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Bulls Thu Jun 27 2013

Bulls Draft Hinges On Deng (Non) Trade

Bulls_200.pngFor the second consecutive season, Luol Deng is at the heart of trade talks prior to the NBA Draft. With one year remaining at a salary just north of $14 million, many teams have called to see what the price tag would be to snag the All-Star defensive ace. The Bulls paid the luxury tax for the first time in team history last season, and unless a trade is made involving Deng, Carlos Boozer or Joakim Noah, they'll pay it again this year.

The Bulls' draft scenarios all revolve around whether or not Deng is member of the team tonight. They've reportedly had discussions with the Cavs (owners of the No. 1 pick), Wizards (No. 3 pick), and quite possibly the Magic (No. 2 pick) because each team is stacked with young players, and are in desperate need of a veteran presence (aka not another rookie).

The likeliness of a deal happening, however, is quite slim. Chicago will likely make their scheduled pick at No. 20, and will snag the best wing player or rotational big man they can find. Mock drafts over the past six weeks have lined up a number of players with the Bulls, including: Tim Hardaway Jr. (SG, Michigan), Mason Plumlee (PF, Duke), Gorgui Dieng (C, Louisville), and Jeff Withey (C, Kansas).

Whichever player the Bulls choose, they're looking for nothing more than a solid rotation player -- similar to the returns they've gotten from other late first round picks like Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler the past few years. The one constant the team likes about anyone they snag is the guaranteed salary starting at just over $1 million during their rookie season, with modest pay raises through the first four to five seasons. For a team pressed up against the luxury tax, a small money deal is golden.

A month ago, Dieng would've most likely been the pick, but recent medical red flags regarding his knees have scared teams away somewhat. Withey is probably gettable later in the first round, and might even be in play via a trade if he's still available early in the second round. If the Bulls are still picking at 20, Hardaway Jr. and Plumlee are the best bets to go, but anything can happen after they shocked everyone by drafting Marquis Teague at the end of the first round last season.

On the off chance a deal is consummated for a top pick, the Bulls will likely be targeting the same types of players -- albeit ones with much higher ceilings. Victor Oladipo, Ben McLemore and Otto Porter would all be in play if Chicago moves up.

In one of the worst draft classes in years, Oladipo has risen to the top of many teams' boards because of his high motor, instant defensive impact, and a large jump in offensive performance last season that leaves everyone believing he could improve more on that end very quickly. He'd be a top five selection in most draft classes, but is likely the top healthy player available tonight.

McLemore was a top-rated prospect coming out of high school, but a disappointing season at Kansas where he disappeared in too many games has teams wondering what will happen to him at the next level when he'd likely be facing an opponent's top defender on a nightly basis. He's got a near-prototypical body type for a shooting guard in the NBA, but his lack of aggressiveness in the spotlight has made teams weary of using a top pick on him.

Otto Porter matched McLemore's production, did it in a tougher conference, and at 6'9", makes for a perfect small forward in the NBA. If Deng is traded for a top pick, you can bet the Bulls would look long and hard at a guy that profiles almost exactly like Deng coming out of college. He's a rangy defender that can hit open jump shots, but struggles when he has to put the ball on the floor. Remind you of anybody?

The best bet is that the Bulls stick with Deng, make their pick at 20, and make another run with their current roster (with a bench that will once again be blown up and rebuilt) supplemented by the return of Derrick Rose in hopes that either LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh are far from 100% come playoff time. Good luck with that.

 
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