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Sam Smith looks at the Bulls' draft options

Basically, the Bulls could use players at all five positions, since in addition to shooting guard, backup point guard and small forward had issues and you can always use big guys.
Sam Smith believes that JaJuan Johnson, a 6-10 power forward who played at Purdue, could be an option for the Bulls, who currently own the rights to the 28th and 30th picks in the first round of Thursday's NBA Draft. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

Sam Smith Mailbag

If the question is what will the Bulls do Thursday in the NBA Draft, I’d have to admit I don’t know.

But if the question is what should the Bulls do, then I have plenty of answers.

The Bulls most pressing need, as everyone knows, is a shooting guard. It’s not likely you’re going to get a shooting guard with the 28th or 30th pick in the first round, which the Bulls have, who will be good enough to start for a team that has to have championship aspirations.

Kia NBA Draft 2011 logo

Take a look back at the conference finals and NBA Finals and see how many rookies or second year guys were playing. Heck, Dallas had a virtual geriatric lineup. As Phil Jackson always said when he rejected the rookies Jerry Krause was picking, “You win with men.”

Which is also not to say there are not players at the bottom of the first round who can play in your rotation next season. Taj Gibson at No. 26 fit in and did become a starter, though it’s still not likely his role.

So one element for a team like the Bulls is maturity and experience. I’d be reluctant to select anyone who hasn’t been in college at least three or four years. You may not be getting a starter. But you will need players for your rotation in the next few years. And you want players who know how to play. Not developmental projects.

Which is also why I wouldn’t be afraid to use both picks.

If it were me, I’d use the No. 28 selection for:

-- JaJuan Johnson, 6-10 power forward, Purdue

-- Nolan Smith, 6-3 point guard, Duke.

Good programs, smart players with experience.

To me, that’s what you want to add if you are the Bulls. It’s like trying to hit the lottery to get a starter or star at the bottom of the first round. So get someone who fits your team and what you need.

I know, no shooting guard.

I really don’t see one toward the end of the first round or near the top of the second whom you’d like to bring in and develop. If you’re the Bulls, you have to go out and get a shooting guard. I mentioned in my Monday column the possibility of Vince Carter, who’ll likely be bought out. But he is expected to receive numerous offers and the Bulls may only be able to offer a minimum deal after the new labor agreement.

Forget trading up with the two No. 1 picks, the No. 2 the Bulls hold at No. 43 and/or the Charlotte pick that begins in 2012 and might not be available until 2016. There’s little or no such market.

There are shooting guards who are appealing, like Klay Thompson, Marshon Brooks and Alec Burks, though it’s tough to see any a starter next season. They’ll all likely be taken in the top 20. And the Bulls would have to give up their picks and a big man, either Omer Asik or Taj Gibson, to move up. That’s hardly worth it.

Which, to me, is one big reason I’d select Purdue’s Johnson. The old saw is you never can have enough big men. And who knows if the Bulls will be able to afford to bring back Kurt Thomas. So you might want someone like Johnson for insurance.

But if I picked Johnson, then I’d feel comfortable enough to make Gibson available—I’d want to keep Asik because centers are harder to find—and then have a decent shot at getting a shooting guard.

I think if you put Gibson in a package with a draft pick you ought to be able to have a good shot at a shooting guard who could start for you next season.

It would not be a stretch with a variation of that offer to be able to make a trade for someone like Courtney Lee of Houston, O.J. Mayo of Memphis, Brandon Rush of Indiana, Anthony Morrow of New Jersey, Carlos Delfino of Milwaukee, Marco Belinelli of New Orleans, Mickeal Pietrus of Phoenix, Leandro Barbosa of Toronto, Rudy Fernandez of Portland or C.J. Miles of Utah.

You’d think with that kind of offer the Bulls could have their pick among several of the above and would upgrade their shooting guard spot beyond what they could get in the draft.

The Bulls because of financial restraints likely in the new labor agreement figure to be unable to pursue free agent shooting guards like Jamal Crawford and Jason Richardson. I don’t see them interested in Anthony Parker, J.R. Smith, DeShawn Stevenson, Sasha Vujacic or Michael Redd.

I’ve mentioned the possibility of playing Luol Deng at some shooting guard. But I also think Caron Butler and Tayshaun Prince will be out their financial range given they are over the salary cap.

And they probably have no shot for financial reasons at younger players like Arron Afflalo and Marcus Thornton. They’re not about to get starters like Monta Ellis, Kevin Martin, Joe Johnson or Wesley Matthews without giving up someone like Joakim Noah. I see no chance of the Bulls doing that. All indications because of his contract status and down playoffs is there have been no talks regarding Carlos Boozer.

Perhaps they’ll be able to take a shot at Andrei Kirilenko, although I don’t see any way he doesn’t end up with the Nets and their new Russian owner. Or maybe Shane Battier, Grant Hill, Josh Howard or Mike Dunleavy, all of whom should be somewhat reasonable in price.

But those possibilities come up after the labor agreement is signed, which remains uncertain. I believe the Bulls would like to get someone at shooting guard before the July 1 threatened shutdown if they can.

Of course, it’s not vital, although I hope no one is goofy enough to bring up Tracy McGrady’s name again or Allen Iverson.

One of the big reasons last season was so successful was because of a terrific on court and off court chemistry, and it would be detrimental to mess with that with ego driven onetime stars.

There have been rumors Miami with the first pick in the second round has been linked to Boston College point guard Reggie Jackson, though others say they really are targeting Purdue’s Johnson.

The Bulls need a piece, someone to make a shot, make a play, run some offense, be a threat to the defense. Not take over the game. They have that.

Back to the draft, there, of course, are no guarantees the players I suggested will be available. Though most executives I talked with have both as a low first or high second round pick. Smith is the one who could go higher and be gone before No. 28 as the Bulls would then begin to seriously test the theory of whether you can win a championship with players from Duke.

I’d take my chances as long as I have Derrick Rose as well.

The latest posting on the internet draft sites, Draft Express and NBADraft.Net have the Bulls selecting Justin Harper, Travis Leslie (Draft Express) or Shelvin Mack and Chandler Parsons (Draft.net). These sites are amusing because they change picks every week. Just between those two sites, there have been 14 different players for the Bulls two picks since the lottery in May.

Of course, there is no way for even the Bulls to know since if they shoot high at all there’s a good chance that player will be taken. If they go conservative, they might be passing on better talent.

Basically, the Bulls could use players at all five positions since in addition to shooting guard, backup point guard and small forward had issues and you can always use big guys.

There is one young guy I might take a chance on as I wrote in Monday’s NBA column, Jeremy Tyler. He cannot play in the NBA next season and probably not the season after. But he’s intriguing because of his size, 6-11 and 260 — and youth. He’s very raw having left high school after his junior year but with a huge wingspan and post potential. If the guys I really want aren’t there at Nos. 28 and 30, I might take a shot and then tell him this: You have a guaranteed contract. You are going to be in the D-League for two years. There’s no chance you get on the roster. We’re hiring a coach to work with you fulltime there. We’ll see you in 2013.

The Bulls also have that second round pick, which teams usually use for a European player who can develop, like Omer Asik, who may be the organization’s greatest international coup this side of Toni Kukoc.

I can’t say I know much about those guys, though names mentioned have been Davis Bertans, a 6-10 perimeter shooter from Latvia, Nikola Mirotic, a 6-10 20-year-old power forward with shooting range from Montenegro and Bojan Bogdanovic, a 22-year-old swingman.

Mirotic, who has played well in Europe, has been getting more notice lately. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Bulls take him with one of their first rounders and leave him in Europe, thus also keeping the first round guarantee money off the salary cap to have more flexibility to pursue a veteran shooting guard now.

But also given the uncertainty about this draft and the talent level, which seems pretty even between about Nos. 18 and 45, the Bulls might find someone they were looking at with the No. 30 pick available at No. 43.

Among the players who should be available when the Bulls begin to pick at No. 28 — and others I like and would make sense — include:

-- Iman Shumpert, a 6-5 Georgia Tech junior guard from Oak Park who has good size and athletic ability;

-- Shelvin Mack, the 6-2 junior guard from Butler who is more the all around player and leader;

-- Kyle Singler, the 6-9 senior small forward from Duke. He is projected higher by many, but could fall and as a four year starter and winner who as a teammate reminds you of the Shane Battier and Tyler Hansbrough types;

-- Norris Cole, the senior point guard from Cleveland State. A bit thin, but a tough guy who competes and can run a team and can be an exciting backup point;

-- Jimmy Butler, the 6-7 forward from Marquette. More likely for the Bulls second round pick if he is there as he’s another who is gaining some traction and notice after an ESPN story about his upbringing, which was similar to the recent popular movie The Blind Side. He’s a hard working player like many out of the Marquette program.

The Bulls have looked at a lot of the so called stretch fours, or big man shooters in the mold of Brian Cook. Players like Chandler Parsons, Justin Harper and Trey Tompkins.

With maybe that second round pick I also like Iowa State point Diante Garrett, Texas freshman point guard Cory Joseph, though he needs some development, and Wisconsin big man Jon Leuer. Perhaps also UCLA combo guard Malcolm Lee, though he’s a bit too much of a tweener. Tweeners are common as you get into the second round, guys like Georgia’a Travis Leslie as well, and one good scouting rule is guys should have an NBA defined position. Like with Marshon Brooks and UCLA’s Tyler Honeycutt, I’d doubt Michigan point guard Darius Morris gets down to the end of the first round even if he’s not that much of a shooter. If he did I’d assume the Bulls give him a look as well.

Whom will they select? I’ll do my mock draft for Thursday morning. I was more confident of their selection in 2008.

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