Bulls Should Make the NBA Draft a Rose Bowl

One would think that there would be a raging debate in Chicago for the next month about how the Bulls should use the first pick in the NBA Draft that fell so fortuitously in the lap of Steve Schanwald last week, considering that this is a two-player draft between Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley.  Having been too young to have watched the Hakeem-MJ draft of 1984 even if it had been televised, this will be without question the most important draft that I’ll personally witness for a Chicago sports team.  As a result, you would think that the sports radio talk show hosts in town would have a great incentive to milk this out for as long as possible.  However, a consensus has quickly built around Rose as the choice on both the national and local fronts with only a smattering of exceptions.

Fortunately, I’m whole-heartedly in the Rose camp.  This is partly based on all of the standard arguments that point guards are becoming more valuable than ever in the NBA while it’s “easier” (not easy) to get a power forward in the manner of Beasley.  Look at how Chris Paul and Illini great Deron Williams have respectively turned around New Orleans and Utah over the past couple of seasons with relatively average talent around them.  In particular, CP3 has turned Bulls retreads Tyson Chandler and Jannero Pargo(!) into viable NBA players on the offensive end of the floor.  When considering that Rose is more fully developed at 19 than either CP3 or Deron were at that age with almost a combination of Paul’s slashing ability and Williams’ size and strength, it’s not crazy to surmise that Rose has the potential to be the preeminent point guard in the league for the next decade.

(By the way, let’s quickly go over two things that DON’T matter in this draft.  First, the fact that Rose is from Chicago is inconsequential.  It’s great for the headline writers in town for the next month trumpeting the return of the hometown kid to lead the favorite team from his childhood out of the dumpster, but draft picks in any sport need to be made in a vacuum with respect to where such draft picks grew up or went to college.  If Rose was from American Samoa, I’d be just as excited.  Second, whether Rose or Beasley is picked, no one should care one bit with how either one would fit with the Bulls’ current players.  The team needs to be built around this draft pick as opposed to the other way around.  John Paxson’s ability to restore the fans’ confidence in his management skills is not going to be based on this draft pick, which is essentially idiot-proof, but whether he’ll be able to package Kirk Hinrich and/or others to obtain a solid scorer at power forward (organizational mea culp on Elton Brand, anyone?) assuming that he takes Rose.)

More importantly, while I think that Beasley will become a star in this league, I just think that Rose has a certain jen a se quas that I believe will make him a superstar.  Rose already has enviable passing, driving and defensive skills, so if he’s able to develop a consistent jumpshot, there’s not much this guy can’t do on the floor.  I hate going back to the “upside” term, but the ceiling seems higher for Rose and it’s not as if though he’s substantially more of a risk than Beasley considering that Rose was able to lead Memphis to the national championship game as a freshman point guard.  The more I think about the image of Rose stepping out onto the United Center floor in a Bulls uniform in November, the more giddy I get about the state of our basketball team.  This is by no means any disrespect to Beasley, who I believe will be every bit of the impact player that he’s been advertised as for the past year, but Rose is the right pick for the Bulls.

(Image from Zimbio)


Lottery Ball Miracle

I have been prepping for an entire summer of posts about how the Chicago Bulls organization has been in disarray and aloof over the past two years, ranging from misfiring on legitimate opportunities to obtain Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant and/or Paul Gasol (all of whom are still leading their teams today in conference finals round) to having such a wacky power structure that Mike D’Antoni didn’t even wait for the team to make him a coaching job offer to go off to the Knicks. Let’s face it – I don’t care how convincing Donnie Walsh might be. After all that’s happened to Knicks management (not to mention their pitiful roster), how awful is Jerry Reinsdorf face-to-face that D’Antoni would rather hang out with Jim Dolan for the foreseeable future?

Two years ago, the Bulls were set up to get back into the NBA’s upper echelon for the first time since Michael Jordan made his last shot to clinch the franchise’s second three-peat ten years ago (I’ll remind you again that my brain’s internal hard drive has erased all memories of the NBA from 2001 to 2003). The team had a young and rapidly improving team, plenty of salary cap room and trade possibilities, and a large market locale that could attract a marquee player or two. John Paxson, who I do believe did a good job drafting players overall considering the positions where he was making picks, was able to parlay all of that into… Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden??? With the lack of a superstar in a league where you need at least one superstar at a minimum to be a legitimate contender to win the NBA Finals, it should not have been a surprise that the Bulls faded in miserable fashion this past season after three straight overachieving years. Last fall, there were a number of Jim Jones Kool-Aid drinking Chicagoans that were actually arguing that giving up a combination of Luol Deng, Ben Gordon and Kirk Hinrich in exchange for Kobe Bryant would have (a) been too much in terms of talent and (b) upset the chemistry of the team. (For once, I ended up on the right side of a sports debate – I’ve always known that you can’t pass up on Kobe.) By the time this year had concluded, I doubt that Paxson could have traded all of three of those players for even Gasol, much less someone of the caliber of Kobe Bryant.

Every once in awhile, though, the Sports Gods will throw you a bone. Look at the Celtics, who were a smoldering carcass of a franchise a year ago at this time after getting whacked in the Oden/Durant sweepstakes despite having all of the statistics on their side. As Celtics fans stared into the proverbial abyss (or it could have just been the Big Dig), that team subsequently pulled off trades in summer to nab Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen that transformed themselves from one of the worst teams in the NBA to the top record in the league.

Likewise, just a few hours ago, I was resigned to the fact that the Bulls were going to get another solid-but-not-great draft pick in the NBA Draft Lottery to add to their collection of undersized shooting guards and power forwards, with the best case scenario being a sacrificial lamb in the first round of the playoffs. But then, amazing actually happened (just as the NBA has told me roughly over 800 times over past few weeks with somewhat-creepy half-head split-screen shots). With only a 1.7% chance, after years of getting top draft picks in the wrong drafts (or top draft picks with motorcycles), the Bulls freaking got the first pick in a draft where they could get that legitimate superstar – in the form of Michael Beasley or Derrick Rose – that I’ve been screaming about from the very beginning of this blog nearly three years ago. This has come after a decade where the Bulls went from being six-time champions and the most famous team in any sport in the entire world to a close-to-irrelevant franchise that just got passed over by a very good coach in order to go to the human cesspool known as the Knicks organization. It is way too soon to tell whether this day will go down in Chicago sports history as a stroke of luck on par with the Portland Trailblazers thinking that Sam Bowie was a better fit for their system than Michael Jordan in the 1984 draft, yet the Bulls have finally got the burst of energy, regardless of whether that player is Beasley or Rose, that can give this franchise a legitimate chance to get back to where it was ten years ago.

(Image from Bulls.com)

Land-o-Links – 5/10/2008

A few links for the weekend:

(1) The Conservative Revival (New York Times) – David Brooks has long been one of the more sensible conservative political commentators out there and this column is an example of this. Right after the 2006 midterm elections, I wrote a lengthy post about how disaffected I was with the Republican Party from the libertarian standpoint. Brooks points out that the Conservative Party in Britain is on the ascent since it’s embracing a different social agenda while still adhering to its fiscally conservative principles. The party in our country that is able to mirror what the Tories have done will get my support.

(2) Your Friday Coaching Search Update (Blog-a-Bull) – Let me just start off by saying that I could have very easily turned this blog into “Frank the Tank’s Rantings About the Bulls” for at least until the conclusion of this year’s NBA Draft and really through the free agency period (which would almost bring us right to the start of next season), but I’m trying to exercise some self-restraint. It’s good to see that we didn’t have to go down the road of Rick Carlisle with his new deal with Mark Cuban and I’ve been actually getting increasingly excited about the prospect of Mike D’Antoni on the sidelines at the United Center. While he doesn’t have the defensive philosophy that John Paxson has long preached, it’s clear that the Bulls needed a complete readjustment in attitude which is what the almost-former Suns coach would provide. Granted, the Bulls don’t have the personnel on offense to come close to the scoring proficiency of D’Antoni’s Suns teams, but we are a team that is capable of playing uptempo (which is how the Bulls took down the Heat in the playoffs last year). The one thing that I don’t want to hear about from the Bulls is how much D’Antoni might cost in terms of salary, especially with the offer that the Knicks have thrown on the table. I’ve actually been an overall defender of Jerry Reinsdorf over the years (as Ozzie Guillen “eloquently” pointed out this week, Reinsdorf is the Chicago owner with seven rings), but if the Bulls really want D’Antoni, they had better put their best efforts forward. While the White Sox might be a mid-market team that happens to be located in a large market (and I’m saying this as a huge Sox fan) which at least allows for a tenuous argument about payroll limits on their end, the Bulls are a legitimate marquee NBA franchise on pretty much every financial and media metric (on a related note, Minneapolis Red Sox and I had a back-and-forth on where the Bulls place on the Chicago sports scene a couple of weeks ago), so I don’t want to hear a peep from that organization about how much a coach of D’Antoni’s caliber might cost. Reinsdorf and Paxson just need to get this deal done.

(UPDATE:  Apparently, D’Antoni has now taken the Knicks job because the Bulls wouldn’t match their offer.  I’m seriously THIS close to making Frank the Tank’s Rantings About the Bulls into an entirely separate blog since there’s so much material to be mined.  This is what we get from the third most valuable and second most profitable franchise in the NBA.)

(3) Law Firms and Layoffs: Who Are the Most Vulnerable? (Wall Street Journal Law Blog) – There’s always a question as to whether law firms provide more steady employment for lawyers than being in other environments (i.e. corporations, government, etc.). In the end, like most other work environments, it’s the people in the middle that get squeezed.

And finally…

(4) Hyping Sidney Crosby Won’t Help the NHL Win Over New Fans (Slate) – There’s been little movement from my modest proposal to save the NHL from a couple of years ago, although the Blackhawks have finally figured out that VHF exists.