Engaging in transactions on draft day is commonplace throughout the league, but this franchise tends to wait until the selection process is over before considering whether to deal talent. With more choices than they’ve had in recent years, that apprehension could ease a bit and allow the front office to pull off some beneficial exchanges.
The reasons for these happenings are very pragmatic. Teams who trade up are usually looking to land a player who may not be around when it’s their turn to choose. Squads who trade down are sure their intended choice will be available and some money could be saved by waiting.
Chicago’s position is not the stuff for which other general managers clamor, but having the luxury of two very sound slots still gives them options. They could use both picks to bolster their standing or swap one for some delayed gratification.
Anything can happen once the picks start rolling in. If general manager Gar Forman and vice president John Paxson are looking to shake things up, there are sure to be some takers.
Moving up the board
The Bulls' picks fall at No. 16 and 19, right in the meaty part of the curve. There should be some decent talent in that choice range, but if they want a better chance at landing an impact player, they could consider trading their two picks to move into the lottery.
This move makes a lot of financial sense. According to the 2014-15 rookie salary scale listed on CBAFAQ.com, the total financial impact at Chicago’s current positions would be about $2.7 million. They could swap both picks to move as high as 12th overall, select a higher-quality player and save around one million dollars of cap space.
In order for this to work, the trade partner would have to be a team that has the financial means to take on the extra expense. The Orlando Magic, Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns round out the bottom of the lottery. Of those three organizations, the first and last clubs on that list are far enough in the black to take on such a deal, according to the salary cap estimations of Eric Pincus of BasketBallInsiders.com.
Both the Magic and the Suns might give this some thought as it increases both teams amount of first-round selections; the former would have a total of three picks while the latter would have four.
This would put both teams in a position to make even bigger draft-day deals or add to their already budding crop of young players.
The Bulls would be able to select a prospect with the potential to develop into the second shot creator they’ve long needed. Viewing mock drafts from CBS.com, DraftExpress.com and NBADraft.net, players like Michigan State’s Gary Harris, Duke’s Rodney Hood, Kentucky’s James Young and Michigan’s Nik Stauskas could all be within reach.
Seeing as how head coach Tom Thibodeau has never been too keen on giving rookies big minutes, it would be a better long-term solution to pick an athlete with a higher ceiling than spend two picks on players who would likely languish at the end of the bench.
Moving down the draft board would also be a money-saving venture for Chicago, though not as much as giving up their two choices for a low-lottery spot. Still, a team who has only recently climbed out of the luxury tax hole would still see the value in saving money.
In order to maximize the financial gain in taking on a lower draft position, the Bulls would have to use their No. 16 pick and, once again, find a team who could absorb taking a choice that is slotted for a higher salary.
Examining the draft order reveals three teams on the back end of the first round who could benefit from a slightly higher standing: the aforementioned Suns, the Utah Jazz and the re-christened Charlotte Hornets.
A deal with either of these clubs would save the Bulls between $400,000 and $500,000 if their higher slot is offered.
Charlotte would stand a better chance of landing a solid contributor to a team on the rise, and Utah could find a player to complement Gordon Hayward or even replace the restricted free agent, should he accept an offer his team can’t match.
With trading down, Chicago would have two first-year players who might find it tough to crack the rotation, but the franchise would be better off fiscally.
Beyond the draft
As a team philosophy, the Bulls don’t weigh personnel needs too much when putting together their draft strategy. In an article by Nick Friedell of ESPN.com, Forman clarifies the management’s view:
As we put together tiers and evaluate guys, our philosophy has always been to draft the best player available. I think when you're trying to fill needs, that's probably more in free agency or via trades. But with that said, if we have two guys that we rank as equal, then we'll look more at need. But if we feel a prospect is a level above a prospect where we may have a need, we're going to take the best prospect available.
This line of logic makes sense, considering that the Bulls are not a rebuilding franchise but rather a retooling contender. It is impossible to deny their potential when the team has a healthy Derrick Rose at the helm.
If any impact is going to be made in catapulting this squad even further, it will be through the addition of an experienced player who knows how to quickly adjust to a new system, as opposed to a first-timer who needs to learn a whole new way of playing the game.
Keeping that mindset also suggests that Chicago isn’t entirely opposed to draft day dealings, even if recent history suggests otherwise.
The suggested scenarios would give the Bulls more money to work with in free agency, where the premium is placed. This is especially true in the first recommendation in which they use their two picks to trade into the lower echelon of the lottery.
What should the Bulls do with their two first-round picks?
Drafting at any level is a gamble. Numerous variables influence both who a team can choose and how well the prospect develops. Still, there are quite a few organizations who feel that they can make good use of extra selections, and the Bulls could benefit big if they oblige.
If the team has its sights set on big fish like Carmelo Anthony or their Euro standout Nikola Mirotic, they would be best served by making room for either guy instead of loading up with unproven amateurs.
No one short of a genuine clairvoyant can predict what will happen, but it is nice to know that this club has more than a few options at their disposal.