The 2009 NBA Draft is only 17 days away, and the future of the league has already completed the annual offseason scouting combine.
Building blocks like Derrick Rose, Tyrus Thomas, Joakim Noah, and John Salmons will be key to the Chicago Bulls' 2009 draft plans.
Perhaps the most crucial to those plans will be the immediate future of star shooting guard Ben Gordon. Gordon saved his best for last in 2009, playing through an injury in the playoffs and playing extremely well.
Gordon is also the Bulls' only legitimate scoring option from beyond the arc, and re-signing him is key. The former first round pick out of UConn has previously stated that he does not want to play in Chicago, but Bulls executives may be able to convince him that he is key to their 2009-10 campaign.
While the Bulls traded away their second round pick in the up-coming draft, they were able to steal away an extra first round pick from the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for guard Thabo Sefolosha.
Here is the Bulls' roster outlook heading into the 2009 off-season:
Starter: Derrick Rose
Reserves: Kirk Hinrich, Lindsey Hunter (unrestricted free agent)
Starter: Ben Gordon (unrestricted free agent)
Reserves: Anthony Roberson
Starter: John Salmons
Reserves: Luol Deng, Tim Thomas
Starter: Tyrus Thomas
Reserves: Linton Johnson
Starter: Joakim Noah
Reserves: Brad Miller, Aaron Gray (restricted free agent)
Draft/Offseason top Areas of Need:
1. Scoring Big Man
2. Three-Point specialist SG
3. Point Guard Depth
So how can the Bulls address these needs in the NBA Draft?
For starters, they could look to trade a player like Luol Deng or Kirk Hinrich, but both have larger contracts, and a trade would be tough to work out with another team.
If the Bulls decide to stay where they are, as well as find a way to re-sign Ben Gordon, this is how I think the draft could play out for them.
First round, 16th overall: Tyler Hansbrough; Power Forward, North Carolina
6'10", 234 pounds
A year ago today, many scouts felt Hansbrough would go undrafted due to the fact that he was "undersized" for his position, or "not athletic" enough to play in the NBA.
I am here to tell you right now, Hansbrough can bang with the best of them down low, at any level.
Arguably the best player in college basketball over the last four years, the star power forward for the Tar Heels had one of the best combines of any big man in recent NBA history.
At 34 inches, he had a better vertical leap than Chris Bosh. His 11.12 second lateral quickness test was better than guard prospects Tyreke Evans, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, and Earl Clark. He has a wingspan of 6-11 and 1/2, which is better than Blake Griffin of Oklahoma, the consensus No. 1 pick in the draft.
Chad Ford of ESPN.com compares Hansbrough's athletic ability to that of Michael Beasley.
Pretty high praise for a guy who was once not considered to be a good enough athlete to play at a high level in the NBA.
Another reason this pick would make sense is a clear lack of a scoring presence down low for the Bulls.
Tyrus Thomas has developed a nice jump shot, and Brad Miller was an excellent addition midway through last season. However, Thomas lacks the strength to hang around down low and post anyone up, and he does not draw many fouls. Miller is not the athlete he used to be, and he is aging fast.
Hansbrough is one of the best free throw shooters in the entire draft, and he has a knack for putting himself on the line.
He is also developing an outside shot to make his game more complete, so defenders will also have to respect that.
It is a shame Hansbrough may not make lottery money, because he deserves it. Whether he lands with the Bulls or not, I think he will have a long and prosperous NBA career.
First Round, 26th Overall: Wayne Ellington; Shooting Guard, North Carolina
6'5", 202 pounds
Although this pick may be a bit of wishful thinking on my part, there is no doubt the Bulls could use the services of Ellington.
I thought coming out in 2009 was a mistake by Ellington, as his game has yet to fully develop and he is still finding his niche as a superstar. He would have benefit greatly from another year at Chapel Hill.
Even if Ben Gordon stays in Chicago, the Bulls need a legitimate option from beyond the arc, and Ellington could provide that off of the bench in his first season in the NBA.
Because of his athletic ability (Ellington recorded a 38-inch vertical leap at the combine), I feel that the former Tar Heel compares very favorably to J.R. Smith, a former Bull.
Like Smith, Ellington has the ability to get to the rim at will, and can be a threat from anywhere on the floor to score at any given time.
If the Bulls can come away from this draft with two premiere athletes like Ellington and Hansbrough, they should be very pleased with themselves. In addition to coming from a winning program, Ellington and Hansbrough are both going to be high impact players as rookies, whether they start or not.