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5 things to know about the Chicago Bulls team selection

5 things to know about the Chicago Bulls team selection

The Chicago Bulls took Matas Buzelis with the No. 11 in Wednesday’s NBA draft. Here are five things to know about the first-round pick before he joins the team for Summer League next month in Las Vegas.

Where did Buzelis play in college?

After playing high school ball for Brewster Academy in New Hampshire and Sunrise Christian Academy in Kansas, the Chicago native, who grew up in Hinsdale, opted out of college and played one season for the G League Ignite.

Ignite was envisioned as an alternate path to the NBA for high-level prospects to pursue pre-pro development against NBA-affiliated teams in the G League. The team also provided an avenue for players to earn money before declaring for the draft when the current NIL market did not exist. But Ignite teams have suffered mightily over four seasons of the G League with the youth and inexperience of their fully-teenage players.

Buzelis faced similar struggles during his year with the team, averaging 14.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists while shooting just 27.3 percent from three. But key parts of his game still translated to the G League, particularly his ability to defend the rim: He averaged 2.1 blocks per game.

Despite the Ignite’s dysfunction — they went 2-32 — Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Artūras Karnišovas believes Buzelis ultimately benefited from his season with the team.

“She played against men,” Karnišovas said. “That Ignite team just got beat. A lot of those guys came from winning programs, but they didn’t win that many games this year. But they were competing against grown men, so I think the physicality is as close as you can get to an NBA game. This is what they experienced in the G League. So hopefully that will translate to the NBA quicker for him.”

Why did the Bulls pick Buzelis?

Matas Buzelis hugs family and friends after being selected by the Chicago Bulls as the 11th pick during the first round of the NBA basketball draft, Wednesday, June 26, 2024, in New York.  (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)
Matas Buzelis hugs family and friends after the Bulls selected him with the 11th pick in the NBA draft on June 26, 2024, in New York. (Julia Nikhinson/AP)

As a 6-foot-9 wing, Buzelis offers perimeter play versatility and rim presence that the Bulls could use as they try to recalibrate the roster. They’re also starting to get younger, an organizational change that began with the trade of Alex Caruso for 21-year-old guard Josh Giddey.

At 19, Buzelis could be the latest addition to a Bulls group designed to create success in the coming seasons rather than compete for the 2025 playoffs.

In what areas can it be improved?

Pull, pull, pull.

The Bulls have embraced shooting drafts in three straight drafts, with Buzelis, Julian Phillips and Dalen Terry each entering the league with complicated shooting mechanics and poor 3-point efficiency.

A 27.3 percent 3-pointer, Buzelis will be yet another name on the rehab draft list for shooting specialist Peter Patton, who has been tasked with improving the Bulls from their previous position as the worst shooting team in 3-pointers in the NBA. .

Could the Bulls have been higher in the draft?
Karnišovas said the Bulls didn’t expect Buzelis to drop low enough to be available at No. 11, signaling they ultimately didn’t plan a trade to secure him at a higher pick. The Bulls were linked to trades to potentially pursue other players, but ultimately stuck with their selection.

Only four trades were made in the first round. In a somewhat underrated draft year, the first round was difficult to project — which makes the lack of moves in either direction understandable.

Will Buzelis play regularly next season?

G League Ignite's Matas Buzelis (13) celebrates hitting a game winner during the Rising Stars game on Feb. 16, 2024, in Indianapolis.  (AAron Ontiveros/The Denver Post)
G League Ignite’s Matas Buzelis (13) celebrates hitting a game winner during the Rising Stars game on Feb. 16, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AAron Ontiveros/The Denver Post)

That depends on a few factors – and potential developments over the next few weeks. The Bulls could be headed for a full youth movement as they shop Zach LaVine and Nikola Vučević pending a free agency decision from DeMar DeRozan.

Rookie minutes have been limited in Chicago the past two years, with 2023 pick Phillips and 2022 pick Terry averaging 6.9 per game in their rookie seasons. But the Bulls have been looking for another wing to complement Patrick Williams, who is still recovering from season-ending surgery.

If the Bulls part with their veteran core in any way — whether it’s the departure of one or all of those three players — then Buzelis could find himself on the court sooner than expected this season.