Chicago Bulls rookie Chandler Hutchison has had a nondescript start to his NBA career. In his limited minutes on the floor, it can be easy to not even realize Hutchison’s out there because he often floats around on offense and is too passive on that end. The 22-year-old is averaging just 4.2 points, 3.5 rebounds and 0.7 assists in 17.2 minutes per game.
But as the Bulls head into 2019 with a 10-27 record, it’s time to see more of what the No. 22 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft is made of. This is especially true with Justin Holiday racking up huge minutes, Jabari Parker currently out of the rotation and Bobby Portis sidelined with an ankle injury.
Hutchison just had one of his better games of the season against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, going for 11 points on 5-of-5 shooting. He had multiple impressive finishes around the basket, including a pair with his left hand, plus he made his lone 3-point attempt at the end of the third quarter.
Hutchison only played 14 minutes and didn’t see the floor in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Holiday played the entire fourth quarter en route to a team-high 40 minutes. Holiday didn’t score in the frame and matched Hutchison with 11 points, though the veteran shot 5-of-11 overall and just 1-of-5 from 3-land.
As admirably as Holiday has performed in an oversized role this season, there’s no reason for him to be playing 40 minutes in games for a rebuilding team when a player like Hutchison is available to soak up playing time. That’s especially true considering Holiday has been slumping in a big way, and it’s even more true when Hutchison is playing well.
Bulls head coach Jim Boylen was asked afterward if he thought about inserting Hutchison back into the game, and Boylen said he didn’t. The coach likely wanted Holiday to match up with Kawhi Leonard down the stretch, but why not at least roll with Hutchison to start the fourth quarter after his strong end to the third quarter? The Bulls didn’t score for nearly three minutes to start the fourth quarter and fell into a nine-point hole before clawing back and then falling short, 95-89. The rookie may not have changed the outcome, but it would have been nice to see him thrown into the fire against an elite opponent.
At this point, the Bulls’ top priorities this season should be developing their young talent while earning another high draft pick. The main core of Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Wendell Carter Jr. will see big minutes, but Hutchison’s playing time needs to start being prioritized as well. The rookie will bring the defensive intensity Boylen requires (103.3 on-court defensive rating, per NBA.com), and he’ll gain more confidence offensively if he gets more opportunities on the court.
The Bulls’ front office should take care of this situation soon by trading Holiday to a playoff contender. There are plenty of teams in need of 3-point shooting and respectable defense off the bench, and the 29-year-old’s $4.38 million expiring contract is easy to move. While getting a first-round pick in return is far-fetched, getting a second-round pick or two plus salary filler would be acceptable.
But even if Holiday isn’t traded until closer to the Feb. 7 trade deadline, that shouldn’t stop Boylen from transferring some of the veteran’s minutes to Hutchison. It’s time to give the rookie a chance. After all, the Bulls liked him enough to make an early draft promise, so they might as well see what they have in the young forward.