In a typical NBA draft, there are about 15 or so players who will stay
in the league longer than 5 years. Only a handful will become impact
By all accounts, the 2011 draft class was an exceptionally weak one.
So if you're the Bulls and you come in with the 28th, 30th and 43rd
picks, you're expectations should be adjusted accordingly. The Bulls
didn't find their shooting guard of the future, but then again, they
didn't expect to.
Having established themselves as legitimate title contenders, the Bulls
entered the draft with a dream and a plan. The dream was that they
could somehow use their picks and a non-rotation player or two in a
trade that would net them a shooting guard like the Grizzlies' O.J. Mayo
or Houston's Courtney Lee, both players for whom the Bulls showed
interest at the February trade deadline. It didn't happen in February
and it didn't happen on Draft Night.
Since the dream didn't materialize, Bulls management moved quickly on
their plan. Though they had 3 picks, Bulls' General Manager Gar Forman
made it clear that they wanted no more than 2 rookies on their roster.
The truth is that they preferred zero or one, leaving more room for
veterans who could help the team immediately. Though their dream didn't
come true, they executed their plan very nicely.
First, they traded their #28 and #43 picks for the Minnesota
Timberwolves' 23rd overall pick. With that pick, they selected 20
year-old Montenegro-born power forward Nikola Mirotic. The 6-10 power
forward has two things the Bulls really like. First, he's got
talent...loads of it. Second, because of his contract obligations
playing for the prestigious Real Madrid team, he won't be available for
at least two years, saving the Bulls a roster spot. According to
DraftExpress.com, for my money the foremost published source for talent
evaluations of NBA prospects, "Chicago just drafted the 7th most
talented player in the draft with the #23 pick." Most scouts I've read
agree and feel that Mirotic would have been a top-10 selection if not
for his contract commitments. The truth is that the Bulls are more than
happy to have Mirotic develop his game overseas where he can get much
more game action against quality competition.
While those fans whose only form of gratification is the immediate
variety will be disappointed that they'll have to wait to see Mirotic in
a Bulls' uniform, for Bulls' management, this was Christmas in June.
At #30 the Bulls selected 6-8 Marquette swingman (shooting guard/small
forward) Jimmy Butler. Butler's life story would be made into a movie
except it already was. If you saw "The Blindside," just substitute
Butler for Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Michael Oher and switch
from the gridiron to to the hardwood and the stories are virtually
identical. Suffice it to say that if it's true that it's not what you
achieve, but what you overcome that matters most, this kid's character
is off the charts.
Character is great and all, but can the young man ball? Playing in the
tough, tough Big East Conference last season, Butler averaged 16 points
and 6 rebounds per game while shooting 49% from the field and 35% from
the 3-point arc. Good numbers. And before you go thinking that Butler
is one of those productive college players who lack the athleticism for
the NBA, be advised that he posted a 39-inch vertical leap at the
combine, just an inch short of what Derrick Rose did. The two words
most often associated with Butler are versatility and defense...good
While it's always a longshot for a 30th pick to make it in the NBA, Jimmy Butler's overcome much worse.
It's not surprising that few fans are doing cartwheels over the Bulls'
draft. Still, I think the Bulls did a great job of executing their
pre-draft plan and for this deserve at least polite applause.