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Analyzing the Chicago Bulls’ Draft Picks

Which rookie is ready to become a part of the greatest culture in professional basketball?

With the 2013 NBA Draft officially in the books, each lottery team can now get ready for, and attempt to win, the Andrew Wiggins Sweepstakes by praying for nothing but another season of shittiness and playoff spectating from the couch. Some teams and their fans, though, are fortunate enough to have a NBA season to look forward to, the Bulls being one of those teams. Four of the Bulls’ last eight draft picks (Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler) have given us all we could’ve asked for and more. One of their picks (James Johnson) ate himself out of Chicago, two were traded on draft night (Sonny Weems and Norris Cole; Nikola Mirotic was acquired on draft night), and one is set to enter his second season as a backup point guard who has yet to scratch the surface of his potential (Marquis Teague). Can the 2013 draft class go down as another one of Gar Forman’s milestones? Let’s assess.

Tony Snell, Small Forward, University of New Mexico; 6’7.25″, 198 lbs.

I don’t completely hate this pick, but I don’t love it either. Tony Snell comes to Chicago with a number of concerning question marks. His work ethic is mediocre at best, and he tends to disappear in games far too often. Many times throughout his college career, he would look disengaged on the court and seemed to lack an attacking mentality by settling for contested jumpers and forcing bad shots. That lack of an attacking mentality makes him a very poor rebounder for his position (averaged 3.4 rebounds per-forty minutes as a junior), so he’ll need to show that he has the ability to play with aggressiveness and focus if he wants to earn any playing time as a rookie.

In addition, Snell struggled mightily, for the most part, against some of the best defenses in the country each season. His inability to create off the dribble limits his upside, as he’s more of an off-the-ball shooter than anything else, having spent most of his time in college being run off screens or spotting up (which he is very effective at, actually). The good news, however, is that he obviously won’t be asked to do much on the offensive end (early on in his career, at least) besides come off the bench as a floor spacer and hit open three-pointers, which he can certainly do, having made 38% of his three point attempts in three seasons at New Mexico.

Despite all the intangible flaws, the Bulls didn’t draft Snell to be a leader or a playmaker. They drafted him to fill a gaping hole behind the arc and for his high potential as a wing defender. A 6’11.5″ wingspan for a man of his size is pretty unbelievable and has helped make him the solid on-the-ball defender that he is and should continue to be. He has very good defensive awareness, and his aforementioned length continuously disrupted opponents in college, allowing them score only 18.8% of the time against him when isolated. Here is DraftExpress’ scouting report on Snell’s defensive capabilities:

Defensively, Snell’s physical tools make him an intriguing piece, as he has the size, length, and lateral quickness to be a versatile defender capable of defending both wing positions. If he makes a commitment to focusing on the defensive end, it would go a long ways towards helping him solidify a role at the NBA level. He’ll need to continue to get stronger and play tougher, but he certainly has the potential to excel on this end of the floor.

While there may have been better options than Snell, this isn’t all that surprising of a pick. He was pegged as a dark horse candidate for the Bulls at 20, and picking him solidifies the fact that the Bulls are making a conscious effort to fill the three-point shooting hole that they so desperately need to fill. Snell’s defensive potential is a major plus for Thibodeau and his system, but if he doesn’t come in to camp ready to work his ass off and display a passion for playing this beautiful game of basketball, then he won’t even sniff the hardwood as a rookie. I trust Thibs and the veterans will get the most out of him, which should fare well for both Snell and the Bulls over time.

Erik Murphy, Power Forward, University of Florida; 6’10”, 240 lbs.

I’ve always been a fan of Murphy’s game. The dude can shoot the freakin’ lights out from three – he’s wetter than an adolescent’s bed sheets during puberty – by knocking down two trays per game and leading the entire SEC in three-point shooting as a senior at 45.3% (also shot 51.6% from the field overall). He’s the epitome of a stretch-four and has drawn numerous comparisons to San Antonio Spur Matt Bonner, another Florida alum. He has an extremely quick release and has proven to be very proficient shooting off the pick-and-pop. Murphy is a fun player to watch, and if you don’t close out on him in a hurry, he can single-handedly change the momentum of games with his hot hand.

As much as I like Murphy, I’m not totally sure how he fits into the Bulls’ system. I don’t anticipate he’ll play much at all, if he even makes the roster, during his rookie season, so the question remains how can he contribute to this team going forward? He’s a one-dimensional player with minimal athleticism, and he’s a liability as both a rebounder and a defender. Do the Bulls envision him playing the five in a small-ball lineup with Taj? Do they even see a future for Murphy in Chicago once Nikola Mirotic comes over from Spain in 2014? Am I completely over-thinking this like I always do? Yes. Yes I am.

Nevertheless, Murphy has a high basketball IQ and rarely ever takes bad shots, so if he does ever end up playing in a Bulls uniform, he’s plenty capable of giving them a couple valuable minutes here and there off the bench when the offense is reeling or the front court needs a spell.

As with most mid-to-late round draft picks, it will likely take a few years before we can truly determine whether this draft was a success or not. Both Snell and Murphy bring positive attributes to the table and can help quench the Bulls’ enormous hunger for three-point shooting, but it’s too difficult to say right now what kind of impact they’ll have as rookies. Don’t expect much early on, as Coach Thibs forces his first-year players to work countless hours and earn his respect before sending them onto the court. But over time, the answer to how Snell and Murphy can legitimately help this team will become more clear.


NBA Draft 2013: Chicago Bulls’ Prospects

David Stern will be on the podium for his final NBA Draft. Absolutely no one is complaining.

Let’s be honest – no one is overly excited for this year’s NBA draft. There just isn’t that one franchise-changing player that basketball talking heads and fans alike are slobbering over. Most people are pegging this draft class as “weak” for that very reason which, to me, is pretty unfair.  There may not be any Derrick Roses or John Walls amongst this crew, but its lack of potential superstars to date is made up for in significant depth and experienced college basketball players.

That depth will be key for a majority of teams possessing picks near the backend of the first round. One of those teams, as you may know, is the Chicago Bulls. The Bulls, as I pointed out a couple of weeks ago, are currently in a terrible cap situation and are likely to enter next season with yet another new bench mob, making Thursday’s draft that much more important. They lack frontcourt depth and a sharpshooting wing (the Belinelli situation is still up in the air) to aid their three-point shooting and overall scoring woes. Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of players projected to be drafted 20 or after who fit either description AND scream “immediate impact,” especially given how Tom Thibodeau never seems to trust his rookies. But, with much of the bench mob set to enter free agency (Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli, Rip Hamilton once his contract gets bought out, Daequan Cook and Nazr Mohammed), maybe Gar Forman can strike gold and find another valuable player to join Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler on his list of hidden gems.

Gorgui Dieng – Center, University of Louisville

  • Draft projection: Mid-to-late first round
  • Probability of being available at 20: High
  • comparison: Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje (not a joke – this is actually his name)

The comparison to Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje certainly won’t get anyone fired up. Why chooses to waste everyone’s time by comparing a sure first-round pick to a guy who a) has two last names, both of which are the same, and b) averaged 6.3 minutes per game in three NBA seasons a decade ago is beyond me. But that’s besides the point.

Gorgui Dieng is an extremely unpolished offensive player who happens to have incredible defensive instincts and upside.  At 6’11” and 230 pounds, the Louisville product is coming off a season in which he averaged nearly a double-double (9.8 points, 9.4 rebounds) and 2.5 blocks per game, all while anchoring the paint for the best defense in college basketball and helping lead the Cardinals to their first National Championship in 27 years.

His 7’3.5” wing span gives him exceptional length and makes him arguably the best rim protector in this year’s draft, two characteristics that the Bulls prefer their  backup big men to possess and have a true knack for developing (Taj Gibson, Omer Asik). He’s a very capable weak-side shot blocker with great timing and an ability to not bite on shot fakes. Unlike many players in the NBA (Carlos Boozer, echem), the 23-year-old Dieng simply understands how to play defense and owns a very strong work ethic, having added 50 pounds of muscle since arriving in America from Senegal a few years back and willing his Louisville squad to the promise lands despite breaking his wrist early in the season. Outside of open looks around the basket or face up shots, Dieng needs some serious help to improve his game, but given his positive work ethic and high character, one can only help but think that he’s the exact kind of player the Bulls are looking for to back up Joakim Noah in Thibodeau’s defensive-minded system.

Mason Plumlee – Power Forward/Center, Duke University

  • Draft projection: Mid first round
  • Probability of being available at 20: Medium
  • comparison: Yi Jianlian

I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t really like Mason Plumlee. A lot of that may have to do with the fact that I don’t really like Duke and everyone constantly compared him to my beloved Cody Zeller over the past couple years, so I will attempt to provide you as objective an assessment as possible.

The 6’11” Plumlee comes into the draft with quite a lot of college experience, having gone up against some of the best big men throughout his college career and having been an integral part of four NCAA tournament teams at Duke, including two Sweet 16 runs and a National Championship run (he didn’t play much on that team, as he was only a Freshman, but he was still a part of the rotation).  He’s a very tough nosed and energetic player who improved every single season during his time at Duke. Like Zeller, Plumlee contains rare athleticism for a man of his size, as well as the ability to get out and run in transition. He’s also an excellent rebounder, having ranked just outside the top ten in the nation (13th) in rebounds per game last season (10.2).

The knock against Plumlee, however, is his predictability in the post. His repertoire of post moves is very limited, and he struggles to adjust against elite defenders because of it. The good news, though, is that he understands how to effectively work the pick-and-roll, and in a pick-and-roll dominated league, he could eventually turn himself into a valuable asset from that standpoint if he can somehow develop a solid mid-range game. I don’t think Plumlee would be a great fit for the Bulls right now (he’s also not a very good defender), but the potential for a bright future is there.

Jeff Withey – Center, Kansas University

  • Draft projection: Late first round to early second round
  • Probability of being available at 20: Higher than my blood sugar after eating a slice of Portillo’s chocolate cake
  • Probability of being available at 49: Very low
  • comparison: Travis Knight

Withey’s name has popped up a lot in the recent months in Bulls draft discussions, but for whatever reason, his draft stock has somewhat decreased. He doesn’t have much strength or toughness at all, and he’s very ineffective with his back to the basket, but the 7-foot Withey does know a thing or two about defense, which happens to be the key to Tom Thibodeau’s heart.  He earned himself Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors last season (along with Victor Oladipo), ranking third in the nation with 3.9 blocks per game in only 30.9 minutes (4.9 blocks per 40 minutes) and ending his career as one of the most defensively dominant big men over the past decade.  He has phenomenal instincts as both a man-to-man and help-side defender, as his ability to avoid committing fouls by going straight up and absorbing contact (he committed only two fouls per game as a senior) gives him the aptitude to alter nearly every shot his long arms can reach.

Withey is the type of player that actually loves playing defense, which should bode well for his playing time early on in his career for a team lacking any sort of defensive presence (basically half the league) in the paint. Once teams figure out how to take him out of the game (spoiler alert: force him to step outside the paint, which he rarely ever had to do at Kansas), though, that potential playing time could diminish quickly. Hopefully some of these aforementioned flaws will be improved upon come October.

Tim Hardaway Jr. – Shooting Guard, University of Michigan

  • Draft projection: Late first round
  • Probability of being available at 20: High
  • comparison: Wesley Person/Arron Afflalo

The key word with Tim Hardaway Jr. is upside; everyone knows how good he can be, it’s just a matter of him continuing to improve and becoming a consistent shooter. He worked very hard to improve his three point shooting last offseason, which he did (jumped from 28.3% to 37.4%), but for whatever reason, he just could not seem to stay consistent, as his catch-and-shoot, pull-up jumper and runners around the rim percentages were all over the place throughout his three years at Michigan.

Nevertheless, Hardaway has great size for his position (6’7”) and can come in and effectively stretch the floor for a team like the Bulls, who lack any sort of outside scoring threat at the moment. He’s a hard worker who plays with passion, and being the son of a bigoted homophobe – er, potential NBA Hall of Famer – should only help him put in to perspective what it will take to be successful at the next level. Whether or not Hardaway Jr. will be a good pro remains to be seen, but he could be a solid option for a team looking to add some 2-guard depth.

Reggie Bullock – Shooting Guard/Small Forward, University of North Carolina

  • Draft projection: Mid first round to early second round
  • Probability of being available at 20: Migh (a medium/high hybrid)
  • comparison: Casey Jacobson

If the Bulls are set on filling their perimeter shooting hole with the 20th pick, then 6’7″ Reggie Bullock should undoubtedly be their choice. The former Tar Heel comes in as arguably the best pure shooter in this year’s draft (shot 43.6% from three last season) with great size and length to play the 2. He has a textbook shooting stroke, quick release, moves well without the ball, and he has proven to be very efficient shooting off screens and spotting up for open looks. It’s hard not to like his game; not only is he effective without the rock in his hands, but he’s also smart when he has it, as evidenced by his miniscule average of 1.2 turnovers per game.

The one issue may be Bullock’s lack of creativity with the ball in his hands because he’s not the greatest ball handler and doesn’t possess that explosive first step that allows players to drive by opponents. Here’s how Draft Express views Bullock:

Considering his strong long-range shooting, low-mistake style of play, and lack of creativity on the offensive end, Bullock seems best suited to play a role similar to the one fellow North Carolina product Danny Green plays for the Spurs.

Danny Green? After his performance throughout the NBA Playoffs and most of the NBA Finals? Sign me up.

Jamaal Franklin – Shooting Guard, San Diego State University

  • Draft projection: Mid-to-late first round
  • Probability of being available at 20: High
  • comparison: Will Barton/Hassan Adams

I love me some Jamaal Franklin, who remains one of the most underrated players in the draft. The do-it-all shooting guard single-handedly kept San Diego St. in the national conversation the past two seasons after Kawhi Leonard’s departure, leading them to the NCAA tournament both years and throwing down the sickest dunk of the season. ESPN Draft Analyst Chad Ford, who has the Bulls selecting Franklin in his most recent draft board, loves him more than I do, pegging him as “one of the toughest players in the draft and a kid who should contribute immediately — a smaller version of Kawhi Leonard.” Kawhi Leonard? You know, that guy who guarded Lebron James for seven hard fought games in the Finals and has transformed himself into one of the league’s best young stars? Yeah, that’s him. Pretty high praise for the long-sleeved Franklin, and for good reason if you ask me.

At 6’5″, Franklin’s tremendous versatility was on full display over the past couple of years on the west coast, as he led his team in scoring, assists, rebounding and steals per game during his final season. He’s an incredible athlete and fantastic rebounder for his size with the highest of motors, always giving 110% effort on both ends of the floor. His defense, as indicated below by Draft Express, should translate very well at the next level:

Defensively, Franklin showed great versatility with the ability to cover four positions if necessary, thanks to his tremendous toughness and athleticism. He has great potential on this end of the floor as an NBA player if he really makes a commitment and focuses on every possession. His anticipation skills and quick hands make him a pest in the passing lanes and on the ball, and his motor and physical tools stack up very well at his position.

Franklin’s biggest flaw, unfortunately, is his shooting (42.6% overall and 30.2% from three throughout career at SDSU), but as has been the case with Leonard, a little hard work on that aspect of his game can take him a long away. I anticipate Franklin will one day prove to be one of the bigger steals in this draft, but only time will tell.

As you can see, there are a lot of decent options that should be available at 20 (everything after the first round is always a crap shoot) – it all just depends on whether the Bulls decide to go big or not. My guess is that they will end up drafting a center to back up Noah, as they’ve given no indications that they’re going to bring back Nazr Mohammed, and find some mid-level shooters/slashers to fill their back court at minimum salaries, but what do I know? Until then, let’s enjoy Thursday night’s draft and look forward to welcoming two new players to The City of Broad Shoulders.

Other first-round prospects to keep in mind: Allen Crabbe, Rudy Gobert, Ricky Ledo, Tony Snell, Tony Mitchell, Glen Rice Jr.

Second-round prospects to keep in mind: Carrick Felix, Trevor Mbakwe, Colton Iverson, James Ennis, Zeke Marshall, B.J. Young, Brandon Paul

The Deng Dilemma

What should the Bulls do with Luol Deng?

Few Chicago athletes of this generation have ever had me at “Hello.” Brian Urlacher, Derrick Rose, Anthony Rizzo – they qualify. But Luol Deng? He certainly did not. Although I hated Duke, he was a great talent out of college, and in all honesty, I was quite satisfied when the Phoenix Suns agreed to draft him with the 7th pick and then trade him to Chicago.

During the first three seasons of his career, Deng continued to get better and transformed himself from a somewhat raw offensive talent into a very reliable, very productive NBA small forward, improving his field goal percentage from 43.4% to 51.7% over that span. But once the 2007-08 season came around, I started to lose trust in Deng, as he rejected a pretty generous contract extension, missed 19 games because of a lingering Achilles injury and saw a dip in his numbers across the board, including minutes (37 mpg in 06-07 to 33 mpg in 07-08).

By the end of the 2008-09 season, I began to genuinely dislike Deng. He had signed a major six-year contract extension worth $71 million before the season started, yet ended up missing 33 games plus the playoffs due to some mysterious injury. At that point, I self-proclaimed myself as the conductor of the “Luol Deng is a Straight Up Pussy” bandwagon, and many people started hopping aboard. I personally felt that Luol had no interest in trying or caring, and I looked at him as another one of those athletes that got his money and just said “f**k it.” I wanted him out of Chicago, and I wanted him out fast.

The 2009-10 season proved to be a decent turnaround for Lu, but it wasn’t until the 2010-11 season, after the hiring of Tom Thibodeau, that I did a complete 180. Deng has been a different player since then. He’s led the NBA in minutes per game two of the past three seasons (and finished fourth in the other), he made the NBA All-Defensive Second Team in 2012 as well as the last two all-star teams, and he’s battled through literally every injury he’s been plagued with. Now a premiere small forward in the league, Deng is considered the ultimate glue guy. His work ethic is one in which you cannot teach, he’s as tough, mentally and physically, as they come, and he has made himself invaluable to the success of the Chicago Bulls. Call me crazy, but there are few athletes, if any, that I currently love more than Luol Deng, and I can’t imagine him in another uniform – it’d be devastating.

But let’s be honest – the Bulls cap situation going into next season is nothing short of horrendous, as evidenced by this fantastic cap breakdown. Since you’re probably too lazy to click on that link and read what’s within, allow me to sum it up: the Bulls are already into the luxury tax with just eight players (Rose, Boozer, Deng, Noah, Gibson, Hinrich, Butler, Teague) plus the likely Rip Hamilton buyout. Eight players, as you know, isn’t going to cut it, since each NBA team kinda needs at least 13 players on its roster. The 20th overall pick is going to cost $1.472 million by itself, and minimum salary players will cost another $884K each. By now, you hopefully get the point – there is basically no flexibility and no hope for any significant free agent signings this summer. Nate Robinson ain’t coming back, and the chances of a Marco Belinelli re-signing are slim to none. If Cheap Ass Reinsdorf can’t stomach this already uncomfortable salary cap situation, what in god’s name can be done to relieve it?

Insert the Cleveland Cavaliers. They happen to have the first overall pick in one of the worst drafts (stardom-wise) in recent memory. There’s a lot of depth, but to even the most casual of basketball fans, no one screams potential superstar. Cleveland is as open as any organization will ever be to trading that pick away, and what they desperately need is a scoring small forward with veteran experience and the ability to anchor a defense. Luol Deng fits that bill perfectly. However, a two-time all-star isn’t going to be enough to covet the first overall pick. Throw in an asset like Marquis Teague to back up Kyrie Irving and the 20th overall pick? Now we’re talking.

If I’m Chris Grant (Cleveland’s GM), I’m thinking long and hard about this deal. My team just invested the fourth overall pick last year on a shooting guard in Dion Waiters, so why would I want to make that situation even more complicated by drafting Ben McLemore? Sure, I could draft Nerlens Noel and stash him for a year while he recovers from ACL surgery, but what good will that do? We have Anderson Varejao locked up through 2015, plus we’ll be atrocious again next season yet have no chance at winning another lottery (you know, because it’s rigged and all), meaning Andrew Wiggins will be nothing more than a pipe dream.

If I’m Gar Forman, I’m not even thinking about this deal – I’m ready to sign some papers. Not because I don’t want Deng anymore – it would be heartbreaking at first to see him go – but because it’ll make Jerry Reinsdorf get down on his hands and knees thanking me for coming up with a genius way to save him money, and because of two words that every basketball fan will likely be muttering in their dreams in a few years: Victor Oladipo.

Call me biased towards my precious Hoosiers – I don’t care. Victor Oladipo will be the best player to come out of this draft when it’s all said and done for three reasons, and nothing anyone can say or do before June 27th will convince me otherwise:

  1. His unfathomable work ethic and energy 

    Before Oladipo took the college basketball world by storm last season, he wasn’t what one would consider a household name. In three short years, he went from an under-recruited player in high school known for throwing down hellacious dunks in the backyard of my fraternity house (in jeans, mind you) and failing to crack ESPN’s top 100 recruiting rankings to National Player of the Year candidate and potential top-three draft pick. He is the epitome of a gym rat, having spent hours and hours upon end working on his game and improving upon his significant weaknesses. His first two seasons at IU saw him combine for 18/74 from three; in his junior season, he made 30 of 68 threes, good for 44.1%. He led all guards, not just in the Big Ten, but in the entire country, with a 60% field goal percentage. He won Co-Defensive Player of the Year honors, leading the Big Ten in steals per game (2.2). Oladipo is always hungry, constantly trying to raise his game and making the players around him better. He’s the full package, and that much can’t be said about most of the players in this draft.

  2. Nothing phases him

    When the lights are on and the drunken fans are screaming, Oladipo rises to the occasion. Check out these stat lines:
    vs. MSU: 21 points on 8/12 shooting, 7 rebounds, 6 steals, 3 blocks (WIN)
    @OSU: 26 points on 8/10 shooting, 8 rebounds, 2 steals (WIN)
    @MSU: 19 points on 7/11 shooting, 9 rebounds, 5 steals with the go-ahead put back, dunk and free throws in the final minute, albeit on a sprained left ankle (WIN)
    @Michigan for the Big Ten title: 14 points, 13 rebounds, including 7 offensive (WIN)
    vs. Temple in Round of 32: 16 points, 8 rebounds and the heroic game-winning 3-pointer with 14 seconds left (WIN)I can keep going, but you get the picture: Oladipo thrives in big moments, a characteristic that almost always translates well at the professional level.
  3. The writing is on the wall

    A number of GMs have said that Oladipo is hands down their favorite player in the draft. As one GM said, “I know he’s the one guy in this draft that my head coach would love to have right now. He’s an impressive young man on and off the court.” Chad Ford noted that GMs are impressed by his mixture of candor and intensity in interviews. Another GM stated, “Athletically he’s so gifted. And he combines that with hard work both in the game and in practice. He keeps working on his game and getting better. His attitude was just special in the interview we had. He’s humble, but confident. He doesn’t draw attention to himself, but when he speaks he sounds like a leader.” And the best quote of all from Will Perdue (added to this post on 6/7):

    “If you’re talking about the guy who is going to come in and be the most effective player from day one, it’s Oladipo. He’s got that ‘It’ Factor,” that it takes to be successful in the league. A lot of guys in this draft don’t have that. There’s no doubt he plays with an edge. Watching him play defense this season, I wouldn’t have any hesitation putting him into an NBA game and letting him guard Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade or Kobe Bryant from day one.  I think he’s that good defensively.”

    Honestly, what more needs to be said?

Turning Deng, Teague and the 20th pick into Oladipo will do two things for the Bulls:

  1. It will save them a little over $12 million in cap space for the 2013-14 season (Deng’s $14.125M + Teague’s $1.075M + 20th pick’s $1.135M minus Oladipo’s $4.287M), getting them to roughly $10 million under the projected luxury tax threshold of $71.6 million (Cleveland is roughly $15 million under that threshold at this point in time). What does this mean? They can potentially make a run at the highly sought after shooting guard, O.J. Mayo, and fill the rest of the roster out with minimum salary players, giving them, if all goes as planned, a projected starting lineup of Rose, Oladipo, Butler, Boozer, and Noah, with Mayo, Hinrich, and Gibson to round out a fantastic eight-man rotation. How realistic a scenario like this is, I’m not sure. But it does make sense for both the Bulls and Cavs, and if the Bulls aren’t able to sign an impactful free agent this summer, they’ll have all the flexibility in the world next summer, with Carlos Boozer likely to be amnestied just in time for the arrival of Nikola Mirotic and an extremely deep 2014 free agent class.
  2. That very class, plus the resurgence of Deng’s protegé, Jimmy Butler, has suddenly made Deng expendable. A deal like this will free up Butler and allow him to take over as the small forward of the future, all while replacing Lu with Luol Deng 2.0 in Victor Oladipo, a relentless defender with the versatility to guard multiple positions and enormous upside. Although his offensive game lacks a true foundation at this point, his shooting has still improved tremendously, he’s one of the best finishers around the rim due to his unparalleled athleticism and body control, and he’s a fantastic rebounder for his position.

Heading into the season with the current roster plus a healthy Derrick Rose should hopefully be enough to beat Miami next year, but the end of Luol Deng’s contract is very near, and given Chicago’s terrible cap situation, either trading him or letting him walk in free agency may be inevitable. Trading Deng is something that would really hit Bulls fans where it hurts, but if we can replace him with Tom Thibodeau’s ideal type of player in Oladipo as the first overall pick in the draft AND give them major cap room flexiblity, it’s something that management should at least consider bringing up to Chris Grant and Dan Gilbert over the next few weeks.

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