Sam Smith: Armed with two first round picks, Bulls go to work

Sam Smith: Armed with two first round picks, Bulls go to work

Sam Smith

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Posted by Sam Smith | | 06.08.09 | 9:20 a.m. CT

The Bulls go into high gear with draft workouts this week with Monday likely the most interesting day as the Bulls announced they'll have in Chase Budinger from Arizona, Omri Casspi from Maccabi Tel Aviv, Taj Gibson from USC, Gerald Henderson from Duke and A.D. Vassallo from Virginia Tech. All but Vassallo are expected to be first round picks and Henderson is a likely lottery pick.

The Bulls will have in Pitt's DeJaun Blair and Notre Dame's Luke Harangody among 11 players Wednesday and another half dozen players Thursday with Kentucky's Jodie Meeks probably the most well-known.

This comes after multi-team workouts last week in Golden State and Minnesota in which several dozen players worked out for numerous teams executives. So, no, there's no chance of knowing whom the Bulls were targeting based on any of the workouts. They'll probably see 80 players before the draft.

Yet, that's always the biggest question: Who are they going to select with the Nos. 16 and 26 picks?

It's certain the Bulls don't know since at No. 16, you should be able to get a good, contributing rotation player because of the tremendous uncertainty in this draft. It's one of those so-called "eye of the beholder" drafts in which one team might like a player at eight that you see at 24. So it's likely someone the Bulls believe is a pretty good player will slip through to No. 16. There's just no certain way to know whom.

But there is a way to start figuring it out.

I've been talking to personnel directors the last few weeks to get an idea about the so-called locks in this draft, the players who almost certainly are in the top 10.

Everyone agrees Oklahoma Blake Griffin is No. 1 to the Clippers, and the Clippers are making no secret of their desire to take him as they already have been promoting him on their team web site.

Here's whom I hear as something of a consensus of the top 10 picks, though not in order:

Blake Griffin, Oklahoma.
Hasheem Thabeet, Connecticut.
James Harden, Arizona State.
Ricky Rubio, Spain.
Tyreke Evans, Memphis.
Stephen Curry, Davidson.
DeMar DeRozan, USC.
Jordan Hill, Arizona.
Brandon Jennings, Italy.

Now, I have to even correct myself here as I've been hearing that Jennings could slip through and Hill has been falling. Many are saying Duke's Henderson will get into the top 10 and others now are insisting UCLA's Jrue Holiday also will crack the top 10. OK, say we add those two. That's likely 12 sure picks.

So why are the Bulls looking at Henderson? To move up in the draft? I doubt it as it usually costs too much in players, and I don't see them desperate to add any of the players after the first five (going into the top five usually will cost you a starter). After that, you could get reasonably close talent down as far as No. 16. In this draft, Henderson could slide through and, I believe, so could Jennings. But it's not expected.

So who are the top players left that could get to the Bulls and whom the Bulls might select?

Jonny Flynn, Syracuse point guard
DeJuan Blair, Pitt power forward
Earl Clark, Louisville power forward
James Johnson, Wake Forest power forward
Terrence Williams, Louisville swingman
Ty Lawson, North Carolina point guard
B.J. Mullens, Ohio State center
Eric Maynor, VCU point guard
Jeff Teague, Wake Forest point guard
Chase Budinger, Arizona small forward

I think the question comes down to whether the Bulls go for a point guard or a power forward. They likely go for a point guard if they are going to deal Kirk Hinrich. But I've begun to have my doubts about that given the timing. You can't deal Hinrich until you know about free agent Ben Gordon, and you won't know about Gordon until July. There was an internet report floating around Sunday that Gordon's agent is contacting a team in Greece. That's no surprise as representatives for free agents are routinely doing that now. The thinking has been the Pistons will make Gordon a big free agent offer. So there's an awful lot of uncertainty involving Gordon, which suggests it would be safer to keep Hinrich. If that's the case, you don't need a point guard. Of course, if a good one falls to you, perhaps Holiday or Flynn, maybe you take a shot.

Though a greater need seems to be a power inside player. If Hill falls, he won't fall that far. The strength of this draft seems to be with guards, and the way the NBA has changed in recent years, there has been a premium on getting guards who can get wherever they want on the court and find a shot. Which makes it possible a good forward could well be available at No. 16.

I'd say Blair, Clark and Johnson will all be there. Mullens is a center who was projected as a top five pick going into the season and perhaps kept hidden at Ohio State so he wouldn't jump to the NBA. So maybe he's worth a shot. He should be there. Louisville's Williams seems a talent and good insurance in case Luol Deng isn't healthy.

As for No. 26, I can see someone like Casspi, a forward who maybe isn't ready for the NBA and can play overseas. The Bulls can't be putting too many rookies on the roster and taking up potential salary cap space from 2010. Perhaps a guard like Nick Calathes who already has committed to playing overseas. Though most of the higher ranked players the Bulls are having in seem to project to be available in that No. 26 spot. I'm not ready to make my pick yet. I'd guess neither are the Bulls given their schedule of workouts and interviews.

As Bosh's world turns...

--The Raptors couldn't be happy to have heard these comments from Chris Bosh on ESPN radio last week: "Anytime you get a chance to play with a great player, it's pretty sweet. You know, most of the times it's like, 'What if… What if… What if… I wish I could play with this guy, I wish I could play with that guy…' Very seldom, it's the reality. That's something we talked about with USA and that's something LeBron said himself, he's like, 'I always wish I could play with Dwight Howard. I always wish Chris Paul was my point guard.' That's kinda something guys always wish for."

Bosh said last week he won't sign an extension this summer, which is no surprise. Dwyane Wade is unlikely to as well. I talked to one general manager who said he expects Wade and Bosh to end up together. I talked to another who said he expected Bosh to end up with James either in Cleveland or New York. Someone else said he's going to Golden State, which has the best package to offer and is anxious for a big strike. The point is they're all guessing and they don't know. Most league executives I talk to believe James will remain in Cleveland. None believe Bosh will remain in Toronto. It, likewise, doesn't mean anything if you see the annual preseason general manager predictions.

I love to check that at the end of the season. The GM's had the Lakers to win the title followed by the Celtics, Hornets, Rockets and Spurs. Boston was favored to win the East with 74.1 percent of the vote. The Magic was fourth with 3.7 percent behind Cleveland and Detroit. The Lakers were picked in the West ahead of the Hornets second. The Pistons were picked over the Cavs to win the Central. Geez, even I had the Cavs in that one. Do these guys watch the NBA? The Jazz was a near unanimous choice to with the Northwest. Not one picked the Nuggets. James was the MVP favorite. Tough one. Michael Beasley was their pick for Rookie of the Year followed by Greg Oden and O.J. Mayo. The trio had more than 80 percent of the votes. The 76ers' Elton Brand was selected as the best offseason acquisition and Andrew Bynum was picked for the most likely breakout season. Yes, be careful before you listen to a GM's prediction. But the consensus I seem to hear is Toronto has a chance to get a return of 80 cents on the dollar if they deal Bosh this summer. If they wait, it's maybe 50 cents next February or in a sign and trade after next season. One speculation I hear a lot is Miami pushing hard for Bosh for a package including Beasley as both Wade and Pat Riley are no big fans of the puckish forward. With Beasley, Udonis Haslem and another player, Toronto could make a case for the deal and come out relatively whole. You hear Golden State speculated because of Andris Biedrins and a hand full of shooting guards the Warriors seem to hate. It doesn't seem likely Bosh would sign in Golden State given the organizational uncertainty and poor record and it might be too much of a risk for the Warriors to take. But Don Nelson likes big risks. Gentleman, start your offers.

West's plan all along

-- Is Jerry West really that much of an evil genius? You may remember last month when the media was aghast and agog--they can get that way in a recession--when West dared to say that he now thought LeBron James was better than Kobe Bryant. That being the Bryant whom West traded his starting center for after Bryant was drafted as a teenager and whom West called his favorite player. And helped win three championships for West's Lakers. West said James "has a chance to be arguably the greatest player ever to play the game. LeBron James will do the same type of things (Michael Jordan did) because he's getting better. He's a much more effective shooter. When he's making his shots from the outside, you can't play him. If I had to have somebody make a last-second shot, it would be Kobe Bryant. But even though it's hard for me to be objective, because I brought Kobe to Los Angeles, I do think LeBron has surpassed Kobe as a player." This was May 19. If you know Kobe Bryant, maybe, just maybe, he can put up with someone saying Jordan is better. But LeBron James? C'mon. And Jerry West! James said how happy he was to hear that and Bryant just brushed it off and said he's concentrating on the games. But say you were Jerry West and wanted to put a little motivation into Bryant, whose Lakers were just ending a lousy seven-game series with the Rockets and being reviled in the media for indifference. What would you say? It just so happens since West's comments, Bryant is averaging 34.2 points and 11 free throws per game and the Lakers have won their last four straight and lead the Orlando Magic 2-0 in the NBA Finals. Bryant is snarling a lot and done with small talk and stupid questions. Could this have been what Mr. Laker was planning all along as even James' Nike puppet sits home and watches the Finals?

Not easy in Philly

-- We all have heard Philadelphia is a tough sports city, and Eddie Jordan was finding out quickly as he was on the defensive in his opening press conference as new 76ers coach with fans flooding the media with complaints about Jordan. Yes, before his first appearance. Basically it was something like with a 230-288 overall coaching record, how is this supposed to be an improvement? Jordan said the "proof would be in the pudding," (he should have said pretzel. Or at least cheese steak) and that he would win over critics "when they see our team perform, playing unselfish, smart basketball, when they see our team play harder, smarter, longer than our opponent, they'll be satisfied." Though Jordan said nice things about Andre Miller, he said the team had two stars (Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala) and his offense doesn't necessarily require one point guard. Yes, bye bye Andre.

NBA news & notes

-- There's been a rumor about Ray Allen being traded, though executives close to Celtics' management are saying they heard the Celtics want to keep their team together for one more run with Kevin Garnett back. ... Larry Brown told the Charlotte Observer last week he was concerned about a possible ownership change with the team apparently for sale. Michael Jordan, of course, is mentioned prominently. But franchise sales in this market are difficult, and rather than continuing to take losses, some executives believe Charlotte will follow the Memphis model and "gift" someone Emeka Okofor because of his big contract and maintain a payroll that can break even until a buyer is found. ... The Arizona Republic said it's poll of some 4,000 voters had 71 percent for Amar'e Stoudemire not to be traded. The consensus around the NBA seems to be the Suns are overvaluing Stoudemire given his desire for a maximum contract and lack of defense and rebounding. To say nothing of having had major knee surgery. ... Hornets coach Byron Scott didn't exactly given Tyson Chandler a glowing endorsement. But Scott probably was right that Chandler wouldn't be traded now given a two to four month rehabilitation from ankle and toe surgery.