This one somehow slipped by me over the weekend, but the latest ask Sam is up at Bulls.com. Sam's always a good read, but I'm going to have to disagree with him on this one in response to whether the Bulls should have taken Blair over Taj Gibson
Sam: No. The point is to get someone productive and I believe Taj will
be. He may not put up the rebounding numbers we see from Blair, but
everyone passed Blair in the first round. The reason was team and
league doctors never had seen anyone without cartilage in both knees.
Every GM was warned not to take Blair in the first round, which would
mean a three-year guaranteed contract. Not surprisingly, no one wanted
to risk a three-year deal when league doctors told them not to. It's
not unlike ignoring your own doctor's warning. You do so at your own
risk and then don't come complaining to me. Blair will be an easy
second guess for fans this season, but it's never their money, so they
don't worry about spending someone else's. I believe Gibson will be a
solid, hard working contributor, which is a bonus for a low first round
No? Really? Sam was good enough to email me back and forth a couple times on the issue, but I disagreed with a few things.
Let me preface this by saying, I wanted the Bulls to take Blair, but I wasn't that upset by them passing on him either. Having not scouted Taj Gibson yet, I didn't have a strong opinion of him one way or the other. The medical risks of Blair were large, and I understand an organization passing on him if they feel they have a better player. So I preached, "wait and see what Gibson gives us before getting upset".
So far Gibson has been quite good, and if nothing else, that should soften the blow. It's still a blow though, because Blair has been a beast.
Now the thing I really disagree with Sam about is the financial commitment. First, it's two years not three years. The total dollars involved in those two guaranteed years are around 2.15 million. The three year veteran minmum (which is the amount you pay any vet with three or more years in the league) would be 1.65 million or so over that period of time. So you're talking about a total outlay of a half million dollars vs what you'd need spend to fill out your roster anyway (there is a minimum number of roster spots out there and the Bulls will likely stay at it).
To worry about the financial end on a two year slightly over minimum contract guy is crazy when the guy is as talented as Dejuan Blair. Is there a team in the league that wouldn't add him for two years 2.15 million if he were available as a FA?
Blair may not be in the league long. Who knows how long a guy of his size with no cartilege lasts in the NBA. The thing is, most guys in this draft picked between 20-36 aren't going to last long. They may not have medical risks, but they certainly have lack of talent risks. Blair doesn't have that. He belongs in the league for as long as his body holds up. I believe it was Bill Simmons who said "So what if Dejuan Blair grinds his knees into stumps in three years, three years of Dejuan Blair is likely far better than half the guys ahead of him will give you".
The maddening thing about this one, and not just for Bulls fans but all fans of teams who passed, is the move seemed so obvious on draft day. When you have the fans of probably 15 organizations cheering when Blair fell to them only to scream at their TVs when their team passed on him, it's rather stunning. Especially when the fans are proven right. That hasn't happened yet, preseason and summer league don't count, but it sure looks likely to happen soon.
However, the Bulls have picked a keeper in Gibson who looks to be a bargain for his draft selection. It's a shame that Blair's shadow will lurk over him for at least the beginning of his career, because if it weren't for Blair, then I think we'd all be very happy with what we had at #27 this year.