Whether you're counting it as a comedic highlight or an anxiety-laced split second of dread, the most memorable moment of the 2014 NBA Draft Combine, at least from the Chicago Bulls' perspective, had nothing to do shooting drills, athletic testing or which players had already met with the front office. I was making my way across the gym formerly known as Attack Athletics following a media session on Thursday when Reggie Rose walked in the door and pulled up a seat near the back of the baseline, somewhere just behind where the rest of the Bulls' braintrust had set up shop. I went to tweet about it but everyone had already beat me to it. There was Tom Thbodeau, Gar Forman, John Paxson and Scottie Pippen, and now here was Reggie Rose joining the congregation as if his insight into personnel matters was anything but deeply irrelevant.
I don't think anyone with the Bulls actually cares what Reggie Rose thinks at this point, but his appearance has a tendency to capture the imagination. In a room that included active GMs (Daryl Morey, Sam Hinkie, R.C. Buford), famous former players (Chris Mullin, Tim Hardaway, Allan Houston) and all but the top-three projected draft prospects, I couldn't stop staring at Reggie Rose, wondering what he was thinking and wondering to whom he would present these thoughts. I thought it was hilarious, more than anything, but it was still memorable. That might be the best example of how little we can really glean from the draft combine at this point.
The reports of death of the draft combine are not greatly exaggerated. As I wrote in my Zach LaVine profile on Friday, this event has turned into more of an industry convention than a tangible basketball scouting showcase. I love going for the media availability, but there was no running away from the fact that Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins weren't here, and everyone who *was* here couldn't do so much as pick up a ball. The Bulls, like the rest of the NBA, are well aware that the real scouting takes place during the college season. The athletic testing provides a certain barometer and helps ease the task of player comparisons, but the basketball portion of the proceedings was about as immaterial as whoever Reggie Rose thinks the Bulls should trade for.
This is still a great opportunity to meet with players, scouts, media folks and anyone in the orbit of the NBA's gravitational pull, though, and if nothing else we had a handful of names reveal they've met with the Bulls. Nik Stauskas wasn't one of them, but Tyler Ennis, Doug McDermott, Rodney Hood, James Young and LaVine all spoke with Forman and Paxson. You can imagine how each of these guys would fit with the roster, and it's good the Bulls seemed to be casting a wide net with two picks in the top 20 that fall outside of the lottery. Simply put, the Bulls' fate is in other team's hands. There will be good players available at No. 16 and No. 20, because there are every single year. The trick is finding ones that mesh with this roster and fit the longterm vision of the front office.
Could McDermott actually be available?
Douglas McBuckets has been projected as a potential top 10 pick by most mock drafts since the NCAA Tournament ended, but I get the sense the Bulls are very much hoping he's available at No. 16. My guess is that the Bulls would take him if he's there.
McDermott's combine was a bit of a mixed bag. He measured only at 6'6 (in socks) with a 6' 9.25" wingspan, which means he's not going to be a stretch four. He's a small forward. You don't need a degree from Chad Ford University to know the limitations he's going to face at that spot. Put McDermott as a defender against fellow small forwards LeBron, Durant, Paul George and Carmelo and the game will likely need a lengthy pause to clean all the blood up off the floor. You'll need to hide him on defense, but it might be worth it because of what he provides as a shooter and scorer.
McDermott pulled out a 36.5-inch running max vertical, which ranked No. 18 of the 60 players tested. That counts as a pretty big surprise, but I'm not sure it puts an end to any of the concerns spelled out in the previous paragraph. Defense is about length, lateral quickness, smarts and effort, not just how high you can jump with a running start. This is the case for why McDermott probably shouldn't be a top 10 pick in a draft as loaded as this one, but were he available at No. 16, I do think he'd be a nice selection.
McDermott shot 45 percent on 6.1 attempts per game from three as a senior. He shot 49 percent on 4.4 attempts per game from three as a junior. You don't really need to spell it out much more: the dude can shoot, and that's a big need on the Bulls. He never averaged more than 1.6 assists per game, but he told me he thinks his passing and court vision is underrated. He better hope so, because his NBA success will have a lot to do with knowing when to pass and the ability to find the open man. He was a bit of a ball stopper out of necessity in college, but that ain't gonna fly in the league.
I remember seeing tweets during the season that Paxson and Forman were spotting scouting McDermott at Creighton games, and he told me he had a good meeting with the Bulls. Based on just that, and the obvious need for shooters, I wouldn't be surprised if the Bulls covet him. That's just a gut feeling more than anything, for what it's worth.
Tyler Ennis and the two point guard attack
The two point guard attack is in vogue, with the Suns finding tons of success by rolling with Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe and the Thunder closing out a playoff series against the Clippers with Reggie Jackson joining Russell Westbrook in the backcourt. Syracuse point guard Tyler Ennis said he met with the Bulls and talked a bit about the idea of playing alongside Derrick Rose:
"I know they always have a lot of point guards on the roster," Ennis said at Friday's NBA draft combine. "Whether that's this year when they have three with Derrick Rose getting hurt, so I know they're not against it. I can say that. Whether they're moving forward and that's something they want to do (I don't know), but that's something they've done in the past. They've been a team that's competed for a championship year in, year out so I don't see why they'd go away from it."
"I think I was able to ask them a few questions about (the possibility of playing with Rose)," Ennis said. "And I think going forward, the success in the playoffs of teams going with two guards is kind of going to open people's eyes and I think more teams going forward are going to do that. I don't know if the Bulls are one of those teams, but I've seen Augustin and Hinrich play at the same time at points throughout this year. And I think with me and Derrick Rose on the floor together you wouldn't have any offensive struggles. And I think we're both able to guard our positions. And I think we'd be able to play together."
Ennis is a talented prospect and comes off as the definition of a "pure point guard", but, personally, I'm not in love with the idea of the Bulls drafting him. Unlike Jackson and Gordon, he doesn't have anything resembling nuclear athleticism. He's good at everything, maybe great at passing, but he's nothing special when it comes to putting the ball on the deck and taking it to the rack or three-point shooting.
Add in the fact that Thibodeau is basically the point guard whisperer with his ability to turn the likes of D.J. Augustin and John Lucas III into capable players, and I think the Bulls might be better off to go with a wing and the big man instead of another point guard.
So, about LaVine
There are going to be a lot of teams upset at themselves two years from now for passing on Zach LaVine. The way he gets off the ground is just at another level. Throw in his ball handling and shooting ability, and the easiest comp might be Jamal Crawford with Russell Westbrook's athleticism, as absurd as that seems. He's only 180 lbs. soaking wet and might never defend anyone, but the man is a toolshed.
I really like LaVine as a prospect, but I'm not sure if the Bulls would be the best fit for him. He just turned 19 years old and we saw how the Bulls did in managing their last teenage prospect, Marquis Teague. Thibodeau is already notoriously stubborn when it comes to playing rookies, and it won't help to give him someone as raw as LaVine. As a basketball fan, I almost want him to go elsewhere so he has a better chance at fulfilling his immense potential. As a Bulls fan, I'd be kicking myself if they took someone with a much lower ceiling just so they didn't have to put in the hours at developing a possible supernova.