When the Bulls were ousted from the NBA Playoffs this year, I pointed out that this would be a pivotal summer for the franchise, starting off with who they chose with the #2 pick of the NBA Draft tomorrow night. My general thoughts haven’t changed much since then, although what I’d like to see the Bulls do has become more clear in my mind. Here’s how I would react regarding the most likely picks for the Bulls:
1) Good: Tyrus Thomas – Best athlete in the draft and should be a terrific shot blocker. Of course, he isn’t very polished on the offensive side, which makes me wonder if he’s just another version of Tyson Chandler (which we don’t need). Thomas is the very definition of “upside”, so he wouldn’t be a bad pick for the Bulls, but he’s not going to contribute very much next season for a team that needs someone to step in right away to help them in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
2) Better: LaMarcus Aldridge – He has got both offensive and defensive skills in the post and is a true big man, which the Bulls have a dire need for. The question is whether he’s going to be able to bulk up where he can withstand an 82-game regular season plus the postseason. As with Thomas, Aldridge is more of a project as opposed to providing immediate help.
3) Best: Brandon Roy – The conventional wisdom is that the Bulls need to draft for size first and foremost because that’s their biggest need. That’s also the same logic the Portland Trailblazers used for their own #2 pick in 1984 in choosing Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan. Look, I’m not saying that Roy will become anything close to MJ, but in my opinion, he’s the best basketball player in this draft. When you’ve got the #2 draft pick, you need to take the best player available regardless of position. If you don’t and fall into the trap of being obsessed with filling a need at a particular position, you can get burned and, in basketball more than any other sport, the franchise will be set back for years.
The Bulls also have more of a need at shooting guard than most people think. Ben Gordon has great offensive skills but is a few inches too short for the 2-guard position and is weak on defense. A number of people have suggested that Luol Deng can move over from small forward to shooting guard, yet it’s not the best course of action to have him switch to an unnatural position. Since the Bulls first won the NBA Championship in 1991, having a gamebreaker at shooting guard is essential to winning it all (look at Dwyane Wade this season). Brandon Roy is the complete package on offense and defense while having the potential to be that 2-guard star. I’d rather take him at #2 and then look for a big man with the #16 pick or through free agency.
4) Even Better Than the Best: Trade for Kevin Garnett – I know that this is highly unlikely, but if the Bulls can parlay the #2 pick plus their pick at #16 and, say, Deng or Gordon to Minnesota for Kevin Garnett, they need to pull the trigger. As much as the average fan might harbor fantasies of the upside of this youthful Bulls team, the fact remains that old teams with veteran stars win championships. While champions might have a couple of key players or even leaders that are relatively young (i.e. Wade’s Heat and the Lakers three-peat under Kobe Bryant), it’s impossible to win it all without veteran stars. Look at every NBA champ going back to the Celtics, Lakers, and Pistons in the ’80s, the Bulls and Rockets in the ’90s, and everyone who has won in this decade – they were all veteran-laden teams with at least two bona fide superstars.
At the same time, as much as I enjoyed the Bulls run this season, I still believe that they are farther away than a lot of people believe around here. Remember, they went from being a #4 seed with homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs in 2005 to barely making it into the playoffs as a #7 seed in 2006. Yet, for some reason, a lot of Chicagoans seem to be under the mistaken impression that the Bulls somehow improved last season. Garnett would give the Bulls the ability to make a huge leap to the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference.
5) Very, Very Bad and Radioactive: Adam Morrison – The popular favorite of those that fail to realize that college basketball is an entirely different animal than pro basketball. I have no doubt that he can be a fine jumpshooter at the pro level, but he’s an atrocious defensive player, which does not fit into the Bulls system at all. Plus, just because Morrison is white doesn’t mean that he’s Larry Bird.
All in all, if the Bulls end up with Thomas or Aldridge, I will completely understand and just thank Isiah Thomas again for his assistance. John Paxson picking Brandon Roy or a trading for Kevin Garnett, however, would make me an extremely happy man. If the Bulls end up with someone outside of those listed above, such as Andrea Bargnani (the supposed Italian Dirk Nowitzki) or Rudy Gay, I’m not exactly sure what I’ll do. Paxson has proven to be a solid drafter in the past with Kirk Hinrich (I hated that pick when it was made with my anti-Kansas bias, but it goes to show you that what you thought of a guy as a college player should have no bearing on who you want for your pro team… as long as it’s not J.J. Redick), Ben Gordon, and Luol Deng, so I’ve got a pretty positive feeling that the Bulls will be better off no matter which direction the franchise takes. In any case, I should be back after draft night with a recap.
Other NBA Draft articles of note:
Paxson Sweet on No. 16 Pick (Chicago Tribune) – With a weak draft, the Bulls could end up with as much value at #16 as they can get at #2 (although the Chronicles of Redick are lurking dangerously in this territory).
This Draft Has Officially Driven Me Insane (Blog-a-Bull) – The confusion of this dedicated Bulls blogger is a pretty good reflection of fans in the know.
The Death of That Nasty Word, ‘Potential’ (Sporting News) – With the NBA instituting a new minimum age requirement for entering into draft, Tyrus Thomas might be the last of the “upside” guys.
(Update: Every “expert” I’ve seen out there seems to think that it would be crazy for the Bulls to take Roy over a big man with the exception of the one guy – Bill Simmons. Once again, the Sports Guy is the voice of reason.)