Tom Thibodeau wants Carmelo Anthony. Joakim Noah wants Carmelo Anthony. The Bulls, we're told, want Carmelo Anthony even more than they want Kevin Love. At this point, you have to believe them.
The Anthony rumors will continue to hang over the Bulls until anything actually happens, and it's likely nothing will until after Thursday's draft since Melo plans on opting out of his contract with the Knicks. It puts the Bulls in a bit of a bind with the No. 16 and No. 19 picks. If the Bulls want to open as much salary cap space as possible, the picks either have to be traded or spent on a draft-and-stash international player. If the Bulls are going to trade for Anthony, the picks might be secretly made for New York.
The Bulls' goal is a rather obvious one: add Anthony to the team while keeping Taj Gibson. This is going to create a tricky bit of salary cap entanglement mostly dependent on how big of a pay cut Melo would be willing to accept to come to Chicago. It's not like the Bulls will be his only appealing option.
If the Bulls decide keeping Gibson is impossible, the draft picks might be back in play. Chad Ford has already reported the Bulls want to cash in their two picks for a higher one. Denver's pick at No. 11 has reportedly been talked about.
It's not a trade I would love, unless the Bulls think the cap space saved in the deal is vital to signing Anthony. I think if you go back in recent drafts, there's almost always two players available at No. 16 and No. 19 that would impact your team more than one player available at No. 11. There are exceptions to this (Kawhi Leonard), but mostly, it just makes sense. The only trick is drafting the right players. Admittedly, it is not easy. The Bulls have known they were going to be picking twice in the first round for a while, though, so there should have been plenty of time to do the appropriate scouting. In a draft as deep as this one, there's no excuse for an inability to identify several prospects they think can help the team.
If the Bulls really are going to trade up, though, Ford reports they have their eye on Nik Stauskas and Gary Harris. It's no guarantee either will be there at No. 11, but one of them should be. For this draft profile, then, we're going to focus on Michigan State's Harris.
Here's the best thing you can say about Gary Harris: he's a complete basketball player. When compared to the other wing options in this draft, be it Stauskas or James Young or Doug McDermott or T.J. Warren, Harris enters as the only one who projects as a plus NBA defender. Being around Tom Izzo for two years will do that to you.
Harris' Big 10 pedigree is a major reason why he's going to be long gone by the time the No. 16 pick comes up. Gary Harris was a very good basketball player for two years against some of the best competition in the country. You can't really argue with his production.
Harris posted a 56 percent true shooting percentage as a sophomore, higher than Marcus Smart or Young. He isn't on Stauskas or McDermott's level as a three-point shooter, but he's certainly capable from behind the arc. After posting a 40 percent three-point percentage as a freshman, Harris fell down to a still respectable 35 percent shooter last season. He proved to be particularly good on catch-and-shoots from the corner, something we know the Bulls (like every team) love to take advantage of.
The other big thing Harris has going in his favor is his age. He doesn't turn 20 until September, making him the youngest sophomore in the draft. He's younger than Joel Embiid even if he spent an extra year in school. His age makes his production even more impressive. There were not many guards in college basketball better than Harris the last two years even if he was always one of the youngest guys on the court.
Essentially, that's the story of Gary Harris. He does everything well. There's no glaring holes in his game. He proved his worth by going against elite competition and being better than it more often than not.
Gary Harris does everything well, but does he do anything exceptional on offense? This is my biggest problem with Harris. He was a solid all-around college player, but he just isn't spectacular in any one facet.
Harris is a superior ball handler and passer when compared to James Young and Andrew Wiggins, but he still isn't a great ball handler and passer. He has a nice step back jumper that he uses to get off mid-range shots, but he's not on Jabari Parker or Jordan Adams' level in terms of craftiness. He might be a good three-and-D player, but I wonder if that's too low of a ceiling for someone who will cost you No. 16 and No. 19.
In a worst case scenario, Harris sort of reminds me of Keith Bogans. He'll be around the league for a while because he can defend and shoot, but he'll have to prove he's capable of doing more than just that. To me, that starts with slashing ability. If Gary Harris can get to the rim in the NBA, he'll be fine.
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I don't think that's a given, though. Again: Gary Harris is a good athlete, but not a great one. He doesn't explode off the ground the way some others in this class do. My main problem with Harris after watching him over the last two years is a willingness to pull up for long mid-range jumpers instead of fighting to get to the rim. I think that's the secret flaw of his game: for a guy who is supposed to be so tough and smart, Harris takes a lot of bad shots. He's not a Marcus Smart-level shot jacker, but he isn't exactly measured and patient with the ball in his hands either.
The other thing holding Harris back, at least a bit, is something he'll never be able to improve on. By NBA shooting guard standards, he's small. For as good of a defender as he is, it won't be easy for him to defend someone like 6'8 Raptors shooting guard Terrence Ross. Harris measured at just over 6'4 in shoes at the combine with a wingspan right at 6'7. That's ideal size for a point guard, but Gary Harris isn't a point guard. He's more of a true off-guard than he is a combo guard.
The Bulls need a shooting guard, and Gary Harris is a shooting guard. I think it's fair to expect him to be in the league for a long time. He has a high floor. Is his ceiling high enough to give up two picks, though?
Harris admittedly is not one of my favorite prospects in this draft, but I wouldn't be shocked if he turns out to be a very good player. The draft is tricky like that. He was, after all, a very good player in college! I just wonder if all of that will translate to the NBA. It's easier to build a case for him than against him, I think, and he certainly has many big fans around league (Chad Ford, most notably).
I'm just not totally sold on him. Look at the other short two guards around the league. Harris doesn't have Jason Terry's ball handling, playmaking or shotmaking ability. He doesn't have Ben Gordon's three-point shooting ability. He's a better defender than those guys, to be sure, but he's going to have to improve a lot if he's going to reach that type of level offensively. If you're trading two picks for him, you're hoping he turns into a Gordon or Terry-level offensive threat, I would think. He does have time on on his side because he's so young.
I liked him as a college player a lot. I want to like him more as an NBA prospect. Convince me.