Analyzing the Chicago Bulls' 2013 NBA Draft Needs
On the one hand, joining Chicago means becoming a part of one of the league's most proud franchises and a club that's still just scratching the surface of its potential. The Bulls just won 45 regular-season games without Derrick Rose and should be clawing their way back to the league's elite ranks.
On the other hand, a playoff-proven rotation isn't always the easiest to crack for a rookie. And Tom Thibodeau's rotation runs thinner than most, as Chicago reserves logged the third-fewest minutes in the league this season (14.4 via HoopsStats.com).
System and opportunity are two of the most oft-cited factors in determining a rookie's effective transition to the realm of the professional sports world. So before any potential pick can take an optimistic or pessimistic view of Chicago as a future surrounding, the onus is on the Bulls' brass to identify draft targets who fit Thibodeau's system and will have the opportunity to maximize their potential.
But before even identifying any potential draft targets, the Bulls must first target areas of need on their current roster.
Chicago is clearly lacking in two areas as currently constructed: low-post scoring and perimeter shooting.
The Bulls averaged 36.7 points in the paint this season (19th in the league) and converted just 46.8 percent of their chances there (24th, via HoopsStats.com).
The return of slasher extraordinaire Rose would figure to bolster these numbers, but perhaps not as much as one would think.
Nate Robinson, who saw the lion's share of Rose's minutes this season but could become a free-agent casualty this summer, had more than one-third of his made field goals coming from within the paint. Backcourt mate Jimmy Butler found more than 60 percent of his field goals there (via NBA.com/stats).
Chicago's lack of interior scoring is the root of this problem.
Veteran Carlos Boozer prefers to do most of his damage from midrange; more than half of his field-goal attempts came at least eight feet from the basket. Joakim Noah does more of his damage near the basket, but his scoring (11.9 points per game) often takes a backseat to his defense (11.1 boards, 2.1 blocks) and shot creation (4.0 assists).
On the perimeter, the Bulls were more selective in their chances, and for good reason.
At 35.3 percent, Chicago tied the Portland Trail Blazers for the 20th-best three-point success rate in the league (via ESPN.com). Never a team to defeat itself, the Bulls attempted the second-fewest long-range shots in the NBA, 15.4 per game.
Whatever sharpshooting threat the Bulls enjoyed this season, it could be growing even less intimidating in 2013-14. Of the six Chicago marksmen to shoot above 30 percent from deep this year, half are now free agents (Robinson, Marco Belinelli and Richard Hamilton, via HoopsWorld.com).
Hamilton's departure has seemed a formality since the veteran had all but disappeared from Thibodeau's rotation. Comcast SportsNet's Aggrey Sam says it's unlikely that Robinson will return to a crowded Chicago backcourt.
Of course, that's the easy part of the tasks that lie ahead for GM Gar Forman. Now it's his job to find players meeting the athletic profile to fill one of those needs.
It won't be easy. Forman's draft arsenal runs two picks deep, the 20th pick of the first round and the 19th selection of the second (49th overall). And multiple analysts rate this draft class as being historically weak.
But that isn't to say that Forman is completely without options.
Using DraftExpress.com's mock draft board to whittle down the field takes potential interior additions Steven Adams (Pittsburgh) and Gorgui Dieng out of the running.
If Forman's willing to wait for his return (as he was when he traded up to land stretch forward Nikola Mirotic in 2011), he may be tempted to grab Brazilian big man Lucas Nogueira, a raw 20-year-old prospect packed with potential for the right, patient franchise. Mouhammadou Jaiteh, a 6'11" 18-year-old, offers similar promise but is likely a few more years away from contributing.
For a more instant return, Forman might consider Kansas center Jeff Withey or Bucknell's big man Mike Muscala. Withey fits the defensive profile to see the floor under Thibodeau (3.9 blocks per game as a senior, via StatSheet.com), but often finds his offense either off timely feeds or cleaning the glass. Muscala has both solid footwork and a soft shooting touch in his offensive arsenal, but could stand to add bulk to his 6'11", 230-pound frame.
If Forman's not convinced the low-post prospects are worth the investment, he has a few perimeter targets to mull over.
San Diego State's Jamaal Franklin may be Thibodeau's pick, thanks to his versatile skill set and nonstop motor. But just a 27.2 percent three-point shooter as a junior, he doesn't project to strengthen Chicago's perimeter attack. Michigan's Tim Hardaway, Jr. could be their three-point threat (34.2 percent for his Wolverines' career), but appeared to give inconsistent efforts defensively.
What should Forman target with the 20th pick?
Allen Crabbe of California is another strong shooter, but needs work in developing his handles and could stand to add strength. South Dakota State's Nate Wolters is a prolific scorer (22.6 points per game) and shooter (38.0 three-point percentage, via DraftExpress.com), but scouts have serious concern with his level of competition and athleticism.
Providence freshman Ricky Ledo is an intriguing talent, but a prototypical boom-or-bust candidate. A top-20 recruit, academic issues kept Ledo from ever suiting up for the Friars, and scouts have reportedly questioned his ability to be a good teammate (via Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com).
Weak drafts, not surprisingly, typically fall short in the stardom department but sometimes bode well for teams operating out of later draft slots.
The Bulls aren't in need of a superstar to push them over the top, but do need to find something of value with that first-round selection.
Forman has some options, but he'll need to do his homework to identify talent among a crop of players rife with potential and question marks.
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