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So where are the Bulls after Draft night?
by Sam Smith
Posted on Jun 27
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In the annual NBA Draft Thursday, the Bulls selected the potential replacement for Marco Belinelli.
The Brooklyn Nets apparently added two of the top players in NBA history, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
The story of the draft was less the surprise of Anthony Bennett going No. 1 to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Nerlens Noel falling to No. 6 and being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for All-Star Jrue Holiday.
Which is a pretty big deal. Yes, the 76ers also added a point guard in Syracuse’s Michael Carter-Williams in one of many teams putting themselves in position for the big 2014 draft.
But trading a young, All-Star point guard is unusual.
Still, it pales in comparison with the reported trade of Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to the Nets for multiple future No. 1 draft picks, Gerald Wallace and Reggie Evans. It would be part of Boston’s self destruction amidst coach Doc Rivers’ departure to the Clippers. Garnett was said late Thursday to be willing to waive his no trade clause to join Pierce in Brooklyn, and the trade of Rajon Rondo can’t be far behind once his recovery from ACL surgery is assured.
So have the Nets with a lineup of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Pierce, Garnett and Brook Lopez become the team to beat in the Eastern Conference? Better than Miami? Much better than the Bulls?
Perhaps four years ago. But Garnett at 37 and Pierce at 36 going into next season seemingly are short term fixes and well past their effective tenures. After all, if the Celtics believed they had any chance they’d have kept them along with Rondo and Rivers. But the Celtics know they likely drew as much as they could out of their future Hall of Famers, and it seems another move of desperation, like the Lakers last season adding Dwight Howard, Steve Nash and Antawn Jamison to go along with Pau Gasol and Kobe Bryant.
It worked out somewhat better in 2004 when the Lakers added Karl Malone and Gary Payton to Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal. They still got to the Finals, though that was mostly due to Bryant and O’Neal, and then they collapsed in a five-game loss to the Pistons.
Though reports indicated a deal has been consummated, it cannot be officially announced until after the free agency moratorium period July 10.
The consensus, undoubtedly, will be that the Nets with new, rookie coach Jason Kidd will have moved into a favorites or co-favorites role in the Eastern Conference with defending champion Miami. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau joked Thursday during the Bulls press conference to announce their draft picks that he was sorry to see the breakup of the champion Celtics, where he was an assistant to Rivers, and sorry Garnett and Pierce were going to Brooklyn.
In a sense, it’s an historic move given Pierce is one of the legendary figures in Celtics history and Garnett is perhaps a top 20 all-time NBA player. Trading those two players is a rare sort of move in league history. But Garnett has played more than 50,000 minutes in his long NBA career and was nursed through the season by the Celtics for the playoffs, which Boston lost without Rondo in the first round. Similarly, Pierce had an erratic season of ups and downs in performance.
It would seem to be a lot to ask for them to produce at a high level, though they will be considered title contenders in putting five present and former All-Stars in their starting lineup.
So did they pass the Bulls?
The Bulls didn’t do anything as attention-gathering Thursday as they used their picks, Nos. 20 and 49, for shooting, guard Tony Snell from New Mexico and Florida forward Erik Murphy, respectively.
The consensus coming into the draft was the Bulls’ priority would be a big man to back up Joakim Noah, perhaps Gorgui Dieng, Mason Plumlee or Kelly Olynyk. Olynyk was taken No. 16 by Boston, and the Bulls passed on Dieng and Plumlee, who went Nos. 21 and 22.
But it was understandable the Bulls concentrated on perimeter shooting. Though Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng figure to start at shooting guard and small forward for the Bulls, neither is considered a top perimeter three, especially in three point shooting.
Shooting threes has become a greater priority in the NBA, and it was clear in the Finals the way players like Ray Allen, Mike Miller and Shane Battier helped rally Miami to the title.
Thus it makes some sense for the Bulls to go with a 6-7 shooter like New Mexico’s Snell.
The Bulls are expected to lose Nate Robinson and perhaps also Marco Belinelli. That would take away much of their three point shooting. The Bulls still hope to be able to work out something with Belinelli as he was valuable as a ballhandling guard as well. It remains uncertain given Belinelli’s likely increased market value and the Bulls being hamstrung by salary cap and luxury tax constraints. Though the Bulls are expected to be in the bidding for Belinelli.
Snell has drawn comparisons to classic catch and shoot players like Wesley Person. He has a fluid stroke and is felt to be a confident shooter in late game situations and a top notch shooter who can develop. Given the urgency the Bulls will face in a season in which they believe they are contenders, Snell will have to demonstrate to coach Tom Thibodeau he can contribute.
With his 6-7 size he should have the tools to contribute on defense, which is where he’d have to earn his way onto the court under Thibodeau. Perhaps he’d contribute 10 to 12 minutes per game early in his career.
Similarly, the Bulls likely look at second round pick Murphy as another player who can make shots. He’s a power forward with good range from Joakim Noah’s alma mater. The Bulls likely will look at him as a player to work in for the future and add to their bench.
The way the NBA has been going these days with high salaried players and a restrictive luxury tax, teams have been opting for as many high level players as they can afford and then minimum salaried players to fill out the bench. Murphy would seem to qualify in that category in the future. Plus, he’d also be some early insurance in case future shooting forward Nikola Mirotic is delayed in coming to the Bulls from Europe.
Bulls general manager Gar Forman in discussing Snell and Murphy also indicated the Bulls are moving forward with Luol Deng. There were numerous speculative reports leading up to the draft that the Bulls were either trading Deng or signing him to an extension. Forman didn’t disclose any specific information. But he expressed confidence the Bulls would be moving forward with Deng for the coming season.
It makes the most sense that Deng will remain with the Bulls. With only one season left until he becomes a free agent, his market would not be high as a rental player. Plus, the Bulls have said privately they will not make any personnel move they feel is a step back for this season even given future ramifications. They appear to believe they have enough to compete with anyone in the East because of the return of Rose, the development of Butler and how well Carlos Boozer, Noah and Deng performed last season.
There were rumors as well of a trade for LaMarcus Aldridge given reports Aldridge may be unhappy remaining in Portland. But it’s difficult to see any combination of players that would make sense to Portland, at least in a deal with the Bulls. It’s possible the Trail Blazers would trade Aldridge. But it seems the Bulls core from last season with the addition of Rose will be together for next season.
Forman said all the previously injured players, Rose, Deng, Noah and Kirk Hinrich, were in good condition and working out or traveling and working out.
The feeling is with Rose coming back to add his 20-plus points the Bulls get a major offensive boost and another distance shooter as Rose has been working on his shooting throughout his rehabilitation.
So can the Bulls compete with the Heat, Nets and probably Pacers and Knicks for the Eastern Conference title next season? The Bulls seem to feel confident, and Thursday’s events should only make the season that much more interesting.