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Bulls Fri Jun 24 2011

NBA Draft: Bulls Make Small But Savvy Moves

Thumbnail image for chicagobulls.pngThere wasn't much reason to get really excited about the Chicago Bulls heading into the 2011 NBA Draft last night:

• They didn't have any high picks: After posting the league's best regular-season record, they owned the 28th pick (from Miami), their own 30th pick and the 43rd pick (from Utah).

• The talent pool was universally regarded as shallow.

• Nearly all their roster spots and probably all the spots in their regular rotation are already taken for next season (whenever that happens).

• They didn't need two more guaranteed, first-round contracts, with nine guaranteed deals and $65 million already on the books for next season.

Given that background, the Bulls actually did quite well last night.

They used the 30th pick to draft Marquette's Jimmy Butler, a 6-foot-8 defender with decent all-around skills who could be especially useful defending wing scorers (e.g., LeBron James, Dwyane Wade). He's another good guy and hard worker who will fit right in with Tom Thibodeau's current group.

They packaged the 28th and 43rd picks and cash to move up to No. 23 and select Nikola Mirotic, a skilled, 6-10 shooter who was voted the best young player in Euroleague this season. At 20, he just signed a five-year contract extension with Spanish power Real Madrid, but that's fine because Chicago doesn't have room for him right now anyway.

The bottom line is these Bulls will go as far as Derrick Rose and Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah and Luol Deng can take them. The latter three are all already making $12 million or more per season, and Rose will join them after next year.

Adding a playoff-caliber shooting guard would be nice, but it's far less important than Noah playing with more consistency and Boozer earning most of his $75 million contract. And of course, there was no such shooting guard in this 2011 draft, much less near the end of the first round.

***

Jimmy Butler conference call with Chicago reporters

Bulls GM Gar Forman news conference

Chad Ford, ESPN.com (subscription required):

The Bulls were drafting late and still found talent.

I like the Mirotic pick. He was a lottery talent who slid because of contract issues, but the Bulls can afford to be patient and allow him to continue to develop in Europe. They do take a risk that he doesn't ever come here (Mirotic is already getting paid major coin in Europe), but at No. 23, it's worth the gamble.

Butler will not be a star, but he will play his role off the bench. He can guard multiple positions, has a great work ethic and has the maturity to fit into a veteran team. When you factor in all that he's overcome in his life, it's not hard to believe he'll succeed.

Kelly Dwyer, Yahoo.com:

As a fan, I walked away disappointed from this draft haul. How could I not? I respect the Mirotic pick, but would prefer some win-now help, and Butler might not even be worth a first-rounder's guaranteed contract.

But once the fan-glasses come off, this was a haul worth appreciating. Mirotic won't be over until 2014 at the earliest, but that's also a player you don't have to pay, and a lottery talent that will no doubt be giddy to join the Bulls once his contract with Real Madrid (a top-flight organization that knows how to develop players) ends. Butler, meanwhile, is a worker who at the very least will spell Luol Deng at times next season defending wings.

Deng, if you'll recall, averaged 49.8 minutes per game in the regular season, a mark that was upped to 992.4 minutes per game in the playoffs. It's late June, and he hasn't even left the United Center court. He's still there, hunched over and grabbing the ends of his shorts, trying to catch his breath.

 
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