Bulls Ripped for Missing Out on Rival’s Rising Star

Chicago Bulls

Getty Franz Wagner #22 of the Orlando Magic reacts after a basket.

The Chicago Bulls could have drafted Franz Wagner. They originally held the draft pick that was used to take the German wunderkind who acclimated himself quite well in his first year out of the University of Michigan.

Wagner averaged 15.2 points on 55.9% true shooting and 35.6% from beyond the arc with 4.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists as a rookie. He also averaged nearly 1.0 steal a game across his 79 appearances for the Orlando Magic.

All of those were starts.

His rapid development, along with the apparent rapid decline of one of the other principles in that trade, Nikola Vucevic, has the Bulls catching heat for their decision then and their outlook going forward.

Bulls Should be ‘Queasy’ Over Wagner

“The Bulls made the move to get Nikola Vucevic because…they’re trying to hit the gas,” argued Brian Windhorst during “The Hoop Collective” podcast. “And the Bulls are watching their draft pick potentially do really well…I would feel a little bit queasy, not only about how well Wagner is doing. But their pick this year still goes to Orlando, top-four protected…You wouldn’t feel great about the situation there.”

Chicago traded the pick the Magic used to select Wagner eighth-overall in 2021 in a package to land Vucevic. Wagner showed a nice all-around game in his first year, looking very capable on and off the ball on both sides of the court.

“And Wendell Carter is already better than Nikola Vucevic so it’s pretty much a disaster across the board,” said Windhorst’s co-host, Tim Bontemps. “At minimum, you want to say they’re the same level player. But Vucevic is going [down], Wendell is going [up]. And Wendell is on a better contract…this has been an absolute disaster for the Bulls.”

Vucevic is heading into the final year of his contract but shares a mutual interest with the Bulls in working out a contract extension despite public perceptions of his play.

Carter Jr. signed a four-year, $50 million extension ahead of last season following a career year.

Bulls Outlook Cloudy as Ever

Bontemps also dinged the Bulls for owing another pick to the Magic this year in a “loaded” class adding that, even if healthy, they are not locks to make the playoffs next season, a sentiment the show’s other co-host, Tim McMahon echoed.

“I think they’ll probably be a Play-In Tournament team almost no matter what,” Bontemps contended. “But that’s not what the Bulls envisioned…I’d feel pretty queasy if I was running the Bulls right now looking at it saying, ‘What direction is this team going in what’s a loaded Eastern Conference with an older talent pool already on the roster”

McMahon said he would bet on the Magic to win a playoff series before the Bulls over the next five years. He also made it clear what the Bulls were missing out on in Wagner whom he called “competitive” and said has the potential to be someone who “you can run a lot of stuff through.”

Bontemps responded by calling Wagner a “two-way player” saying that those types of players are the “most premium asset” in the NBA today.

Did Karnisovas Guess Correctly?

Karnisovas has been questioned about the lack of two-way players on this roster.

He said during his exit interview that he would be “looking at everything” this offseason to upgrade the roster. Chicago signed vets Goran Dragic and Andre Drummond and drafted Dalen Terry 18th-overall.

Whether or not those additions help flesh out the roster enough to withstand both the absence of their starting point guard and improved competition remains to be seen.

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