Bulls make statement with draft moves not made
The Bulls started with three late picks in the NBA draft and ended up with another defensive-minded role player, along with the rights to the reigning Euroleague Rising Star Award winner.
Marquette forward Jimmy Butler, the No. 30 overall pick, will be introduced Monday. Nikola Mirotic, a 6-foot-10 forward from Montenegro, is expected to spend at least two or three more seasons playing for Real Madrid in Spain.
Last week general manager Gar Forman admitted the Bulls weren't planning to keep three rookies on the roster next season. As it turned out, they preferred to make it one.
What made draft night interesting for the Bulls is a couple of moves that didn't happen. They had chances to address their most obvious need — an upgrade at shooting guard — and passed.
First of all, the Bulls sent their Nos. 28 and 43 picks, along with some cash, to Minnesota in exchange for the No. 23 pick. Providence guard Marshon Brooks, thought to be a rising star in this draft, still was on the board.
Brooks is an intriguing prospect. At the predraft camp, he measured 6-feet-5 in shoes with a 7-1 wingspan and an impressive vertical leap of 38.5 inches.
His team wasn't very good last season, but Brooks averaged 24.5 points, 7.0 rebounds and shot 48.3 percent from the field. At the same time, Brooks acquired a reputation for not playing much defense, and as much as they liked him, that seemed to drive the Bulls away.
So they used the No. 23 pick on Mirotic with the hope that he will grow into a star and become the same sort of smart investment as center Omer Asik, who joined the Bulls two years after he was drafted.
But Brooks wasn't the only shooting guard the Bulls passed up. A surprising draft-night deal had Portland sending guard Rudy Fernandez to Dallas for the Nos. 26 and 57 picks.
The Bulls showed some interest in Fernandez last year before settling on Keith Bogans. The Blazers weren't motivated to move him then.
So the decision to trade Fernandez caught many by surprise, maybe even the Bulls.
This deal was part of the guard swap sending Andre Miller to Denver and Raymond Felton to Portland, so it's not clear if the Bulls could have made a similar bid. But obviously there's not a big difference between the Nos. 28 and 43 picks and what Dallas gave up.
The Bulls never made a serious bid for Fernandez, according to league sources. He averaged 8.6 points last season for Portland, shooting just 37 percent overall and 32 percent from 3-point range.
The thinking on draft night was not to bother reaching for a rookie with potential. Butler is a four-year college player who may be able to play an effective role as an aggressive defender and backup to Luol Deng.
A true championship contender can't afford to waste much time on rookies. So rather than have Brooks, Shelvin Mack or Travis Leslie sit and watch next season, the Bulls went in a different direction.
By doing nothing to address the shooting-guard spot, the Bulls made a clear statement that they will be aiming for bigger names whenever the presumed lockout ends and the real off-season begins.
A trade always is possible, but the most obvious move is to chase Orlando's Jason Richardson or Denver's J.R. Smith in free agency. Both are expected to seek new homes, but until there's a new collective-bargaining agreement, the Bulls won't know if they'll have money to spend.
Richardson, 30, is a mature player who has made the playoffs just three times in 10 NBA seasons. Smith, 25, is talented but erratic. The Bulls probably believe a veteran team with championship aspirations could keep him in line.
By adding Fernandez, Dallas might not bring back free agent DeShawn Stevenson. But he's essentially a younger version of Bogans, averaging 5.3 points and shooting 37.8 percent from 3-point range last season.
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