A Look at the Draft Lottery and the Bulls Options


May 20

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or their Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

No, the Clippers aren’t going to mess up the first pick in the NBA draft.

They’re taking Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin after Tuesday moving up ahead of the Kings and Wizards in the NBA draft lottery.

“It shouldn’t take us that long to figure out what we will do,” said vice president Andy Roeser. “I will look forward to hearing from all 29 teams before we (decide to) keep the pick. You never now what your crazy partners in this business will (offer). The likelihood is we will keep the pick. Stars don’t come along that often. When they do you have to realize how fortunate you are to have gotten one.”

But the Clippers getting the top pick presents some interesting opportunities for the Bulls, and is a relief of sorts.

The relief is because of the concern, actually in the entire Eastern Conference, of the Wizards ending up with the No. 1 pick. It was a potential Spurs like scenario when David Robinson was injured and the Spurs fell into Tim Duncan and a dynasty.

Griffin is no Duncan, though this is a one player draft. But with Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood due back from injuries, it was a chance with Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison for the Wizards to quickly get into top four contention in the East with someone like Griffin. Better to have the impact players go west.

Washington fell the maximum three spots to No. 5, and the Kings, represented, perhaps appropriately by Chris Webber, fell the maximum three spots to No. 4.

Memphis made the biggest jump, going from the sixth best chance to No. 2 while the Thunder moved up from No. 4 to No. 3. Expect the Thunder to offer the Clippers everyone but Kevin Durant for home stater Griffin. They’ll try to get mascots Boomer and Sooner, as well. Don’t expect the Clippers to bite.

But the Clippers moving to No. 1 presents an interesting possibility for the Bulls, among other teams.

Griffin is probably better than any of the three big men the Clippers now have: Zach Randolph, Chris Kaman and Marcus Camby. It’s likely all three will be available in trade, though the Clippers won’t trade all three. The Bulls were close to a multi team deal for Kaman last fall, though it’s not clear if the Bulls have as much interest anymore.

Kaman is a true center and would enable Joakim Noah to play power forward, which might be his best position. Kaman would complement Noah better than Tyrus Thomas since Kaman can shoot. But Kaman has been injury prone and carries a contract for $10.4 million next season. His contract goes through the 2011-12 season.

The Clippers now probably would take an expiring contract for him. But by doing so, the Bulls would put themselves out of the potential 2010 free agency sweepstakes. They could wait until 2010 and come up empty. They could go now for Kaman, though he’s hardly been consistent and healthy.

The Bulls previously had interest in Camby, who is in the final year of his contract. Though he doesn’t particularly fit with Noah because Camby is similarly a shot blocker and defensive player, he could be an intriguing addition. Because he has an expiring deal, the Clippers likely would want in return an expiring contract, and likely something else of substance. I’d give up the No. 16 pick and some expiring deals if the Clippers would do that.

I’d want no part of Randolph. But the Clippers will get plenty of offers for Camby because of his expiring contract status and may like his fit better with Griffin because of his size.

I’m not a big fan of this draft. But if the Bulls were, they probably could easily get into it near the top. The top teams after the Clippers are said not to be thrilled with the possibilities and there will be a lot of talk about trades up as far as No. 2.

The second and third picks are supposed to be Spanish kid guard Ricky Rubio and center Hasheem Thabeet. Rubio, while fancy, can’t shoot much, and Thabeet has zero offensive game and is somewhat like Dikembe Mutombo.

After those two, the top picks are expected to be, in some order, Jordan Hill of Arizona, James Harden of Arizona State, Demar DeRozan of USC, Brandon Jennings, the high school kid who went overseas, Stephen Curry from Davidson, Earl Clark from Louisville, Tyreke Evans from Memphis State, Jonny Flynn from Syracuse, Gerald Henderson from Duke and James Johnson from Wake Forest.

I did my own mock draft and had the Bulls taking at No. 16 Eric Maynor, a senior point guard from Virginia Commonwealth, and at No. 26 Damion James from Texas, who is a bit of a sleeper who is coming late on many draft boards. I like Maynor as a backup and insurance if the Bulls trade/lose Kirk Hinrich and/or Ben Gordon, and James as that undersized tough interior player they could use, though with some shooting ability.

The Bulls, though, face more philosophical questions, particularly whether they’re seeking another expiring deal to try to make their mark in 2010 or trying to load up now and make a move.

There are a number of teams with expiring contracts you could take on and perhaps get their first round picks in maybe a sign and trade with Gordon or a deal for Hinrich. The Kings and Timberwolves have those players, though I’m not sure even in that top 10 whom the Bulls really would want.

The Bulls have a point guard, so forget Rubio. Thabeet is too slow for the way they play and makes Noah’s offensive game look graceful. Perhaps Hill, who is a power forward in the Chris Wilcox mold. I don’t see Harden as John Salmons is better. Some see Demar DeRozen as a future star at shooting guard. He is said to be a Kobe in training, watching all his films and imitating him. But he’s far away from being a ready product.

Henderson is a versatile, athletic guy who is intriguing. Earl Clark’s a bit like a young Tim Thomas. Even from the same area in New Jersey. I like Syracuse guard Flynn as a backup. The Knicks seem desperate for Curry, so you’d have to get ahead of No. 8 if you want him. Memphis’ Evans also is a good prospect as a backup combo guard now. Many see Dujuan Blair for the Bulls, and it’s possible in the Paul Millsap role of the guy who just gets it done. But he’s not much on offense.

The point is there are big questions about all of them but Griffin, and the Bulls have a lot of kids already in Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas. We all saw how much it meant to add veterans like Salmons and Brad Miller.

This could be the most wide open draft in years because of the general lack of enthusiasm for the top players after Griffin. And financial concerns around the league could open opportunities for the Bulls this summer since they have three big expiring contracts in those of Miller, Tim Thomas and Jerome James. But figure the Clippers are the first to be open for business. Anyone interested?

What do you think? Leave a comment below: