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Bulls Look at Guards Who May be in Their Future
by Sam Smith
Posted on Jun 16
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It may have been a bad day at the Berto Center Tuesday for Ben Gordon.
No, Gordon wasn’t there. But his replacement may have been.
The Bulls took a look at a half dozen guards, primarily point guards, three of whom figure to be selected in the first round and who all make some sense for the Bulls as an inexpensive replacement for unrestricted free agent Gordon.
I should say I’m a Gordon guy. I know all his flaws. I view this along the lines of my wife getting to know me and then still marrying me. But I also have seen what Gordon can do, his unique scoring ability and big shot making. Yet, I can understand why the Bulls now would begin to look away from Gordon.
I haven’t heard they are, and General Manager Gar Forman has not come off his stance that he wants to bring Gordon back. But I also heard that Gordon’s agent allegedly has been saying he has an $11 million promise from the Pistons. This could go with the promise I received to play giving me a chance to win the lottery. I’ve never fully understood the supposed Pistons interest. Not because teams don’t like Gordon. But because the Pistons have Rodney Stuckey, not a true point guard, and Richard Hamilton. Though the rumors supposedly are the Pistons would trade Hamilton. Though why trade a 6-7 shooting guard to accommodate one maybe a half foot shorter? Though I never say never in the NBA, as Phil Jackson taught me. And Michael.
Anyway, back to the Bulls.
I can see them thinking this way, even if they may not be. Gordon’s a free agent and could leave without a right to match. You have to protect yourself. You are trying to create as much flexibility for the 2010 free agent class or if some team, say Toronto, wants to offload a star. If you were to lose Kirk Hinrich you have no one to back up point guard. And, ideally, you might like to have a bigger, defensive minded backcourt with John Salmons at shooting guard and Luol Deng back at small forward. So maybe the best way to go is to add a guard who comes relatively cheaply. After all, Gordon is going to demand, what, at least $8 million annually, you’d assume, after rejecting $10 million and $9 million the previous two years. Likely more than $8 million.
You may lose him no matter what you offer. So maybe you figure you make up the offense with Salmons and Deng in regular spots and improved defense so you don’t need as much offense.
So Tuesday, the Bulls took a look at Eric Maynor from Virginia Commonwealth, Jeff Teague from Wake Forest, Nick Calathes from Florida, Tasheed Carr from St. Joseph’s, David Holston from Chicago State and Bryan Mullins from Southern Illinois via Downers Grove High School.
A word first about Carr, whom I really don’t know much about. He was a transfer from Iowa State and a convert to point guard. The workouts are closed to media. Once over, we are allowed in to interview the players. Everyone is nice. I understand. They are on job interviews. So you walk up to a player and ask a few questions. Carr came over as I went to talk to Teague to thank me for coming. I noticed he did that with others. Nice touch. Can’t say I saw that one before, though Calathes kept calling me “Sir.” I assumed he was being polite and afraid I was going to ask for a cane or walker at any time.
I spent most of my time talking with Maynor, Teague and Calathes. All are expected to be first round picks, and the word around is Teague has been impressing teams. All are in the mix for being available when the Bulls select No. 16 while Calathes could slip to No. 26 because he is playing in Greece next season.
I think he’d be a near no brainer at No. 26.
Calathes is a legitimate 6-5 point guard. Not a great athlete or explosive, but a smart player who teams have said would be perfect with the classic NBA pick and roll sets. Some have likened him to a bigger version of Kirk Hinrich, though perhaps more the point guard mentality.
He played for the Greek national team last year as he has a Greek passport because his family is from Greece. It’s an interesting decision because Calathes, 20, said playing professionally in Greece will give him a chance to make money and play against tough competition to get stronger while giving the NBA team that drafts him the chance to avoid putting him on their salary cap until the 2010 free agency class or even after as he could stay overseas two years if the team prefers. Smart kid.
“For my situation,” he said, “it helps me get better and to help me achieve my dream of playing in the NBA. And it can help a team that doesn’t want to use the first round money now.”
That sounds like it could be a team like the Bulls, who could spend the No. 26 pick on an intriguing future backup guard who can play both positions while not crowding their salary cap with two first round guarantees. Calathes has worked out for an eclectic mix of teams with low first round and high second round picks.
The night of the draft lottery I wrote a mock draft piece for the Bulls magazine—BasketBull—that goes mostly to season ticket holders. I analyzed the draft to that point and I had Maynor as the Bulls pick at No. 16.
I still think it’s possible after hearing about his workout, though I have a feeling Teague could sneak ahead if he is available. Maynor said the two, both considered mid first round picks, have been at almost every workout together and gone against one another.
Teague is smaller but quicker, sort of the Jason Terry to Maynor’s Brandon Roy. Neither figure to be quite that good, though the styles are different. Maynor is bigger and more experienced, a four year player who is more of a tempo kind of guard with a change of pace game.
Many probably remember him from his game winner to knock Duke out of the NCAA’s in the first round two years ago. He’s made a bunch of big shots and is a decent, if not great, shooter. He’s worked out for some lottery teams, like the Nets and Bucks, but also the 76ers, Timberwolves and Hornets, the latter three picking after the Bulls.
“I think this is going to be a record setting draft for point guards selected (in the first round),” Maynor said. “I’m right there with the best of them.”
Teague is a jet, about 6-1 but with great leaping and long distance shooting ability. He draws comparisons to those waterbug guards like the 76ers Lewis Williams and the Rockets Aaron Brooks, the latter who tormented the Lakers. But he also shot 44 percent on threes last season, showing some comparisons to Gordon, if not likely the pure shooting ability.
“I can score the ball at that point guard,” said Teague. “I bring another gear with my speed to get up and down the floor and I can pressure the ball. I take pride in my defense.”
I asked Teague about the other small, quick guards in this draft like Jonny Flynn and Brandon Jennings with Flynn having worked out for the Bulls. “I feel I’m as good as any of those guys,” he said. “I think I’m better than them. I’m confident.”
It could be an interesting dilemma for the Bulls if someone like Teague or Maynor is available at No. 16, and there’s all this uncertainty about Gordon.