Bulls Bringing in Big Men Again as Draft Approaches


Jun 22

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The Bulls Tuesday are expected to take another look at Ohio State center B.J. Mullens and Pitt forward DeJuan Blair.

Which must mean the team is committed to adding front court depth.

Though Bulls general manager Gar Forman said at the Bulls’ Monday predraft press conference that the team would not hesitate to pick a point guard in Thursday’s NBA draft.

Unless, of course, a better forward or shooting guard were available.

You get the point. Guards and otherwise.

Nyaah, nyaah, nyaah, we’re not saying.

This would be mostly because the other 29 teams aren’t saying, either.

There’s a good reason because only the Los Angeles Clippers with the No. 1 overall pick and Blake Griffin virtually in the fold are sure what they want to do.

The Bulls? They have two draft picks, Nos. 16 and 26. There are few secrets by then. This is what the Bulls draft room will look like Thursday night: They’ll have six players they are comfortable with. After the pizza is eaten, anyway. As the players get selected, they’ll cross them off and then hope when it comes to No. 16 they’ll have two or three to select from.

Forman was predictably evasive, though a lot more forthcoming than Jerry Krause ever was as Forman met with reporters during draft week. Krause didn’t. John Paxson did as well, and though he was at the Berto Center Monday and in strategy and planning meetings, he let Forman handle the lot desperate for a morsel of information, though the Bulls declined to confirm or deny any more workouts.

Forman’s job this week, like most team executives, is to not give away your hand and hope you can read a bluff. It’s a lot like poker. The idea is to find a stud.

That seems unlikely at No. 16.

Mullens is the so called project. That means he’s seven feet tall. He’s athletic (translation: coordinated as in walking and operating a Blackberry), and if you truly want to be a championship team you need size. The Bulls have been fun in most recent years. But smurfs usually are.

Blair, the other inside returnee, isn’t quite as big, but much meaner. He’s had red flags around him much of the draft season because of previous knee surgeries after being projected by some in the top 10. Many doctors said much the same about Sean Elliott, who had a productive NBA career. That’s how guys get to No. 16, and as Forman reiterated Monday, rebounding is rebounding. You don’t exactly teach it. You do it or you don’t. Blair is far more ready.

An organization’s duty is to do the best for the long term goals of the organization. Where the Bulls have had issues with this is melding that with the coach’s desires. Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro isn’t exactly in line now for a multiyear extension. Say you pick a big man who isn’t ready? Does he ever get a chance to play? Do you have to send him to the D-league? And then how does that look? But enough already with the undersized guys at every position, eh?. That only gets you so far. As we’ve seen with the Bulls.

Figure Blair and Mullens on the list.

I expect Mullens to be there. There has been talk the Pistons want him, but he may not be a high priority as the rumors continue they’ll go for Carlos Boozer in free agency and bring back Antonio McDyess. I don’t see how they then can also add Ben Gordon. So we’ll see if there’s anything to those rumors.

Forman acknowledged the Bulls have looked at trading up or down or out, that being just about all the directions. There have been rumors of a Kirk Hinrich trade with my old Portland possibilities surfacing, and questions about Ben Gordon’s free agency, which doesn’t come until July 1.

The trade up possibility is most often mentioned with New Jersey at No. 11. They’ve shown interest in Tyler Hansbrough. The consensus has been you can get him before Utah at No. 20. But as players get scrutinized and more warts exposed, Hansbrough’s stock has been rising. If the Nets were to move down to 16, it’s possible they might not get him. I’ve heard potential interest by the Suns at No. 14.

The Suns also have had eyes on Louisville’s Earl Clark as have the Pistons, which is why Clark probably blew off the Bulls scheduled workout Sunday. He seems assured he’ll go before No. 16.

That could push James Johnson down. The Wake Forest product had a good workout for the Bulls and is an unusual talent given his size and ability to handle the ball. But he’s said to never have met an opponent who couldn’t get by him.

There always are guys on the move as teams scrutinize the workouts and films and Monday I heard Xavier’s Derrick Brown as a so called sleeper who could move up along with Florida State’s Toney Douglas.

Actually, if I were the Bulls I might take a hard look at Hansbrough at No. 16. He’s pooh poohed as a below the rim player with a low ceiling, which, to me, often leads teams astray in the draft. They try to find the star all the time and you can pass by a player as a result. And, after all, what’s the chance of getting a star out of this draft?

You know with Hansbrough he’s going to go to the boards every time and four games in five nights are only going to find him asking why they had to have a day off.

Same with Duke’s Gerald Henderson. He’s more highly regarded than Hansbrough, but carries the knock of a low ceiling. Meaning in the current vernacular, he is what he is. As opposed to what he isn’t, I guess.

Anyway, he’s an athlete, a competitor and a defensive player. And the NBA is more a What Can You Do For Me Now league. Henderson’s tough and strong and looks ready to contribute, if not with the so called upside of players like DeMar DeRozen, Ricky Rubio and Tyreke Evans.

Washington at No. 5 has been the most active in trying to trade out of the draft. But they want you to take Etan Thomas and Mike James, who both have expiring deals. The price seems way too high.

Minnesota at No. 6 has been the most active trying to move up to No. 2 and supposedly offering Randy Foye, whom they don’t want to pay, anyway, in the changeover of administration. Minnesota has been linked to Hasheem Thabeet or Rubio.

The Grizzlies at No. 2 are said to be debating among Thabeet, Rubio and Stephen Curry. Owner Mike Heisley holds the tiebreaker, as he did last year in swinging the O.J. Mayo deal. Heisley tried desperately to get Michaal Beasley before settling for Mayo. He likes to make big things things happen on draft day and remains the wild card.

Rubio is worrying some because he hasn’t worked out for anyone. Though he wants to play in the NBA, the teams with Nos. 2, 3 and 4 cannot afford the embarrassment of a player who stays in Europe. As young as he is and with a troublesome buyout and mercurial behavior thus far, it wouldn’t be far fetched for Rubio to sign up in Europe for a few more years. It seems a huge risk for a top five or six team, though he is projected in that range. It’s also why teams after five are beginning to prepare for the possibility of taking him as a future pick. Mess ups like that cost jobs.

If you were to deal with Washington, the assumption is Griffin, Thabeet, Rubio and James Harden would be gone. The top guys right after that are said to be Jonny Flynn, Tyreke Evans, Jordan Hill and Stephen Curry, though Curry and Evans also have been mentioned as top four picks. Monday I was hearing Sacramento getting cold feet about Rubio and looking at Flynn, Jrue Holiday and Evans.

So, see what teams like the Bulls are dealing with. The guys in the top five don’t seem to know what they want to do or can do. The big problem, GM’s are saying, is when you have a top five pick you are expected to have an impact player. The higher the pick the bigger the salary and greater the community expectations and media demands. It’s why some teams even would rather be in the seven to 10 range to get a good player but basically not having to pick your guy and get a failure. The thinking is someone highly rated will slip through and then you’ll look like a winner. With instant draft analysis, it helps with job security.

It’s why Forman mentions point guard.

There are questions about Brandon Jennings, the 6-1 scoring guard who passed on college for Europe. If Hansbrough were to move up along with, say Ty Lawson, who some say has a lottery team interested, then someone could slip through. Maybe Jennings. What if it’s a guard and the Pistons don’t want one at No. 15 because maybe they’re after Ben Gordon? If the Suns have a deal for Shaq, maybe they don’t go for a point guard as many believe they will and need the best big.

When you are in the middle of the first round, you have to forget about position and need and take talent. There should be a talented player available at No. 16. The Bulls wish they knew whom.

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