The Bulls' lack of depth at the center position this past season forced them to play with smaller lineups, something they don't generally do since they like to have an advantage on the boards. Drafting a center could be the way to go.
However, most of the Bulls' second unit is gone, so drafting a 2-guard or small forward could be a good idea since the coaching staff can develop him for the future.
Chicago doesn't generally play its rookies, so whichever route management takes, that player may only make a handful of appearances next season.
The Bulls have a few different ways to approach this year's draft. They can try to build for the future with a wing player or bring a young center who could end up playing some valuable minutes since Joakim Noah's plantar fasciitis is a concern.
Pros of Drafting a Center
There's a lack of quality bigs on the free-agent market, so the Bulls would be smart to draft one they can develop for the near future.
Any center the Bulls sign during free agency will likely be a one-year deal for the veteran's minimum. Chicago has a better chance of finding a swingman or shooter who will instantly contribute in free agency than they are of finding a center.
This year's draft has a few solid options Chicago can look at.
Gorgui Dieng would be a great fit for the Bulls. He's a defensive-minded player with good athleticism and is a well-known shot-blocker. He would fit perfectly in Tom Thibodeau's defensive system, and the coaching staff could mold him into an even better defender.
Dieng's offense may not be as polished as his defense, but he's young and the coaches can work with him to improve his game.
The Bulls could benefit from having an established scoring center on the roster, however. In which case, Mason Plumlee would be a good choice. He averaged 17 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game this past season at Duke, but his quickness on the defensive end could be an issue.
Given Noah's injury history, it would be better to have a young center who can play extended minutes and allow Noah to rest a bit more during games.
Building a solid second unit will be crucial, and one with a backup center that can protect the rim will improve the roster.
The Indiana Pacers were able to keep the Heat out of the paint and, as a result, were able to keep the series close. If the Bulls can build on what they have in Noah and Taj Gibson, they'll be in a better position than the past two times they've faced them in the postseason.
Thibodeau isn't known for playing his rookies a lot of minutes, and that might not change next season even if they draft a big.
The transition from college ball to the pros is tough, so drafting a center who will have to contribute right away could hurt the Bulls if he hasn't adjusted.
Chicago could be better off drafting a shooter or a scoring guard to serve as Jimmy Butler and Luol Deng's backup. Deng and Butler are expected to play a lot of minutes, so the Bulls rookie will have time to develop and learn the system before being thrust into a bigger role.
With Deng in a contract year, the Bulls might also look for someone who can replace him, perhaps someone like Ricky Ledo. He has pure, raw talent on the offensive end but could benefit from taking a backseat and being made into a good defender.
Ledo will have his moments to show what he's capable of—similar to Butler and Marquis Teague—but he will most likely sit on the bench for a majority of the season as he learns all the schemes and absorbs the game.
Ultimately, drafting Ledo would give the Bulls a good scorer to put next to Rose because they'd finally have someone else on the roster who could create for himself.
The Bulls' biggest loss if they draft a big is that they could miss out on a great prospect in Ledo, someone who could potentially start if Deng doesn't return after the 2013-14 season.
If the Bulls decide to draft a center, they'll have to rely on free agency to fill out their bench. They don't have a lot of money to offer, though, so their options will be limited.
At the same time, however, it will be easier to find a good wing player this summer than a center.
Drafting a big will give Chicago some help right away, filling a huge void and possibly helping Noah avoid injury. It also means they could end up missing out on what could be a great player in Ledo.
Whichever position they draft in the first round will be the right choice. Whether it's a center like Dieng or Plumlee or a scoring guard like Ledo, the Bulls stand to gain a solid player.
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