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Bulls Trade Rumors Swirling Ahead Of NBA Draft

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Jun 27, 2013 3:40PM

nbadraft.jpg While most of us in Chicago are still on our Stanley Cup high, we must now briefly return our attention to the Bulls. Most of us have been too preoccupied with the Blackhawks to think about basketball since the Bulls were bounced from the NBA playoffs by the eventual champion Miami Heat last month. But the NBA draft is tonight, and the Bulls will be looking for the missing pieces to win some hardware of their own in the near future. Will that simply involve draft picks or will the team pull off some trades, too?

In recent days, rumors have been floating around that the Bulls might be shopping All-Star small forward Luol Deng, and had discussed the Washington Wizards' third pick in the draft plus Emeka Okafor in return. (Ed. Note: Reports have also surfaced involving a trade for Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge in exchange for Deng and possibly Joakim Noah. —CS) While some are in favor of such a move, it really doesn't make much sense for the Bulls given where this team will be when Derrick Rose returns. The Heat, while two-time defending NBA champs, are not infallible. A fully stocked and finally healthy Bulls team could overtake them in the East next year. So we think the Bulls will explore a more cap-friendly extension with their small forward and are simply assessing his trade value for future consideration should such a move make sense down the road.

Without a trade to move them up, the Bulls will have the 20th pick in the first round. Drafting in the bottom half of the draft, finding a player who can make an immediate impact is tough. The Bulls' biggest weakness is depth at center behind Joakim Noah. After losing Omer Asik to free agency, Nazr Mohammed was the Bulls' primary back-up big man last year. He played sparingly through much of the season until Noah's planter faciitis flared up. Mohammed isn't getting any younger and is a free agent to boot, so there's no guarantee he will return to the Bulls. Even if he does, the Bulls need somebody younger to play with the second team. College big men like Louisville's Gorgui Dieng, Duke's Mason Plumlee, or Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk coule be on their list, or players like French seven-footer Rudy Gobert and or New Zealander Steven Adams (who played at Pitt) might be targeted when it's the Bulls turn to select.

A couple of shooting guards with familiar sounding names might also be targets for the Bulls if they instead choose to go for scoring in the first round. With Rip Hamilton likely finished in Chicago and Marco Belinelli expected to receive offers the Bulls can't afford to match they'll need some depth at shooting guard. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glen Rice Jr. are both possibilities when the Bulls are on the clock. Hardaway, who played for Michigan, is the son of the former Golden State Warriors and Miami Heat All-Star point guard and Chicago native Tim Hardaway. Rice is the son of former Michigan Wolverine national champion and three-time NBA All-Star Glen Rice. The younger Rice spent the past season playing in the NBDL after leaving the Georgia Tech program.

However, given Tom Thibodeau's sparing use of rookies in his rotation, the Bulls may simply draft the best player available and then figure out where he fits into their plans down the line. Jimmy Butler played limited minutes as a rookie two years ago, then had a chance to impress playing small forward while Deng was out last year. By the end of the season, Butler played his way into the starting line-up and is likely the Bulls shooting guard this coming year. The Bulls are likely hoping for similar growth from last year's pick, Marcus Teague. If the point guard can step up, the Bulls might not feel the pain of losing Nate Robinson if he departs for bigger money elsewhere.

One area we don't expect the Bulls to show much interest is power forward. They already have Carlos Boozer and Taj Gibson at the four spot. And then there is the possibility of 6'10" power forward Nikola Mirotic finally making his way to the Bulls in 2014, when he'll no longer be bound to the league's rookie pay scale. Many expect Mirotic, the Spanish league MVP, to replace Carlos Boozer in the starting line-up. aj Gibson, just beginning a new contract in 2013, may have something to say about that but either way the Bulls appear set at the four spot even if they amnesty Boozer next summer. Perhaps then there will be enough cash for both Mirotic and Deng.