Tournament experience on his side. Denzel Valentine and Doug McDermott have been the most recent examples of that.
When Forman has gambled and gone outside the box, in most cases it’s been a big-time fail.
Tony Snell was the pick in 2013, despite then-coach Tom Thibodeau wanting Gorgui Dieng. A year earlier, Thibodeau and former assistant coach Ron Adams coveted Draymond Green, but Forman was rumored to be talked into Kentucky point guard Marquis Teague by Wildcats coach John Calipari.
For a front office that insists that it’s important to build from in-house, they sure make a habit of leaving some major holes in the kitchen walls.
That’s why it’s just about time for a change in philosophy.
Enter Michael Reinsdorf, Bulls president and COO.
The Sun-Times reported earlier this season that Michael Reinsdorf continued to grab more responsibility in the running of the Bulls, and while he shares the last name of his father – and Bulls chairman – Jerry Reinsdorf, he definitely has his own views on the direction of this organization.
Multiple sources indicated that Michael Reinsdorf was increasingly examining every department of the franchise throughout this season, including the draft history under Forman, and that bodes well for Bulls fans.
The days of seemingly handing out lifetime scholarships to front office personnel – a trademark of Jerry Reinsdorf – could start being revoked under Michael.
Thursday’s NBA Draft will be a good starting point to gauge if Forman is starting to feel that pressure and accountability.
If the Bulls use the 16th overall pick to grab a player like North Carolina’s Justin Jackson, it’s the sad business as usual approach. Safe, athletically challenged, and not what this roster needs.
If Terrance Ferguson, OG Anunoby or a Donovan Mitchell is the pick – all athletes with a high-upside – maybe message heard by Forman.
The third scenario that is churning through the rumor mill? Jimmy Butler and a trade to the Celtics. Again.
As of Monday, the Bulls were still only taking calls on Butler, not making them. The same approach that’s gone on since the February trade deadline.
Sources indicated that the asking price for Butler remains almost insurmountable, and that also won’t change as Thursday approaches. So while many on the outside have enjoyed trying to connect the Butler-to-Boston dots, they have failed to take into account Michael Reinsdorf’s competitiveness.
Butler has reached All-NBA status at age 27, and the feeling is that Michael wants Forman and VP of basketball operations John Paxson to prove they can build around that type of talent. That starts with adding more young players in this draft, and fully seeing what they have in assets from the past few drafts in Bobby Portis and Valentine.
“To say just blow it up when you don’t have some certainty that this is really you taking a major step [forward],’’ Paxson said at the end of the season, “it’s easy to say it. It’s tough to do.’’