Most of the Bulls chatter this month focused on big ticket players like Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love.
Keep in mind, though, the guy who just won Finals MVP -- San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard -- was the No. 15 pick of the 2011 draft.
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Will Bulls go for these players?The Bulls are considering a wide range of players with picks No. 16 and 19 in Thursday's NBA draft. Here are a few worth watching:
Zach LaVine, 6-6, SG, UCLAThe Bulls would probably have to move up to get him, but LaVine is all over the board in the mock drafts. A raw talent at 19, but his athleticism provides some star potential. Imagine a taller Jamal Crawford, with a little Russell Westbrook athleticism mixed in.
Rodney Hood, 6-8, SF, DukeOne of the best shooters in the draft, but it's questionable whether Hood would be able to play shooting guard in the NBA. He wasn't the most willing defender at Duke, so maybe the Bulls would see him as an inferior duplicate of Tony Snell.
James Young, 6-7, SG, KentuckyThe Kentucky freshman might have a better chance of becoming the scoring two guard the Bulls have lacked. He brings decent size, shooting and athleticism, but must continue to improve.
Gary Harris, 6-4, SG, Michigan StateCompared to his Big Ten rival, Nik Stauskas, Harris is smaller and not as accomplished a shooter. But Harris is a good defender and Stauskas will probably be long gone by the time the Bulls pick, so the MSU sophomore might be a decent option.
Shabazz Napier, 6-1, PG, ConnecticutThe hero of the NCAA Tournament has been improving his stock in draft workouts. Once projected to be a late first-rounder, Napier was one of 21 players reportedly invited to sit in the green room at the draft. Maybe Napier could bring some of that Nate Robinson scoring punch off the bench.
Adreian Payne, 6-9, PF, Michigan StateIf the Bulls want reinforcements at power forward, in case they need to trade Taj Gibson's contract, Payne should be available. He's a good athlete with a big body who could use a few more basketball skills.
Jordan Clarkson, 6-5, PG, MissouriWith D.J. Augustin's return in question, the Bulls might pick a backup point guard. Clarkson has been rising, according to draft buzz. He's tall and athletic with three years of college, the first two at Tulsa.
-- Mike McGraw
After LeBron's relocation to South Beach, the Spurs trading George Hill to the Pacers for Leonard was the most significant NBA transaction of the past four years.
The Bulls currently own the No. 16 and 19 selections in Thursday's NBA draft and those picks could end up being the ticket to improvement. But the Bulls are also trying to make a run at Anthony this summer. The draft picks might need to be sacrificed in the name of cap space.
So what will the Bulls do with their picks? Here are some options:
One way to save money is to turn those two draft picks into one higher selection. There's a good comparison in last year's draft. Minnesota sent the No. 9 overall pick to Utah for picks No. 14 and 21.
So adding the 21st pick allowed the Jazz to move up five spots.
In theory, the Bulls should be able to make a similar jump from No. 16, but it all depends on the trading partner and players available.
Last year, Minnesota was in a spot where point guard Trey Burke was on the board at No. 9 and it already had Ricky Rubio slated as its point guard of the future.
This year, Denver picks No. 11 and the Nuggets might be willing to trade down. Orlando at No. 12 already has multiple first-rounders, so it's unlikely to be interested.
Minnesota is No. 13 and could be a possible trade partner, but it all depends on how much those teams like the players available with the higher pick.
If the Bulls kept the No. 16 and 19 picks, those players would require $2.73 million of cap space. Trading up for the No. 11 selection would drop that number to $1.9 million, since the Bulls would be adding just one first-rounder instead of two.
So in addition to moving up to get a potentially better player, the Bulls would also save money by moving up in the draft -- if they can find a trade partner ... and that's a big if in a strong draft.
Draft and wait
The Bulls won't be able to negotiate with Anthony until July 1, five days after the draft. So they might decide to make the picks and see what happens on the free agent front. If Anthony doesn't work out, the Bulls just keep the players they selected.
If the Bulls decide they do need to clear cap space or want to include the draft picks in a sign-and-trade deal, the picks can be traded anytime if they are unsigned. Or they can be traded 30 days after they sign contracts.
The second option might actually work better for the Bulls if they end up with a deal to send assets back to New York for Anthony. Once draft picks are signed, their actual salary counts in trades and, in theory, the Bulls could give Anthony more money in a sign-and-trade than they could if he simply signed as a free agent.
Another possibility is draft a player who could stay in Europe for at least a year, maybe Switzerland native Clint Capela. Then that player's rookie salary would not count against the Bulls' cap space, but they'd keep his rights.
Trade the picks now
The Bulls could try to trade this year's draft picks for future selections.
The future picks would probably be worse than what they have now, but at least the Bulls would get to use them someday.
Trading away this year's picks to clear cap space would be sacrificing assets.
The downside to this plan is if the Bulls traded for future picks, then can't acquire Anthony, they have no first-round rookies next season. Of course in 2010, the Bulls gave away Kirk Hinrich on draft night so they'd have enough cap space to sign LeBron James and another full-boat free agent.
Potential reward usually comes with risk.