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Bulls Should go ‘Forward’ in the NBA Draft

The Chicago Bulls hold pick number 22 in the upcoming NBA draft, and there’s been a lot of different speculation on what direction they might be going. Blog a Bull just put up part one of their Bulls draft preview, and so far on their list only guards have been mentioned. But Bleacher Report put together a collaboration of different outlets and their prediction on who the Bulls will take, and every single one was picking a forward.

It’s tough to predict which way the Bulls will go, in my opinion. For a team that’s looking at extending a window of contention that appears to be closing, adding another rookie to a roster that has several young players in the rotation seems like a poor idea. The fact that they hold a pick in the 20’s means that they probably couldn’t get anything worthwhile in return for the pick, so it’s likely they’ll use it.

The Bulls brought in Fred Hoiberg as the new coach, and with him comes a more unique, free-flowing type of offense. Kelly Scaletta wrote just before Hoiberg officially took the job about what the Bulls offense could look like with The Mayor calling the shots, and something caught my eye.

“Often, Iowa State doesn’t have a player on the low block at all. Hoiberg calls the short corner area two to three feet off the baseline and behind the defense the post player’s “room.” The purpose of the ball screen is to get a player in the paint attacking the defense. With post players “in their room” behind the defense, post defenders have to decide to either help up or sink back. I would say true back to the basket post players would be devalued in Hoiberg’s system and springy and rangy baseline athletes would become prioritized.”

This sounds kind of bad for Pau Gasol and Taj Gibson, who both are primarily back to the basket players. Both have the ability to hit the jumper, and in Gasol’s case it’s actually a strength. But I find it difficult to assume that Hoiberg is going to be able to run the kind of offense he wants to run with both Gasol and Gibson on the roster, not to mention Joakim Noah, who cannot shoot at all. It’s because of this that I think the Bulls would be wise to use their first-round pick on a forward.

Gibson recently had surgery on his ankle and is going to be out until right around when the season starts, which will make him difficult to trade. Noah makes sense as a trade candidate, moving the floor-stretching Nikola Mirotic into the starting lineup with Gasol manning the center position and going to his “room;” hitting baseline jumpers while spreading the floor.

MAR 13 SEC Tournament - Arkansas v Tennessee

Portis should be a target of the Bulls if he should fall.

So let’s assume that either Gibson or Noah is not on the roster at the start of the season. The Bulls are going to need another forward, and preferably a guy that can stretch the floor. One such player that could be available when the Bulls are drafting is Bobby Portis, although most have him going a bit before the Bulls. If they really like him, they could try to move up a few spots and grab the sophomore from Arkansas.

Portis is 6’11”, a modern NBA big man, and one of my very favorite guys in the draft. For a scouting type look at Portis, check out what Kevin O’Connor put together at SBNation. A few little excerpts to give you an idea why he’d be a perfect fit for the Bulls:

“Portis runs the floor like a gazelle. Even though he is not the best leaper, his speed and hustle are notable…Portis has good defensive fundamentals for his age. He’s usually in the proper positioning down low, can hedge on the pick-and-roll and deny entry passes to the low post…Portis is a very good offensive rebounder, ranking 12th among power forwards in the country in pace-adjusted offensive boards per 40 minutes, per Draft Express. He tracks balls well and can elevate over defenders to finish at the rim.”

A forward that rebounds well, especially on the offensive end, can run the floor and hit the open jumper? Sounds perfect for what the Bulls should be looking for.

Depending on how Hoiberg feels about playing rookies and letting them develop on the court, the Bulls could also look at drafting Chris McCullough from Syracuse. McCullough was a freshman and had his season end just 16 games in, due to an ACL tear. He has a decent mid-range jumper and is a solid defender. From Bleacher Report’s look at the top prospects in the draft:

“An eight-game slump before going down helped put out the fire he created through his first eight games. A torn ACL on top of that should keep teams in the top 20 from reaching, but a playoff team that can afford to wait and develop McCullough could take a chance on him anywhere after that.”

Again, sounds perfect for the Bulls. You probably couldn’t count on him for a lot of minutes, but that’s likely okay. If you have two of Gasol, Gibson, and Mirotic out on the court, you likely only need 10-15 minutes per game from your fourth forward.

NCAA BASKETBALL: MAR 13 SEC Tournament - LSU v Auburn

Jarell Martin could fit a need for the Bulls.

Last, I think the Bulls could use a guy like Jarell Martin, a sophomore from LSU. Martin is 6’10” and projects as a face-up forward. He’s an improving mid-range shooter, although he doesn’t have much game beyond the three-point line at this point in his development. For a guy that is likely to be available when the Bulls are drafting at 22, he certainly would fit what they’re likely to need.

Here is some more information that’s important to know about Martin from HoopsHabit:

“Martin’s size, athleticism, and skill will all be attractive to NBA teams and his ability to play well in transition or the half-court will allow him to have a chance in different systems. He is far from a finished product, though in the right situation, he has the ability to be an NBA rotation player fairly quickly.”

It’s very possible the Bulls do end up drafting a guard, and there’s been a lot of rumors to that effect. But considering the fact that Kirk Hinrich is likely to be back (even if he’s not really any good anymore), along with Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, Tony Snell and Doug McDermott, the Bulls might be best served using their only first-round draft pick to find a forward that fits the system that their new coach wants to run.

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