The Chicago Bulls have fast-tracked an Orlando Magic rebuild that has taken on many iterations in the last decade-plus.
Their last act of charitability comes in the form of the No. 11 pick in the 2023 NBA draft; Chicago’s final penance for the Nikola Vucevic trade at the 2021 trade deadline. The Bulls missed the playoffs this season but were not bad enough to land their pick among the top four and keep the pick which was protected if it fell within the top four picks.
And the Magic could land exactly the kind of prospect they could use: UConn’s Jordan Hawkins.
“Hawkins led all projected prospects in 3-pointers made, making 39% of his attempts on UConn’s path to a national championship,” writes ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony in his latest mock from May 16. “He is more than a standstill shooter, showing significant versatility on the move while getting to the free throw line at a strong rate and making strides with his passing and defense. With often-injured Gary Harris entering the final season of his contract, a sharpshooting, plug-and-play wing like Hawkins makes sense.”
Hawkins averaged 16.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.3 assists for the Huskies during the regular season, shooting 40.9% from the floor, 38.8% from beyond the arc, and 88.7% on free throws.
He didn’t miss a beat in the NCAA Tournament, either.
The 6-foot-6 Hawkins averaged 16.3 points and 3.2 boards while shooting 43.5% overall and 50% on threes en route to a National Championship, the first for UConn’s men’s program since 2014 when they were led by former first-round pick (No. 24 in 2014) Shabazz Napier. That profile would fit nicely on a Bulls team that ranked 30th in three-pointers taken and made.
The Bulls Made One of the ‘Most Regrettable’ Trades
Unfortunately for the Bulls, they likely won’t get the shot to snag Hawkins unless they find a way to get back into the first round – there is a chance they could trade for the No. 23 overall pick from the Portland Trail Blazers to satisfy a different set of obligations from the three-team trade for Derrick Jones Jr.
That deal saw the Bulls trade 2022-23 Kia Most Improved Player (and first-time All-Star) Lauri Markkanen to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Even if they do come away with that pick (which was originally owned by the New York Knicks), this is just another reminder that the Bulls paid a steep price for Vucevic. Some might even say too steep.
“With Chicago not looking like a true title contender, that pick could fall in the middle of the first round, giving Orlando a ton of value overall,” wrote Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report in September, listing the deal among the worst since 2020. “While the Magic have [Wendell] Carter, [Franz] Wagner, and a 2023 first coming from Chicago, the Bulls have an offensive-minded center when they need a rim protector instead. The trade seemed iffy at the time for Chicago and has only gotten worse.”
Wagner was drafted with the Bulls’ No. 7 overall pick in 2021. He posted a 18.6/4.1/3.5 line on while shooting 48.5% from the floor, 36.1 from deep, and 84.2% at the charity stripe. Carter was their first-rounder in 2018, also taken with the No. 7 overall pick. He averaged 15.2 points, 8.7 boards, and 2.3 assists on .525/.356/.738 efficiency this past season.
The worst thing might be that the Magic players seem to know their team got the better end of the deal.
Cole Anthony Poked Fun at Bulls Trade
Magic guard Cole Anthony did not waste an opportunity to let the Bulls have it after Orlando beat Chicago in February amid the latter’s six-game skid.
The trade could look even worse if Vucevic leaves this offseason and the Bulls fail to replace him. And even more so if he ultimately finds his way back to the Magic, a possibility he said he would be open to in the future.