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Bulls Look to Long-Term Future With Draft

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Jun 24, 2011 3:40PM

As we suspected, the Bulls had a relatively uneventful night in the NBA Draft. With two late first round picks and a second rounder, the Bulls didn't expect to find any impact players. Instead they took some small steps with an eye toward the future, while minimizing any negative impacts on the current situation.

The Bulls traded their 28th pick in the first round and their second round pick to the Minnesota Timberwolves in return for the rights to Nikola Mirotic from Montenegro, selected with the 23rd pick. The 20-year-old is under contract to Real Madrid in Spain for four more years, so the Bulls don't have to worry about paying a guaranteed contract next year, one of their primary goals heading into Thursday night. Perhaps he will join the team after a couple more years of seasoning abroad as Toni Kucoc did. (Kukoc joined the Bulls in 1993 after being drafted in 1990.)

With their second first round pick, the Bulls drafted Marquette swingman Jimmy Butler, a tough player who should respond well to Tom Thibodeau's demanding system. Said Bulls general manager Gar Forman of his new player:

The thing we're so excited about is (Butler's) versatility. He has a nice frame, a strong body. He's a good athlete and versatile defender... Offensively, he has some skills. He can handle the ball. He has a nice stroke. He's a mid-range shooter but we project he will be able to add range to his shot. He's a strong driver and can finish plays. He went to the free-throw line quite a bit.

While it may be difficult for Butler to earn playing time as a rookie, he may be able to offer some relief for Loul Deng at small forward. Deng averaged the most minutes of any player on the team last year.

What Butler will likely receive the most attention for is his difficult childhood, which was strikingly similar to that of Michael Oher, documented in the hit book and movie "Blind Side." Kicked out by his mother at 13, he was without a home for most of high school. Before his senior year Butler was befriended by ninth grader Jordan Leslie and eventually taken in by Leslie's family. It was they who appeared with Butler at Marquette's Senior Night last March.