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posted: 6/21/2010 12:01 AM

Trading down in draft could make sense for Bulls

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Last year at this time, most of the NBA draft buzz focused on how the class of 2009 was relatively weak.

That forecast turned out to be wildly inaccurate. Last season's rookie crop was strong at the top, with guards Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings posting remarkable numbers.

At the same time, five of the 10 spots on the all-rookie first and second teams were claimed by players chosen at pick No. 21 or lower - Bulls forward Taj Gibson, New Orleans guards Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton, Detroit forward Jonas Jerebko and San Antonio forward DeJuan Blair. That's some nice depth.

Sure, there were disappointments. Top pick Blake Griffin missed the entire season with a knee injury, No. 2 pick Hasheem Thabeet spent time in the D-League, New York bailed on No. 8 pick Jordan Hill by February and there is little evidence No. 14 choice Earl Clark even reported to Phoenix.

The obvious lesson here is to not be so quick to judge, except that this year's draft class appears on paper to be - how do we put this delicately? - extremely weak.

Here are a couple guys mentioned as potential lottery picks: Kentucky center Daniel Orton, who missed his senior year in high school with a knee injury, then averaged 3.4 points and 3.3 rebounds for coach John Calipari last season. Texas' Avery Bradley is a 6-foot-2 shooting guard who connected on 54 percent of his free throws.

So what can the Bulls expect at No. 17, two spots below where they could have chosen because of the John Salmons trade with Milwaukee?

Well, trading down appears to be a strong possibility. The Bulls would most likely be willing to move down a few spots if they could add a second-round choice. As it stands, the Bulls own just the lone pick at 17. Here are some candidates:

• James Anderson, 6-6, SG, Oklahoma State - In theory, Anderson could fill a need because the Bulls lack outside shooters, and he averaged 22.3 points as a junior while being named Big 12 player of the year.

There are complaints, though, that Anderson isn't much of a spot-up shooter. He mostly ran through screens last season as the focal point of the Cowboys offense. By NBA standards, his athleticism is merely average.

Last month, Anderson took part in a Berto Center workout that included Kansas' Xavier Henry and Fresno State's Paul George, both likely to be chosen before No. 17. The Bulls planned to bring him back for a second look a few days ago and if he turns out to be their guy, they could probably move down a few spots and still get him.

• Dominique Jones, 6-4, SG, South Florida - He's another high-scoring two guard who averaged 21.4 points and 3.6 assists while nearly carrying South Florida to the NCAA Tournament. The good news is he was one of the best in college basketball at getting to the free-throw line. The bad news is he shot 31.1 percent from 3-point range.

• Patrick Patterson, 6-9, PF, Kentucky - A high-school teammate of O.J. Mayo in Huntington, W.V., Patterson averaged 17.9 points, 9.3 points and 2.1 blocks as a sophomore. Then Kentucky's touted freshman class showed up and his numbers dropped. Patterson showed a willingness to accept his role but is seen as more of a steady role player than future star in the NBA.

• Devin Ebanks, 6-8, SF, West Virginia - If the Bulls move down, Ebanks could be a target. He's a small forward and not much of a 3-point shooter. The Bulls don't really need anyone at that position, but they respect his toughness and character.

• Eric Bledsoe, 6-2, PG, Kentucky - He played out of position for much of last season at Kentucky, sharing the point guard spot with likely top pick John Wall. But Bledsoe has been winning over fans during predraft workouts. He has the quickness to be a solid defender and his outside shooting should improve.

• Cole Aldrich, 6-11, C, Kansas - There's a chance he could fall to No. 17. Aldrich measured 6-9 without shoes at the predraft camp, which set off some alarm bells. He did show plenty of polished post moves at Kansas and averaged 3.5 blocks, which speaks well for his defense.

• Larry Sanders, 6-11, PF, VCU - He got a late start in organized basketball and improved during his college career. That could mean he'll continue to get better or it could mean Sanders never really liked basketball in the first place. The Bulls love those guys who stay in the gym and work on their game.

• Craig Brackins, 6-11, PF/C, Iowa State - He was billed as a potential lottery pick a year ago but had a disappointing junior season. He's still tall, skilled and athletic, though, which makes him a candidate for the Bulls if they opt for a big man.

Besides Henry and George, Bulls fans can also probably forget about Butler's Gordon Hayward or Nevada's Luke Babbitt. Both figure to go in the top 15.