Big men and shooters likely on Bulls' draft radar

Will the Bulls take a big man with the 20th pick in Thursday's NBA Draft? Or do they go with shooting, which you always need in this NBA? Sam Smith takes a look at the players most likely on Chicago's list.

With the 20th pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls select...

Yes, here we go again, and this one is going to be tough to figure since the guy with the No. 1 pick has no idea what to do.

But before getting into the players—I’ll have my mock draft available Thursday morning—this is why we love this draft week.

On Monday, the big national story involving the Bulls was that they were working on a trade to move two-time All-Star Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers or Washington Wizards.

On Tuesday, the big national story involving the Bulls was that they were negotiating a contract extension with Deng.

2013 NBA Draft

Even the most casual reader has to assume that at least one of them has to be incorrect. My sense is the middle is the right one, that the Bulls aren’t doing anything with Deng. He has a year left on his contract, and a lot of things change in a year. So let’s see what they are.

I’ve heard this theory before, that you have to move Deng for something rather than risk losing him. Why, exactly?

Isn’t is about time to actually play for a title instead of forever looking for long term windows and the next star? It’s what I believe the Bulls are up to, which is why I also believe they will use their No. 20 selection in the first round on either a backup big man or a shooter, a perimeter reserve, and then pick up a few inexpensive players, as they have done so well the last two years, in free agency after July 1.

Yes, I know some teams in the East are getting better. The Cavs owner says they’ll make the playoffs. Good luck with that one. The Wizards could. Maybe the Raptors. Perhaps the Bucks or Pistons.

But the Eastern Conference looks wide open, and though Miami recently won its second consecutive title, it took a pair of seventh games and some extraordinary finishes by LeBron James. Not that he can’t do that again.

But if you are the Bulls, you have to like Jimmy Butler defending Dwyane Wade. As poorly as Carlos Boozer has been in some playoff games, he never was scoreless in the biggest game of the season as Chris Bosh was in Game 7 of the Finals. So throw Taj Gibson in at him as well. And Joakim Noah.

And, oh yes, Derrick Rose returns, and that’s 25 more points the Bulls basically didn’t have last season. The Bulls battled the Heat in all but one playoff game behind Nate Robinson and with half the roster injured and ill. So there’s no so-called second superstar on the Bulls. Who’s No. 1 on the Pacers, who also went seven games with Miami? Big Three? I don’t think so.

It’s why I doubt the Bulls have even the remotest thought of trading Deng or anyone else. I think they believe—and I believe it as well, though I don’t think they care much—that Miami is very ripe for the taking.

If Wade plays 60 games next season we’ll all be surprised. Ray Allen made a great shot in Game 6. He barely was hitting the rim many other games. They’re wheeling Mike Miller into some games, and Shane Battier’s flopping routine isn’t getting bought much anymore. Who are we talking about? You put Butler on Wade, single cover James with Deng and bark at Bosh and he’ll run away. Stay home on the shooters, who can’t dribble.

There’s no reason to fear Miami. It’s time to take them on. Even those great Bulls teams were staggering in each season going for the third title. They didn’t win the conference in 1992-93 and in 1997-98, though they won 62 games, it was 10 fewer than two years previous and seven fewer than the previous season. There’s a reason why few teams win that third one. They’re not so hungry, and the other guys are. And though the Bulls carried on with that “we have more than enough” mantra, they didn’t without Rose. Now, they do.

How about putting out a lineup at times of Kirk Hinrich, Butler, Deng, Gibson and Noah, basically each one a contender for the all-defensive team. Then you add a Rose who is anxious to show you don’t want to forget about him. Perhaps the Bulls bring back Marco Belinelli, though that remains uncertain.

Which leads the team to Thursday’s draft.

Gibson can play some backup center as Miami got through without basically any center. But you prefer a big man to back up Noah. It does look like you can get a serviceable big man who can be a decent second unit guy and give you 12 or 13 minutes per game, as Omer Asik did, in this draft.

But what if you are going to lose Belinelli? And Robinson?

There goes a lot of shooting. And that’s perhaps the Bulls’ greatest missing piece. Everyone saw how much shooting meant early in the series for the Spurs with Danny Green and then late for Miami with Battier and Miller.

Deng, Hinrich and Butler can make some threes. But you wouldn’t call them great stretch shooters. Not that you’ll find a great shooter that low in the first round. But there does seem to be a few candidates, especially to be perimeter reserves if the Bulls cannot retain Belinelli.

So do the Bulls go big man? Or do they go shooting, which you always need in this NBA?

Here’s a look at the players most likely on the Bulls list. This comes reliably from sources who may or may not know:

Gorgui Dieng, Louisville: This would be vital in having the most Deng/Dieng players in NBA history. The defensive oriented Louisville big man has been the consensus choice of most of the amateur draft experts for the Bulls. The long armed big man could play 10 to 12 minutes this season and fit in defensively, though the Bulls may set a record for most big men who can’t score.

Mason Plumlee, Duke: The big man is considered more athletic and the kind of tough, hard working guy the Bulls would like. He’s perhaps more of a power forward, though he has good size and is a competent rebounder.

Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga: More of an offensive big man. He’s not considered a great leaper and athlete, but fundamentally sound and a decent shooter who can step outside. You could see any of the three fitting in with the Bulls as a backup.

Jeff Withey, Kansas: I put him in to basically reject him. I don’t get the sense he’s anywhere near as good as any of the three mentioned above, one of whom should be available when the Bulls pick. He’s slower and less athletic and seems more to fit the profile of bad Kansas big men.

Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan: Not the most explosive guy, but an improving shooter who with having been around the NBA game all his life is a savvy player who understands the game well. He’s considered a decent three point shooter, though could get better. But he has good size and seems like a worker.

Allen Crabbe, California: An excellent catch and shoot player with a classic shot. He’s not considered great at other shooting guard aspects, but with the Bulls coaching staff he could develop as Jimmy Butler did. Good size for the position, and under Thibs you defend.

Tony Snell, New Mexico: Another impressive catch and shoot player with a great stroke and good size for the position. Not that Derrick Rose is small, but you want a big shooting guard with the Bulls, and you want desperately for him to stretch the floor and be a threat, as he and Crabbe are.

Reggie Bullock, North Carolina: Another terrific three point shooter, but generally not regarded as highly as Snell and Crabbe. Has similar issues with ball handling, but more so.

Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State: More of a scorer than the classic shooter in the sort of Dwyane Wade shooting guard mold. Though he is no Wade. He’s from the same school as Kawhi Leonard, who was considered a poorer shooter and was making threes in the Finals. He’s a worker and competitor who’ll get better, though not as tall as Crabbe and Snell.

I suspect the Bulls pick will come from that group, though this is an unusual draft with draft analysts saying a player you might think should be 11th gets taken 23rd. So it’s possible a player considered more highly regarded, like Shabazz Muhammad could slip down. He’s an aggressive scorer, though with question marks on how he fits.

One of the bigger mysteries is Ricky Ledo, who appears to have all the tools of the classic shooting guard and handles the ball well enough to run a team. But he’s had all sorts of academic and character issues and didn’t play in college being suspended for academic issues.

Steven Adams is an impressive, young big man by way of New Zealand. He’s supposed to be picked in the lottery, but he barely did anything playing at Pitt. Of course, there’s talk Alex Len from Maryland could move up to No. 1 and he was hardly noticed playing for Maryland. Whatever happened to big men dominating in college if they are so good?

Shane Larkin, the son of baseball Hall of Famer Barry, is a superior athlete and playmaker. But he’s maybe 5-10 and while he’s impressive, the lack of size could scare off teams. The Bulls aren’t looking for a point guard. But if a talented player like that falls you’d have to consider him.

Glen Rice Jr. is another big question mark. He’s highly skilled and a great shooter. Perhaps more a small forward, he looks like a big time NBA scorer like his father. But he had almost constant character issues in college and remains a mystery to many NBA teams.

So do you take a chance on a potential big time talent like a Ledo? The Bulls, I’d suggest, need someone solid to come in and be a good teammate and supply an ability to give them a solid 10 or 12 minutes off the bench and contribute something. There would been a half dozen players who can do that without much risk.

As for how others see the Bulls, here’s a look at the various internet draft sites’ selections for the Bulls at No. 20:

ESPN: Mason Plumlee

SBNation: Gorgui Dieng

HoopsHype: Gorgui Dieng Allen Crabbe

Hoopsworld: Gorgui Dieng, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Tim Hardaway Jr., Mason Plumlee (They have four writers make selections) Allen Crabbe

YahooSports: Gorgui Dieng

Sporting News: Gorgui Dieng Gorgui Dieng

Draft Express: Tim Hardaway Jr.

Huffington Post: Gorgui Dieng

USA Today: Tim Hardaway Jr.

The Hoops Report: Mason Plumlee

Washington Post: Lucas Nogueira

Spreecast: Dennis Schroeder Tim Hardaway Jr.

Sportsmasher: Gorgui Dieng

Prospect Central: Mason Plumlee

Hoops on Hoops: Mason Plumlee

Basketball Fanspot: Tim Hardaway Jr.

Slam Magazine: Gorgui Dieng

Sheridan Hoops: Jamaal Franklin

Rotoworld: Allen Crabbe

Hoops Manifesto: Dennis Schroeder

NBA Draft Guru: Kelly Olynyk

Legion Report: Allen Crabbe

Buckets over Broadway: Allen Crabbe

CSN Philly: Jamaal Franklin

Draft Tek: Kelly Olynyk

NBA Draft Insider: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope

Dime Magazine: Mason Plumlee

Sports Network: Allen Crabbe

Bleacher Report: Tony Snell

Houston Chronicle: Gorgui Dieng