Bulls See Blair and Harangody and Have Decisions


Jun 10

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It was power forward day at the Berto Center Wednesday with some half dozen of the beefy ones banging at one another.

I had flashbacks to the 90’s: Byron Houston, Mark Randall, Corie Blount, Dickey Simpkins, Jason Caffey. The Bulls went five straight drafts from 1991 through 1995 using their first round pick on a power forward. This was after selecting Charles Oakley and Stacey King and before going for Elton Brand and Marcus Fizer.

And what do you know. The Bulls greatest current need probably is a physical power forward. They got a chance Wednesday to take a look at Pitt’s DeJuan Blair, the wide body who has a good chance of being available when the Bulls select at No. 16.

Blair is 6-6 ½, which is small for the position. But smallish power forwards who can rebound and set strong screens have been something of the rage lately in the NBA with the likes of Paul Millsap in Utah, Carl Landry and Chuck Hayes in Houston, Craig Smith in Minnesota, Brandon Bass in Dallas and Udonis Haslem in Miami.

But do you want to invest a relatively high first round pick and guaranteed contract on a player like that? Those guys mostly were second round bargains.

The mock drafts of some of the top internet services, like DraftExpress and NBADraftNet, have Blair targeted going between 10 and 14, just ahead of the Bulls.

I’m not sure.

There have been comparisons to Millsap, of course. But also to Danny Fortson and Reggie Evans, the latter a hard working low scoring forward just traded from the 76ers to the Raptors as the NBA in the last year has opened to window to allow trades during the Finals.

But given Blair weighed more than 300 pounds in high school—though he now may be closer to 255 or 260—there have been mentions of Robert “Tractor” Traylor. Heavens, even John Williams.

That’s one issue with big bodied players. They can return to having big bodies.

I wondered about this when I got a chance to talk to Blair after the workouts. He seems a pleasant, friendly, outgoing guy with a vague facial and personality resemblance to Brand.

He said he was just excited with the prospect of being drafted by an NBA team and it didn’t matter to him if he was a first or second rounder. He felt he was a unique player because of his size, and he is. He’s the robo rebounder type, the kind of guy who somehow gets the ball and makes a play. Teams need those guys. That translates well from college to the pros.

Though I asked Blair if he was working so hard now and got his weight down, why didn’t he do that in college. He seemed honest about it, at least.

“I did not have the drive I have right now during the season off the court like I did on the court,” he said. “I’m working harder. I’m more disciplined, eating right, doing everything I can.”

I appreciate someone getting more serious any time they can. Though you always wonder if it comes at the time of the job interview. The interesting issue raised at Pitt about Blair was when he declared for the draft after his sophomore season. It was something of a surprise, though there was some speculation that because he’d had two knee surgeries he wanted to take his shot at the NBA before anything happened again.

He could be a tough decision for the Bulls because there’s a good chance he is there when they pick at No. 16. This draft isn’t very strong with physical power forwards of the kind the Bulls could use. Do they take a shot at a guy like that whom many regard higher?

Along with Blair, the power forwards who could be available when the Bulls pick and project to possible rotations players are James Johnson of Wake Forest and Earl Clark of Louisville, the latter who could also play small forward. Perhaps a step down from there are Tyler Hansbrough of North Carolina and Gani Lawal of Georgia Tech, who also was at the Berto Center Wednesday.

The top power forwards are Blake Griffin from Oklahoma and Jordan Hill or Arizona. Griffin is the consensus No. 1 pick and Hill is expected to be picked in the top 10 and perhaps top five.

Which sounds like a lot of uncertainty.

By the way, the other power forwards working out Wednesday were Chris Johnson of LSU, Alade Aminu of Georgia Tech, Jeff Adrien of Connecticut, Brandon Costner of North Carolina State and Marcus Landry of Wisconsin, Carl’s brother, and Notre Dame’s Luke Harangody.

It’s not the Sox or Cubs, but Harangody’s presence brought out some TV crews because of his uncertainty about turning pro or returning to school for his senior year, which players must decide June 15.

Harangody was predictably evasive, saying he was 50-50 because both options were good for him. “There are a lot of positives on both sides,” said the 6-8 240-pound junior. “Either decision is going to be a good one. As of right now, it’s 50-50. I’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback, (which) is making it tough. I’ve got a taste for it now. I like the challenge.”

My guess—strictly personal—is Harangody opts for the draft.

I asked around the league a bit about him and got a positive response. The feeling was he looks slimmer and quicker and he’d be drafted in the second round, perhaps high.

Though rated low on most of the internet draft boards, Harangody has impressed teams with his shooting ability as a pick and pop big man. I’ve heard comparisons to Matt Bonner with the Spurs, Brian Scalabrine with the Celtics and Matt Bullard, formerly of the Rockets. Those big guys who can step out and make a shot are valuable in the NBA, particularly for matchups.

Teams seem to be interested in Harangody as a rebounder as well. Though not with the credentials or the inside play, he draws some comparisons with North Carolina’s Tyler Hansbrough for a guy who’ll work hard and be an asset to a team.

Also, I found it interesting when I asked Harangody about being a second round pick. He seemed well prepared and knowledgeable even for attending Notre Dame (hey, I’m a joker).

“Obviously, going in the second round you can get out of your contract quicker and you can also (have a better choice) of what team you want to go to (without a longer guarantee) and maybe be in a better situation,” said Harangody. “It is appealing. Sometimes that’s a better fit for a player such as myself.”

The Bulls do have that late first round pick at No. 26. And while Harangody is not generally regarded as a first rounder, he said of the Bulls: “I think they need a player like myself, physical, tough (in the) interior who also can go out and shoot it. I think I would be a great fit.”

Harangody said there still was a “strong chance” he’d return to Notre Dame. Though I’d personally doubt it. Next year’s draft is considered much stronger and deeper and it would seem a player like Harangody would have less chance of being a low first or high second then.

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