By David J. Cohen
The Bulls lucked into another great draft spot. They’ve made a habit of this since MJ left the building. History shows that the Bulls have the luckiest ping pong ball in the draft lottery of late when it comes to getting high draft picks:* 1999 – 1st pick overall (Elton Brand)
* 2000 – 4th pick overall (Marcus Fizer)
* 2001 – 4th pick overall (Eddy Curry)
* 2002 – 2nd pick overall (Jay Williams)
* 2003 – 7th pick overall (Kirk Hinrich)
* 2004 – 2nd pick overall (Ben Gordon)
* 2006 – 2nd pick overall (LaMarcus Aldridge; traded for Tyrus Thomas)
* 2007 – 9th pick overall (Joakim Noah)
As you can see, the only picks so far that lived up to the pick were Elton Brand and Lamarcus Aldridge. Both were traded. In Brand’s case it was essentially to make way for Eddy Curry. The other players the Bulls got out of the 1st round during this time didn’t help the franchise: Ron Artest, Jamal Crawford (after trading Chris Mihm as the 7th pick), Dalibor Bagaric, and Thabo Sefolosha (after trading Rodney Carney as the 16th pick). It’s also interesting that if they built around the core of their 1999 and 2000 drafts (Elton Brand, Jamal Crawford, and Ron Artest) they could’ve made a good run into the playoffs at some point. Now they have the 1st pick and need to make sure they don’t make the same mistakes that have them picking near the top of the draft just about every year.
On top of this is the fact that the Bulls don’t have a head coach. The coach they hire will determine both who they select and whether it works out. If they hire someone like Avery Johnson, Derrick Rose will be the top pick. A Pat Riley type coach might roll with Michael Beasley.
The Bulls have struggled almost every year since the Jordan days for a couple of reasons. They haven’t found a scoring presence inside the paint. Elton Brand was coming into his own but the Bulls banked on Curry, and as the Knicks can tell you, that Curry will give you indigestion. Aldridge has evolved into an all-around offensive player in Portland. The Bulls would be settled if they kept him. Thomas and Noah are essentially the same player, with Thomas having more athleticism. If the Bulls took Al Thornton last season they would have someone who can score. Drew Gooden is a beast on the glass, but is not an offensive player.
The other main reason is obviously the lack of skill the Bulls have shown in evaluating talent in the frontcourt. Every year it seems they bring in a new fix and it hasn’t worked. Part of the problem goes back to the championship teams. Scottie Pippen was more of a wing player and the Bulls filled up their frontcourt with the likes of Bill Wennington and Luc Longley. Toni Kukoc was a big man but an outside shooter. Dennis Rodman had no offensive skill whatsoever. In Phil Jackson’s triangle offense the Bulls won ring after ring getting away with this because the big men were needed solely on the defensive end. The Bulls front office is stuck in this train of thought. In a traditional system it is easy to stop a team when all they can do is shoot from the perimeter.
This draft pick isn’t as easy as it seems either. If the Bulls take Beasley it solves their offensive problems from the inside. But it doesn’t make the rest of the team better. With the likes of Gooden, Thomas, Noah, and Aaron Gray playing alongside him the defense can basically double-team him and force Gordon, Hughes, and Luol Deng to make everything. If they take Derrick Rose they will have to make some personnel changes.
With that said the Bulls should take Derrick Rose. His impact on the rest of the team could be substantial. If he isn’t a superstar he’ll be a bust, but he’ll still beat out Kirk Hinrich. Plus, if he is a great passer and creator of offense like a Chris Paul he can help the offensively challenged frontcourt by putting them in situations to succeed. Tyson Chandler was nothing special in Chicago but is a huge part of the Hornets on both ends of the floor, giving them 15 to 20 points on a lot of nights. With Rose running the show he can turn Tyrus Thomas into the next Tyson Chandler.
If they take Rose then Hinrich must be traded because he’s already unhappy in Chicago and this would just turn him into a malcontent in the locker room. The Bulls have several pieces they can move. Ben Gordon is always in trade rumors and wants to be a full-time starter. He and Larry Hughes are playing the same spot. Hughes played well with the Bulls after joining them and is a much better defender. Thabo Sefolosha can’t get in the game and hasn’t made much of his playing time. Several teams like him and he needs a change of scenery. They have also floated the idea of trading Andres Nocioni but odds are the coach they hire will insist on rightfully keeping him around.
There should be a sizeable market for Hinrich depending on the Bulls asking price. They have a lot of trade possibilities:
* Package Hinrich with Sefolosha and Gordon for Josh Howard and Jason Terry (this deal doesn’t seem fair but the Mavs are about to blow that team up).
* Trade Hinrich and Gordon to the Bucks for Michael Redd, who is reportedly being shopped. The Bulls could then put Redd at the 3 and move Deng to power forward. With Rose at the point that would create a dynamic offense.
* Trade Hinrich and Gordon to the Warriors for Baron Davis. With Monta Ellis about to take the helm the Warriors might look to move Davis. This would make the Bulls better immediately and allow Rose to ease his way into the league. They could also both start as Davis has played a lot of off-guard in his career. And if Davis and Rose don’t work out together the Bulls can use Baron’s $17 million dollar expiring contract along with the $26.5 million they save in the future by moving Hinrich to get the inside scoring presence they need.
* Trade Hinrich and Gordon to the Clippers for Corey Maggette, Tim Thomas, and Brevin Knight. Thomas would be released right after the trade and is used solely to match salaries. Knight is an excellent backup point guard and would be a terrific mentor to Derrick Rose. Maggette and Deng together with Rose could turn into the foundation of the franchise.
* Trade Hinrich and Aaron Gray to the Blazers for Jarret Jack, Channing Frye, Joel Przybilla, and their 1st round pick. The Blazers still feel they need some help at point guard to play behind Brandon Roy and are not satisfied with Jack. The Bulls would get a solid, tough backup point guard in Jack and a big man who can shoot it from the outside and stretch the floor like Frye. With a player like Rose someone like Frye can help open up lanes for Rose, Hughes, and Deng. Przybilla is the big contract needed for the cap figures to match and is an upgrade over Gray. The 13th pick could go toward taking a player like Kevin Love or perhaps Rose’s Memphis teammate Chris Douglas-Roberts.
* Trade Hinrich and Gordon to the Sonics for Chris Wilcox, Luke Ridnour, and Damien Wilkins. The Sonics explored trade options for all 3 players during the trade deadline. If the Bulls land Wilcox the Bulls have one of the best rebounding frontcourts in the league with him and Gooden. Wilcox could also give them 15 a game easily and is the banger type player they desperately need. Ridnour would be a great backup to Rose. Wilkins gives them a nice backup to Hughes.
The Bulls will ultimately be judged by everything that happens by way of their 1st pick selection in June. That’s the string attached.