Analyzing the Bulls’ 2011 draft


Jun 24

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.

I’d grade the Bulls draft pretty well, though incomplete for now given we won’t know for a few years what they have in Nikola Mirotic, the 6-10 scoring forward from Montenegro whom the Bulls acquired for their Nos. 28 and 43 picks.

So they add for their roster just Marquette’s Jimmy Butler, a rugged big/guard small forward defender.

And the Bulls obviously made it clear to Butler his role given telephone comments Butler made to Chicago media after the draft from his home in Texas: “I think I’m a guard. That’s how I’m going to make my mark in this league. I’m going to put in that work to be able to guard LeBron (James), Dwyane Wade and all those guys so the Bulls can get to that championship.”

Butler, similar as a player to Ronnie Brewer, also talked about improving his shooting range, but I doubt he’ll get many such opportunities. The Bulls, I believe, look at Butler as another guy they can throw at James and Wade, an energetic bench player who can give them some effort against the opponent most in the way of the Bulls.

So the Bulls get a piece for now and a piece for the future that someone else can develop for them. The Mirotic deal is essentially agreed to but not technically finalized because, I think, they go to sleep early in the NBA offices and many may have dozed off once someone picked Jonas Valanciunas.

The point, anyway, is the Bulls believe they have enough young players on the roster already in Derrick Rose, Omer Asik, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson and Luol Deng, all 26 or under.

I’ve heard coach Tom Thibodeau made it clear he feels there is enough youth on the roster and the team needs more veteran talent. Which would seem clear given the average age of the teams that generally have the ultimate success. The champion Mavs are said to keep Medicare applications handy.

No, the Bulls didn’t fill that need in a shooting guard to replace Keith Bogans, which would have made this draft an A. But they take the first step, in effect, in getting a potential replacement for Brewer, who can now be included in a deal to acquire a shooting guard.

Plus, they have just one guaranteed contract — all first rounders carry guarantees — to carry forward on their books. So it potentially keeps the Bulls in better position to make a trade for a shooting guard given they have expiring contracts with Brewer, C.J. Watson and Kyle Korver.

The Bulls did have an opportunity Thursday night to make a bid for Portland’s Rudy Fernandez, who went to Dallas for draft picks. The Bulls presumably could have put together a similar package. I liked Rudy last season and thought he might fit. But Fernandez had a terrible season, shooting 37 percent overall in the regular season, and in the playoffs 22 percent and averaging 2.8 points.

The Bulls believe they can do better, and I have to agree.

The Nets, for example, acquired Marshon Brooks in a deal with Boston for their 27th pick. Brooks is a shooting guard many Bulls fans liked. But the Bulls, I’ve heard, didn’t share the optimism, especially because of lax defense. But perhaps the Nets now look to move Anthony Morrow, who hasn’t worked out for them because of injuries, but is a great shooter.

There’s still O.J. Mayo out there, who is expected to be traded. Vince Carter could be released, although that is problematic as he and the Suns agreed to extend his buyout date, which suggests a pending agreement. With the Jazz adding a shooting guard, maybe they look to move C.J. Miles or Raja Bell, and with Stephen Jackson coming to the Bucks perhaps they make a move with Carlos Delfino or Chris Douglas-Roberts. And with Klay Thompson going to the Warriors, you have to believe Monta Ellis can be acquired.

There’s a guy who can make plays and shots. I’ve been a fan for a long time, and while he’s small and would provide some defensive issues, as long as the Bulls remain big inside with the likes of Asik, Noah, Carlos Boozer, Kurt Thomas and Gibson, they can have more than enough rim protection and Thibodeau’s defensive system to make up for any backcourt issues.

Maybe you can put together a package with the expiring deals and some draft picks. And I’d give up Gibson given the selection of Butler and maybe the Warriors have some interest. I’d certainly push for that rather than picking up some rookie shooting guard.

It’s one reason I had interest in Purdue’s JaJuan Johnson, though Butler is OK as well as he’s a guy who can defend multiple positions and free up Brewer or Gibson in trade. Gibson is more inside player than Butler and Johnson would replace him. But in Butler you do get another defender who can go at James and Wade. Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, too.

The Bulls aren’t usually risk takers with so called high ceiling guys as not only have they struck out the most with them — Tyrus Thomas and James Johnson — but Thibodeau has long made it clear any young bench player coming to the team has to have the team commitment first to sit on the bench for long stretches, if necessary, without complaint.

After all, this is a Bulls team coming off 62 wins and the conference finals. The coach isn’t about development. He’ll be expected to at least match what the team did previously. You don’t do that with guys learning to set a pick or being disruptive about their playing time.

There were guys I liked who went after the Bulls traded up to No. 23 to get Mirotic, who was ranked highly around the NBA and would have been considered a lottery pick if eligible to come to the NBA this year. He has a long term deal in Spain with top team Real Madrid, though it is possible he comes to the NBA in two years.

The Bulls have had some misses with waiting for international guys, like Roberto Duenas and Dragan Tarlac. But they scored big with Toni Kukoc and seem like they will with Omer Asik. Mirotic was ranked highly by virtually every team, and he gets two years of playing with high level competition without the Bulls having to cover the expense and limit their own spending here.

They also had to throw in some cash to facilitate the deal.

It became fairly convoluted as the Heat ended up with the Bulls No. 28 pick and Cleveland State speedster point guard Norris Cole, who could be a great help in Miami. I also liked the Spurs No. 29 pick of point guard Cory Joseph. Though a freshman, he has great potential. And he’ll work in for George Hill, who went to the Pacers for No. 15 pick, Kawhi Leonard.

I thought that gave the Spurs the most creative draft as they are wizards at the draft and in scouting and two players to boost their waning athleticism. They probably had one of the best drafts. Washington did well in the first round with two solid players in Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton. The Jazz taking Enes Kanter at No. 3 opened things up for a trade of a big man, perhaps Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap, and I think they breathed a huge sigh of relief when Jimmer Fredette went to the Kings, who had traded down to No. 10 in the biggest deal of the day. They could just imagine fans chanting “Jimmer” all game.

That three team trade had Stephen Jackson going to the Bucks, who got the best player in the deal, along with point guards Shaun Livingston and Beno Udrih. Charlotte got the Kings No. 7 pick, which they used for Bismack Biyombo in a mild surprise, if anything in personnel Michael Jordan does can be considered that, and Corey Maggette from Milwaukee. The Kings got back John Salmons, whom they had traded to the Bulls because they felt he was too selfish, so there could be another deal coming. The Kings then moved back to Milwaukee’s No. 10 to take Fredette, seemingly an attendance inspired move by ownership that had tried unsuccessfully to move the money losing team. The Bobcats also picked Kemba Walker, though it seems they and the Raptors, who selected European Jonas Valanciunas, who is not coming to the NBA for at least a year, are vying for the worst record in the league next season and the next No. 1 pick.

Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight falling to Detroit at No. 8 could also be an opportunity for the Bulls as it would seem the Pistons would entertain some deal for restricted free agent Rodney Stuckey, an athletic combo guard, though not a good three point shooter. But he’s a double digit scorer who can make plays.

The only other significant deal involving so called name players was Ray Felton going to Portland, where he could start, for Andre Miller, a longtime favorite of coach George Karl. Though Miller doesn’t like the bench and they’ve been starting Ty Lawson.

Nothing came of all the rumored trades of stars like Ellis, Andre Iguodala, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Tony Parker, Josh Smith and Paul Millsap. The league supposedly had warned teams the financial considerations might change in the new labor agreement, which put a bit of a chill on larger deals. So most were among draft picks in what was considered not a great draft.

Minnesota was involved in most talks for No. 2, which they used for Derrick Williams as Kyrie Irving, as expected, went No. 1 to the Cavs. Fredette moving up to No. 10 was a bit of a surprise along with Knight falling to No. 8 and Leonard to No. 15. That supposed lesser twin and babka Markieff Morris went one pick before twin Morris was a surprise while the biggest jump may have been for USC center Nikola Vucevic, who went to Philadelphia at No. 14 after long being considered a second rounder. The 76ers were maneuvering to move up for Vucevic and got him anyway, while Joseph was considered a low second rounder, but badly analyzed by most so called draft experts.

Nolan Smith at No. 21 to Portland might have been a bit of stretch upward given his physical limitations. UCLA’s Tyler Honeycutt seemed miscast as a first and fell to the second while Washington seemed to make a nice backup pickup for John Wall of Butler’s Shelvin Mack in the second.

The Bucks got the hometown kid in Wisconsin’s Jon Leuer and the Lakers at No. 41 got their point guard in Michigan’s Darius Morris, who isn’t much of a shooter. But no triangle anymore. With the Warriors in the second round going for scoring guard Charles Jenkins it further suggests Ellis can be had. So you better try while you can.

Purdue’s E’twaun Moore joins teammate Johnson with the Celtics and to some is a very underrated shooting guard. So maybe Boston gets some nice reserve help.

Though none of that should matter much to the Bulls. They fit their needs and put themselves in position to make another move. Not a bad plan. The final grade comes, as it should, much later. But it has a chance to look pretty good.

What do you think? Leave a comment below: