Wednesday, May 21, 2008 - Lady Luck Shines On The Bulls
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Lady Luck Shines On The Bulls
By Sarah Spain
If Chicago Bulls GM John Paxson had known his team would hit the jackpot in the NBA Draft Lottery Tuesday night, he may have elected to be there in person. Instead, a surprised Paxson spoke to reporters via conference call about the unlikely, but welcome dilemma he and the Bulls now face.
"I certainly understand this was pure luck." Paxson said. "Now it's our job to make the most of it."
Luck is right. Chicago had just a 1.7% chance of landing the top spot and fans of the team certainly didn't think they had much of a shot considering the luck they've had this season. The Bulls went through two coaches—neither of whom will return next season. They went from being projected Eastern Conference winners to hopeful playoff qualifiers to draft lottery participants. They didn't act quickly enough—or offer enough money—to get the new head coach they desired, Mike D'Antoni. (I betcha the draft has D'Antoni re-thinking that Knicks deal now).
Now, with their lineup in flux and no head coach, the future is in the Bulls' own hands. Chicago will without a doubt take Michael Beasley or Derrick Rose with the first pick. Let's take a quick look at how these two guys could help get the Bulls back to the promised land (or at least past the first round of the playoffs).
Michael Beasley averaged 26.5 points and an NCAA-leading 12.5 boards in his one and only collegiate season. He can put the ball in the basket. Sounds simple enough, but that's what it comes down to with this kid. He can score from anywhere and shoots the lights out for a guy his size (6'9", 235). Bulls fans calling for Beasley already have visions of vintage Scottie Pippen dunking in their heads.
The Bulls are already a strong rebounding team, but their big men provide little in the way of scoring. Joakim Noah showed marked improvement as the season wore on, but the guy's never gonna be a true scorer—his shot is uglier than his lid. Tyrus Thomas can jump out of the gym and on a good night he'll make a double-double look pedestrian, but he's inconsistent and has attitude problems. Speaking of attitude, I'm a big fan of Beasley's exuberance and lightheartedness, but the thought of Noah and Beasley on the same team brings to mind Vaseline-swabbed toilet seats and the ol' sugar-in-the-salt-shaker trick.
When it comes down to it, this Chicago team has had a surplus at guard and a hole in the middle for years. Beasley might finally be the guy to step in and take the pressure off perimeter guys like Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich and Larry Hughes. Which of the aforementioned players would still be around to play with Beasley? That's anyone's guess at this point.
The fate of Chicago's current guards may very well be decided by the selection of a possible future guard, Derrick Rose. Rose is a hometown Chicago boy who some think will turn out to be the most athletic point guard the game has ever seen. Hyperbole? Maybe, but this kid can straight out ball. Rose has been called a quicker Deron Williams or Jason Kidd with a better vertical and a jump shot. Analysts think the upside on Rose is absolutely through the roof—as in, Hall of Famer—and this kid hasn't even put on an NBA uniform yet.
Drafting Rose would allow the Bulls management to trade away some of their extra guards and get a proven big man. A package deal with parts like Kirk Hinrich, Larry Hughes or Thomas just might bring in the frontcourt talent the team needs. I'm thinking names like Camby and Okafor. (A girl can dream, can't she?) With Rose, the Bulls can get the next great point guard AND trade away for a solid big man. And with Rose—the high school hero come home—they can put butts in the seats of the United Center again.
So who's it gonna be?
Beasley is an incredibly versatile player who could change a team overnight. He's got a big personality and the kind of marketability most of the ho-hum Bulls could only dream of. He's a big man in a city that boasts broad shoulders but hasn't had any to carry the load in recent years. Beasley is, in a word, Beastly.
BUT, John Paxson should trust his gut on this one. The Bulls should draft the hometown kid with sick handles and dazzling speed. A good leader with a head for the game who's gonna take over Chicago just as Chris Paul has taken over New Orleans. Rose is the kind of point guard that comes along so rarely that to pass him up might land you on the short list with the guy who picked Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan. If Paxson and the Bulls want to come out of the draft smelling of success, they should pick the Rose.