Let's go back to four months ago.
The college basketball season is winding down, and Michael Beasley is posting the best numbers of any freshman in a long time. He is carrying a Kansas State team to the NCAA tournament and is the consensus No. 1 pick in most NBA mock drafts.
Does anyone remember that? When Beasley was playing, people saw a strong, active big man with unbelievable scoring ability. He could score with both hands, inside and outside, and he was also a fantastic rebounder.
Let's rewind the tape back to a year ago now.
Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, like Derrick Rose and Beasley this year, are the consensus top two picks in the draft. Durant was the super-productive big man whose team bowed out to USC early in the tournament, just like Beasley. Oden was the hyped up center with a charming personality and the appearance of someone who had played in the NBA for years.
Oden helped carry his team to the NCAA finals, only to lose in the championship game, just like Derrick Rose did.
When the draft came around, Oden went first and Durant went second.
This year, people are ignoring Beasley's entire season's body of work and focusing more on Rose's postseason heroics. Rose was a top player all season long, but Beasley was usually considered the better prospect.
There's also a major difference between Oden and Rose: Oden is a big man. The NBA has always been about building around a center in the mold of Duncan, Shaq, Hakeem, or Robinson.
You have to go back to 1996 if you want to find a player below 6'8" who has been taken No. 1 overall (Allen Iverson). Since 1996, all but one player taken first has been a power forward or a center, with LeBron James being the exception.
At 6'7" or 6'8", Beasley does not have the prototypical size for a power forward, but his rebounding ability, strength, and wingspan should allow him to play the position fine. He's not the best defensively, but his play on defense improved as the season went on.
Rose is a great prospect. He actually reminds me of another player from that Ohio State team, Mike Conley. Rose is bigger and slightly more athletic than Conley, but Conley was a similar prospect who played better defense than Rose.
Oden, Durant, and Al Horford all went ahead of Conley, whose stock only soared that high because of his postseason play.
The only reason Rose is probably going to be picked first is because Beasley may have minor character issues. I think a lack of a consistent jump shot and his turnover problems for much of the season are a bigger problem.
But there is one remaining factor in who should go first, and that is what team has the pick and what their needs are. The Chicago Bulls have that pick.
Two years ago, the Bulls gave Kirk Hinrich a big contract to be their point guard for the foreseeable future. Then Hinrich rewarded them by having a good season offensively and being named to the second team of the all-defensive team.
Hinrich is not the best playmaker in the world, but the Bulls need his defense and perimeter shooting ability. With Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Thabo Sefolosha, Chris Duhon, and Larry Hughes, the Bulls have guards with different skillsets. They are fine there.
What the Bulls lack is a go-to guy. All those guards are good complimentary pieces. The same goes for Andres Nocioni, Joakim Noah, Joe Smith, Tyrus Thomas, Drew Gooden, and even Luol Deng. None of them is a go-to guy.
John Paxson does not want to give up on this team he put together. On paper, there is a lot of talent there. Is Rose a transcendent enough talent to raise the others' play to a high enough level? Perhaps, but Rose needs some time to get to that level, if he ever will.
Beasley's scoring ability will open things up for the entire Bulls offense. He creates mismatch problems with his inside-outside scoring ability. With Beasley being the primary scorer, Deng will be freer to take the jump to a star, and when Gordon is on the floor, that lineup is instant offense.
The Bulls were a middle-of-the-road defensive team last year. Beasley probably wouldn't help that too much. The offense was the bigger problem last year, and it is quicker to fix.
The Bulls still will need to figure out what to do with so many role players, but with Hinrich, Sefolosha, and Hughes on the wing and Noah inside, the Bulls have a lot of room for improvement there.
By taking Derrick Rose, the Bulls will be banking that he is the next Chris Paul. But the Hornets are put together extremely well, with Tyson Chandler and David West inside, and Paul has much more scoring ability than Rose.
Rose may be the hometown kid, and off the court, he offers more than Beasley does. But the game is won on the court, and just ask Rose. He will tell you that Beasley is "way better than me."
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