Almost immediately after Arturas Karnisovas took over as Executive VP of the Chicago Bulls, his first major decision was firing Gar Forman as GM. The only thing he said about it was the two just didn’t share like-minded philosophies. People will think that this is the extent of Karnisovas’ involvement in the demise of Forman from former Executive of the Year to one of the most reviled front office men in Bulls history.
That actually isn’t quite true.
The true starting point took place back in 2014. Keep in mind, this was a time when Forman still had a firm grip on his job. He’d built a perennial playoff contender and seemed untouchable. However, the Bulls still weren’t quite good enough to make a deep run. So he decided to make a bold move in that year’s draft. A move Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report called the worst mistake the franchise has made in the past 20 years.
“Doug McDermott was one of the best players in men’s college basketball, and Chicago didn’t feel the Creighton product would be available at their draft spot.
In order to move up, the Bulls traded both of their 2014 first-round picks and a 2015 second-rounder to the Denver Nuggets for the rights to McDermott at No. 11.
The Nuggets used the two firsts to take Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris, while players like Nikola Jokic, Clint Capela, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris and Jordan Clarkson were still on the board.
While Nurkic and Harris have become valuable starters for the Portland Trail Blazers and Nuggets, respectively, McDermott averaged just 8.2 points per game in two-and-half seasons in Chicago.”
Arturas Karnisovas helped break Forman’s grip with McDermott trade
One great thing about sports is it’s impossible to predict the crazy connections that develop over time. Denver completely fleeced the Bulls in that trade. The assistant GM who helped make that happen? Yep, Karnisovas. It can’t be understated how disastrous that move was in hindsight. Missing out on a clear stud in Nurkic was bad enough because they could’ve just stayed put. Yet they even drafted the wrong small forward. T.J. Warren went to Phoenix just three picks later. He’s averaged 15.2 points per game for his career.
Almost double McDermott’s 8.2.
That move only continued to haunt Forman not long afterward. In February of 2017, he sent McDermott, Taj Gibson, and a 2nd round pick to Oklahoma City for Cameron Payne, Anthony Morrow, and Joffrey Lauvergne. None of them did anything in Chicago and only helped speed up the team’s decline.
Meanwhile, Denver used that trade to help build the foundation for their recent resurgence as Western Conference contenders. That success led to his eventual union with the Bulls and in a bitter twist of irony Forman’s final demise. Sports can be so cool.