The Chicago Bulls were a complete afterthought in regards to making big strides in the 2011 NBA Draft. They held picks 28 and 30 at the end of the first round, two picks that carried guaranteed contracts with them and are tough to move. Yet, Bulls fans alike wanted to see a splash, or at the very least an exciting shooting guard—a la Marshon Brooks out of Providence.
The first move made by Chicago on draft night was quite the head-scratcher given the scenario. With a couple tempting shooting guards still on the board, the Bulls traded the 28th and 43rd overall picks with cash to the Minnesota Timberwolves. All signs pointed to a shooting guard until Commissioner David Stern opened the envelope and read the pick.
Nikola Mirotic was the name announced by Stern, and an empty feeling across Bulls nation ensued. The Bulls still had the 30th overall pick, however, and drafted Jimmy Butler out of Marquette.
Even though Chicago fans are feeling somewhat uneasy about how the draft unfolded, the Bulls did exactly what they needed to do to help themselves now and into the future. I mean, did you honestly expect the Bulls to find immediate help at the end of the first round in a particularly weak draft?
Mirotic currently plays for Real Madrid in Spain and is under contract with them through 2013. This means that the 20-year-old flex-forward can continue to develop his game without earning a paycheck from the Bulls. Mirotic measures at 6'10" and has the range of an NBA small forward, a perfect project for Chicago that will continue to get minutes in Europe.
Jimmy Butler, on the other hand, really improved himself during his senior season at Marquette. He averaged over 15 points a game while being the defensive cornerstone for the Golden Eagles. The 30th overall pick, which is the last first-round selection AND last guaranteed contract, couldn't have suited a better person.
Butler was on the streets at the age of 13, faxed his Letter of Intent to Marquette from a McDonald’s and now finds himself a member of the Chicago Bulls. Butler will continue to improve and plays with the tenacity displayed by the “Bench Mob” he will be joining.
As a result of the draft, the Bulls only have one rookie minimum contract they have to add to the books. This means that Chicago will be looking for a veteran shooting guard in free agency, or so I believe. Some names that Chicago will most likely target include Jason Richardson, Jamal Crawford and JR Smith. Shannon Brown is another possibility, but has a player option for another year with the Lakers.
Another thing for Bulls fans to look forward to, assuming the lockout situation gets resolved, is the availability of released veteran guards. A few names that fall into this category include Phoenix Suns guard Vince Carter and Detroit Pistons guard Richard Hamilton. A veteran presence on and off the court is just what the Bulls need, and both Carter and Hamilton can score to boot.
GMs Gar Forman and John Paxson know what they are doing, and found a nice balance between present help and future optimism. It’s shaping up to be another interesting NBA free agency period in the city of Chicago.