The NBA Draft takes on added significance this year for the Chicago Bulls with the team pushed up against the luxury tax heading into free agency. The Bulls simply don't have a lot of ways to add talent to the roster barring a drastic move involving one of their veterans. What the Bulls do have is a solid top seven set in stone (eight if you count Marquis Teague), with two immediate holes to fill: reserve wing and reserve center.
Mock drafts have essentially alternated projecting players who fill either role to the Bulls at No. 20 since the draft lottery. You can make a good case for either position.
A big man makes sense because Joakim Noah was forced to play too many minutes last season, and Nazr Mohammed is the living definition of an NBA stopgap. Any halfway decent NBA center rightfully earns a hefty contract, so the prospect of adding a center who could help immediately while barely counting against the cap on the rookie scale is appealing. There are also some pretty good big men in this class, with Louisville's Gorgui Dieng (scouting report) being a favorite of lots of people around here.
Taking a wing would make sense, too. The Bulls don't know if they'll be able to retain Marco Belinelli, and Richard Hamilton is almost assuredly gone. That means Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng are the only wings left on the roster, and Deng will be headed into the final season of his contract. Tom Thibodeau, the drill sargent that he is, has probably entertained the idea of making both play all 48 minutes for all 82 games next season, but Gar Forman and John Paxson are likely to intervene before the thought becomes too tempting.
This comes down a basic question: size or shooting? It will likely be decided by how the board breaks on Thursday night. If Dieng goes before the pick at No. 20, would the Bulls opt for a wing instead of selecting Kansas' Jeff Withey or Duke's Mason Plumlee? Dieng is the only center option at No. 20 that sounds truly appealing to me.
There a few different wings who I think are going to be pretty good. I profiled all of them: Allen Crabbe, Reggie Bullock, Jamaal Franklin. Each has different strengths and weaknesses, but all three could help the Bulls next season and beyond.
With the draft taking place later tonight, here's a look at mock drafts across the Internet on Wednesday night:
|20. Bulls||SB Nation: Gorgui Dieng||Ford: Mason Plumlee||DX: Tim Hardaway Jr.||NBA.com: Gorgui Dieng||SI: Tony Mitchell||NBADraft.net: Gorgui Dieng|
Now it's time for you to decide. There's a poll at the bottom of this post. Go ahead and cast your vote for who you think the Bulls should take. Argue away in the comments, even the crazy people who write in Mike Muscala.
For whatever it's worth, here's how I would rank 'em:
1. Gorgui Dieng - Louisville, center
Dieng has only been playing the game for six years, but there's reason to believe he could help immediately on the defensive end while his offensive skill set slowly comes together. Dieng measured in at the combine at 6' 10.75'", 230 lbs. Unlike many of the big men in this class, I believe he has the size and frame to handle the physical demands that come from playing center in the NBA. We know the Bulls like players from high profile programs, and Dieng just anchored Louisville's national championship winning team. And it's not like he's a totally blank slate offensively, either. Dieng is a pretty good passer and his jumper improved noticeably by all accounts last season. This seems like a no-brainer.
2. Allen Crabbe - Cal, shooting guard
Good size, big wingspan span and would immediately bring shooting from all over the floor. The player Crabbe (scouting report) most often gets compared to is Richard Hamilton, and not the decrepit version we had to watch on the Bulls the last two seasons. Crabbe can spot-up or catch and shoot, and he seems like an ideal candidate to plug into the baseline curl sets the Bulls have run for Hamilton and Kyle Korver so often over the last three seasons. He probably won't be a killer defensively, he'll probably never be a great isolation scorer. But Crabbe fits a very specific role, and it's one that would really help the Bulls out moving forward.
3. Tony Mitchell - North Texas, power forward
I really think Tony Mitchell (scouting report) might be a monster in the NBA. If I were blogging about the Bucks, Hawks, Celtics or Cavs, this would be my pick. But for the Bulls, it just doesn't make a ton of sense. The Bulls are ready to win this year and have two holes to fill. Mitchell doesn't fill either. He'd be the third string power forward this season and likely next season as well if Nikoka Mirotic comes over and Carlos Boozer is amnestied. What makes this difficult is that I really believe there's a chance Mitchell could be an All-Star caliber talent. It's not too far out there to think he could be better than Taj Gibson, better than Boozer, better than the great unknown that is Mirotic. Great size, incredible athleticism, solid skills. It's a tough package to pass up on, but ultimately I couldn't put him any higher than No. 3.
4. Jamaal Franklin - San Diego State, shooting guard
It's true, Franklin (scouting report) doesn't bring the ready-made range the Bulls desperately lack at the wing. But whatever Chicago would be sacrificing in immediacy, they'd be gaining long-term. Franklin is by far the best athlete of the wings who might be available, and he's going to give you a few things every night: defense, rebounding and thoroughbred athleticism. A player can learn how to shoot, but they can't learn how to run faster, jump higher and just cause all-around havoc the way Franklin can. I would prefer a player who is bit more polished offensively if the Bulls are using this pick on a wing, but Franklin's upside is undeniable. It's easy to draw comparisons between him and another player who needed to improve offensively and did after getting drafted into the NBA: Jimmy Butler.
5. Reggie Bullock - North Carolina, small forward
Bullock (scouting report) has good size, plays solid defense and shot 43.6 percent on three pointers last season at North Carolina. There's definitely a spot for him on an NBA bench for a long time, but he lacks the ceiling that Crabbe and Franklin have. He just isn't good enough at finishing at the rim. He isn't the athlete that Franklin is, he isn't the versatile shooter that Crabbe is. I'll be totally cool with Bullock being the pick on Thursday because I think he'd help right away (maybe more than anyone), but I'd prefer a player I believe could one day be a starter.
Then there's Tim Hardaway Jr. He had a workout with the Bulls after the combine, and there have been quiet rumblings throughout the process that the Bulls like him. I hope he's not the pick. He's a bit too inconsistent, he doesn't have great athleticism and simply put, I think there are just better players available. But hey, if the Bulls pick him, I certainly hope to read a compelling case on why he might be very good.
So yeah! DRAFT. I love the draft. Don't you? Let us know who you'd pick at No. 20: