Should the Bulls Move up for Gerald Henderson?


Jun 8

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.

So maybe you do try to move up in the draft. I know, I know, I’m usually against that. It would cost you a good player. But the NBA is about stars, and I thought I may have run into one at the Bulls draft workouts Monday morning.

He’s Duke’s Gerald Henderson, a 6-5 junior guard who may well be a classic fit for the next 10 years with Derrick Rose.

No, there’s no way Henderson falls to the Bulls at No. 16.

Media isn’t permitted to view the workouts (no, not me, either. Haven’t you read the disclaimer on all my stories?). But we get to talk to the guys afterward and do our own research. I’ve been doing some about Henderson with scouts around the NBA and though he’s not the kind of player with the range of Ben Gordon, he’s close to 6-5 (with shoes in the NBA measurement), a big time athlete who is a strong defender. He doesn’t have great shooting range yet, which isn’t good for an NBA shooting guard. But everything I hear is this kid is a hard worker and would get there. Dare we say sounding like this Chicago guy the Bulls thought they had in 2003, Dwyane Wade?

So I asked Henderson why he’d come to Chicago when he’s most likely a top 10 pick. The rumors are there’s almost no chance he falls beyond Charlotte at No. 12 and Toronto at No. 8 has a lot of interest.

So Henderson didn’t have to break from a busy schedule of workouts. And he didn’t have to say nice things about Chicago because he doesn’t have to impress the team with the No. 16 pick.

But he really would like to play for the Bulls.

“I feel I could make a big impact,” said Henderson. “Chicago is a great basketball city, a place with a lot of history, a great market. This is a place I’d want to be regardless of where I may end up. I don’t want to look back and say I did not work out for them. You never know what can happen even down the road. I like being here and going through the process. And coming from a place like Duke I’ve had solid defensive principles I feel I could bring to the team.”

That, perhaps, was the key comment.

It’s no secret after last season that the Bulls intend to place a greater emphasis on defense. Having players committed to that helps along the way. Obviously, the Bulls have many decisions to make at guard with Ben Gordon a free agent.

One rumor that’s been around is trading Kirk Hinrich to Minnesota for an expiring deal and the No. 6 pick. That should be high enough to grab a player like Henderson. And you’d be in better position in 2010 with Hinrich’s deal off the books with more salary cap space available to perhaps make offers to two top free agents, which is one strong option for the Bulls.

But if you were to lose Gordon and Hinrich and take someone like Henderson, there’d be a void at backup point guard for Rose. Though you usually can find a cheap backup, and Rose is likely to average close to 40 minutes, anyway. Plus, the way the game is evolving, you see more small forwards running offense like Hedo Turkoglu with the Magic and LeBron James with the Cavs.

I believe Rose, with the right training and coaching, can become a good defensive player. Teaming him with players like Henderson and John Salmons could give the Bulls size and versatility and potential star power.

Among the candidates working out Monday, Henderson seemed the only one with that star potential.

Chase Budinger of Arizona was the other potential lottery level pick working out, though I doubt he goes quite that high. He’s a very skilled player who is a nice shooter with an all around game. But he doesn’t seem the Bulls style player given a relative lack of defensive intensity and projects more as a good backup.

I could see another player who was there Monday on the Bulls’ radar. That’s Omri Casspi from Maccabi Tel Aviv. He’s a 6-8 small forward who likens himself to Hedo Turkoglu, though he seems a bit to me more like Joe Alexander. One draft internet service likened him to Viktor Khryapa.

He’s a young player at 20 who needs to get stronger. He wants to play in the NBA next season, though he says he’d be open to returning to Europe for one season if the team that drafted him preferred. That might make sense with the No. 26 pick for the Bulls so they don’t take on salary that would limit them in the 2010 market.

“I want to be in the NBA,” said Casspi. “Obviously, I’m here now to show my skills and that I can play in the NBA. I’m open minded. I’m not going against the wall (challenge the team). If they want me to go to Europe next year and then bring me back, that is a good option for me, too. Now, I want to be here.”

Casspi is somewhat anxious as he’d vying to become the first native Israeli to play in the NBA. “It’s a big responsibility, but I like it,” he said. He said he’s about done with his required military commitment and wasn’t in a war zone. He also was enjoying walking around the Berto Center examining the photos and trophies of the past Bulls champions as he said he used to wake up at 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. to watch the Bulls when he was a child.

The workouts continue Tuesday with the main player of interest being Pitt’s DeJuan Blair, whom many mock drafts have had lined up toward the Bulls because he is a rugged, if undersized, rebounding forward. But he doesn’t project as a star. The draft is about getting one if you can. It’s the only real reason to get seriously involved.

What do you think? Leave a comment below: