The Bulls made two first-round picks in this year's NBA draft, Real Madrid's Nikola Mirotic and Marquette's Jimmy Butler, though only one, the latter, will be with the team this season. Mirotic -- who the Bulls were unable to discuss formally before Monday -- by the sounds of it, won't be in a Bulls uniform for quite some time.
"We can't say for sure when he'll be able to come over, but we're
hopeful he'll be a big part of what we're doing," Bulls general manager Gar Forman said to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. "In our speaking with him, his desire and dream is to play
in the NBA at some point."
ESPN's Fran Fraschilla said on draft night that Mirotic, 20, probably won't be able to make his way to Chicago until 2015, as he's signed to a long-term contract with his Euroleague team.
We've all had a tough time breaking down his game, but leave it to Forman to dissect the 6-10 forward.
"He's a 6-foot-10-inch power forward that has a great offensive package,
we feel," Forman said. "He shoots it with range. He can handle and
pass, so he's very skilled. He's already playing at a high level with
Real Madrid in the Euroleague in the ACB, which is probably the
second-strongest league in the world behind the NBA. When you look back
historically, it's very unusual for players of that age to be playing
such a significant role at that level.
"Our feeling was he was a definite lottery-type talent. He needs to get
stronger physically. But he's getting great experience at that level. . .
. We felt in the position we're in to get a player of that caliber it
was the right move. He fits with how we play and fits with Derrick because of the way he spaces the floor."
Apparently, he's a mixture between Andrea Bargnani and Jason Kapono, so we'll see. But with the Bulls in title contention, don't look for Mirotic in the next couple seasons at the very least. The Bulls will let him groom, mature and develop overseas.
The other first-round pick, meanwhile, has an interesting story to share.
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune writes: "Jimmy Butler was in the Houston airport when the text message landed on his phone. "Congratulations. Welcome. Maybe come by tonight and chill out for a bit and get to know each other." The sender was none other than Derrick Rose, the reigning most valuable player in the NBA. So Butler landed and hung at Rose's house Sunday night."
It didn't seem like Rose sent a welcoming text to LeBron James last offseason, but made exceptions for the Bulls' 30th overall pick. It's good to see Butler and league MVP Derrick Rose develop a relationship, though their mutual friend Randall Hampton, who has played with both in the past, has a lot to do with that.
"Randall was there, too," Butler said. "I talk to Randall ever since I
left junior college and went to Marquette. He's been one of my best
friends throughout this process and he's always and forever one of my
teammates and like a brother to me.
So what did Butler, Hampton and Rose do?
Said Butler: "We went to Derrick's house and watched the BET
awards and just talked about basketball, my life. Me and Randall were
joking about our junior college days. It's crazy that I used to watch
Derrick on TV and now I'm a teammate. I try not to let that show too
much. He's a good dude. He's just like me for the most part. He just
wants to win."
You know, just your typical hangout: talk basketball, life, joke around and watch the BET awards.
It was an impressive opening interview from Butler, who brought up the two Miami Heat stars, James and Dwyane Wade, a few times. And he doesn't do it in a cocky manner, either. He's a competitor, and wants to get a crack at guarding them. That's what you want to see from a rookie, one who can make a mark on the defensive end from the get-go.
The Bulls are playing this smart by limiting the offensive expectations for Butler, keeping things simple and talking about his defensive strengths.
Forman had high praise for Butler on draft night, and it continued Monday.
Said Forman: "Like any other draft, there were a handful of guys that we figured were
going to be there what we would have been comfortable with. But Jimmy
was on top of that list. We even considered trying to
move up a few spots to make sure we got him. After the 29th pick was
made and we were on the clock for five minutes, it literally took three
seconds to get our pick in. He's our kind of guy and he's going to fit
the culture we have here of hard work and defense. He's a very versatile
player on both ends of the floor with a lot of size and athleticism."
The Bulls are confident they'll get their two-guard upgrade via free agency or trade, but in Butler -- who will wear 21 next season with 33 retired in honor of Scottie Pippen -- they find a viable backup at small forward and a player who's committed defensively. Head coach Tom Thibodeau is loving it: he gets a defensive-minded rookie and another one with upside stashed in Europe.