$207 Million All-NBA Star Thought He Would Be Drafted by Bulls

Chicago Bulls

Getty Picks one through 30 are seen on the board at the conclusion of the first round during the 2018 NBA Draft

There is a certain ring to “Chicago Bulls point guard, Trae Young” and at least one person thought that was going to be the case. The Bulls would look very different and would be facing a different set of offseason questions.

The Bulls are preparing for a summer full of rumors and drama. On top of Zach LaVine’s free agency, they also have to get Lonzo Ball back in action from his torn meniscus.

Young’s Atlanta Hawks are trying to get him some help after they suffered a similar 4-1 first-round playoff loss as the Bulls. In their series against the Miami Heat, Young was hounded much in the way that DeMar DeRozan was against the Milwaukee Bucks.

But just how close were these two experiences to being different parts of the same story?


How Close is ‘Almost’?

Young joined Bulls broadcaster Stacey King on his “Gimme The Hot Sauce” podcast to discuss a wide variety of topics. The now-infamous 2018 NBA Draft came up. Young was taken fifth overall by the Dallas Mavericks and then immediately re-routed to Atlanta in exchange for Luka Doncic.

That has fueled a debate that still rages on.

But, in Young’s detailed account of his draft experience, he shared a tidbit that is fit for an episode of Marvel’s “What If…?”.

“To be honest, the day of the draft, I didn’t think I was going to Atlanta. I thought I was going to go to either Orlando at six or, if I fell to seven, go to ya’ll.”

That got King and co-host Mark Schanowksi riled up with the former telling Young, “Don’t tell us that, Trae. That hurt us.”

Young continued with his recount.

“I didn’t think about any trades. I didn’t hear about the trade going on all day. I didn’t know that Dallas was thinking about trading with Atlanta until literally two picks before I got drafted. So, all day I’m thinking…I knew I was going either sixth to Orlando or seventh to ya’ll.”


Bulls Backup Plan

Young’s tale elicited another sigh of disgust from King. Schanowski reiterated his co-host’s “that hurt” comment before recapping Young’s pre-draft visit with the Bulls in 2018.

“I remember when Trae came to the Advocate Center and worked out and you said some great things about the Chicago franchise….All of us in the media got excited about the possibility of you coming to join the Bulls. Then all of a sudden, as the draft got close, we thought, “well, he’s going to be gone by the time the Bulls pick at seven.”

Young called that workout “exciting” and “fun”.

The Bulls came away with Wendell Carter Jr. They traded Carter to the Orlando Magic at the 2021 trade deadline, landing center Nikola Vucevic. Carter has since signed a four-year, $50 million extension ahead of this past season.

Vucevic could be on his way out of Chicago after struggling to adjust to being the third option.

Young just earned his first All-NBA honor after finishing the season as the first person to lead the league in both total assists and total points since Tiny Archibald in 1973.


Past, Present, Future

NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson said the Hawks were linked to LaVine in free agency. That they have Young and could lure LaVine away is not insignificant. The Bulls never even had a chance to take the dynamic point guard. But it is fair to wonder how that would have changed things.

Both former executive vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman were out of those roles two seasons later.

It would be unfortunate for the Bulls to see him leave, no matter the destination. But, after hearing Young thought he could have been drafted by the Bulls, a LaVine exit for Atlanta would hurt even worse.

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