Bulls use first-round picks on Nikola Mirotic and Jimmy Butler

Hopefully, this is one of the many times the Bulls hold late first-round picks, as opposed to lottery/mid first-round picks. That's a good thing -- it shows that they're winning. Coming into this year's NBA Draft, the Bulls held the Nos. 28 and 30 first-round picks and No. 43 pick in the second-round. They dealt Nos. 28 and 43, along with cash, to the Minnesota Timberwolves for No. 23.

Providence's Marshon Brooks, a 6-5, 195-pound two-guard, was available at No. 23, though the Bulls opted to go the overseas route, drafting Montenegro forward Nikola Mirotic, who has some size at 6-10, 226 pounds. Bulls general manager Gar Forman said Tuesday that adding multiple rookies isn't in his plans -- and he was right, because Mirotic, 20, won't be able to join the Bulls until 2015, the year Carlos Boozer's deal comes off the books. This was a look-to-the-future move for the Bulls.

The only rookie on the Bulls' roster (assuming they don't trade for one) next season will be Marquette's Jimmy Butler, a 6-8, 222-pound forward. He averaged 16 points and six rebounds in his final season at Marquette. But he isn't much of a three-point shooter, hitting 20 of 58 (34.5 percent) from beyond the arc this past season.
So much for keeping both first-round picks. Heading into the draft, it seemed UCLA's Tyler Honeycutt and Purdue's JaJuan Johnson made sense at Nos. 28 and 30, respectively. But the Bulls decided to go a different route.

Nikola Mirotic.jpg 

Nikola Mirotic, the Bulls' selection at No. 23, will have to spend a few years overseas before playing in the Windy City.

The Bulls passed up the opportunity to draft both, but you've got to love their selection of Butler, who's the feel-good story of the draft, getting kicked out of his house at age 13. Clearly, he's been through a lot. He's faced adversity, coming out much better for it.

"That's literally what I live by," Butler, 22, said before the Draft. "One day at a time. The NBA is a goal of mine. But I'm not there yet. I can't lose my focus."

What can he provide for the Bulls?

"Jimmy is a guy we felt really just fits us to a T," Forman said to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. "With his makeup and character and his game, there has been no question in our minds for awhile that he was a fit for this organization.

"He has a nice frame, strong body, good athlete and versatile defender. Offensively, he can handle the ball, has a nice stroke. He's a mid-range shooter but we feel he can add range. He's a strong driver. And he went to the free-throw line quite a bit."

Forman, who was not allowed to speak about Mirotic because of NBA trade rules, did mention to reporters that he sees Butler as more of a three, bringing up that Luol Deng could move to the two-guard at times. We've seen how that's worked out in the past, as Deng's showed he doesn't have the foot speed to keep up with opposing shooting guards. That can change now: Butler can defend shooting guards, small forwards and, as Forman mentioned in an interview with CSNChicago, even point guards and power forwards.

Deng was among league leaders in minutes played, so, if anything, Butler might be able to provide a viable backup. The Bulls tried to give Kyle Korver minutes at small forward, but he proved to be a major liability on the defensive end, especially in the Eastern Conference finals versus LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Speaking of which, Butler can't wait to potentially defend the two Miami Heat superstars.

"The thought that rushed through my head was my dream came true," Butler said. "I want to win games and I will do whatever it takes to help the Bulls win a championship. I'm a guard. I want to guard LeBron (James) and Dwyane Wade and all those guys so we can get to that championship."

That's exactly what you want to hear from a rookie: a no fear, confident mindset. Chicago will be all for players like that.

The question is: Can he work on extending his range?

"I definitely think I'm going to be able to spread the floor out," Butler said. "I'm working on my outside shot. But my big thing is defense. I'm going to be a pest and make people work for everything."

Deng did all he could versus James during the East finals, though proved to be nothing more than a statue late in games, as James knocked down several clutch shots down the stretch of Heat wins. Deng was the primary defender on James, while the Dallas Mavericks threw plethora of defenders, fresh bodies at James during the NBA Finals -- Shawn Marion, DeShawn Stevenson and 38-year-old Jason Kidd.

The Bulls might be able to do the same with the addition of Butler, whose work-ethic and team-first mindset fits right into coach Tom Thibodeau's regime.

"I think the type of person I am is what won them over," Butler said. "I think they could tell I was genuinely sincere when I said I'm a hard worker and I've worked for everything I've had and I won't stop doing it now because they called my name. I'm here. I'm going to keep going."

Is he the answer at two-guard? No, probably not.

Three things were made obvious as the Bulls elected to pass up Brooks, instead, drafting a European project and probable small forward in Butler.

1) Clearly, they felt Brooks isn't the answer at two-guard. It seemed Brooks was a lock to be a top 20 pick, though he fell -- big-time. The Boston Celtics drafted him at No. 25, but quickly dealt him to New Jersey for JaJuan Johnson (No. 27).

2) By drafting Mirotic, the Bulls will only hold one rookie on the roster. Like most title-contending teams with a solidified base, they don't want youth -- they need proven players, which leads to point three.

3) The Bulls are supremely confident heading into free agency. If they weren't, they would have drafted Brooks. In addition, the Bulls could have added JaJuan Johnson to possibly make Taj Gibson expendable. But they hold plenty of confidence in Gibson, and unless an appealing deal comes up, plan on keeping him. The collective bargaining agreement is not in place yet -- and has a ways to go -- but the Bulls will have several two-guards to choose from, most notably, Jason Richardson. They know they need shooting, and plan on addressing the need -- with confidence.

Jimmy Butler.jpeg 

Butler isn't the answer to the Bulls' two-guard woes, but he was a safe pick and should provide some rest for Deng, who racked up a ton of minutes this past season.

"We need to get as many guys as we can to space the floor because we have such a special guard in Rose," Forman admitted.

Butler probably isn't that guy, but the Bulls will hope -- and need -- to find one in free agency or trade.

Around the NBA:
The Cleveland Cavaliers indeed went with Duke's 6-1 guard Kyrie Irving with the top pick. No shocker here -- as it was all but certain Irving was the pick at No. 1 -- but it might have made more sense for Cleveland to draft Derrick Williams, who was taken No. 2 by Minnesota, with the top pick and Brandon Knight at No. 4.

Williams lobbied to be the top pick in this year's Draft, and though he didn't get his wish, when it's all said and done, he may end up as the top player from the draft class. Only time will tell.

Many were surprised that Tristan Thompson, a 6-9 forward out of Texas, went No. 4 to Cleveland. He seems to be more of a 'tweener, though his natural position in college was power forward. The pick was a bit of a head-scratcher, but the feeling is that Thompson's athleticism and talent will translate, and, simply, Cleveland believed Irving/Thompson is a better duo than Williams/Knight.

Jonas Valanciunas (No. 5) was taken by the Toronto Raptors. He might be stuck overseas for one more year, but when he is ready, should provide Toronto with the center they need to move Andrea Bargnani to power forward, a much more natural position for him.

Knight is heading to Detroit with the No. 8 pick -- just what they need, another guard. This effectively ends the Rodney Stuckey experiment at point guard, and creates another logjam at guard, something they have dealt with in Detroit for the past two seasons.

Klay Thompson, who may end up as the best two-guard in this draft class (certainly would have been for the Bulls), went No. 11 to the Golden State Warriors -- who now have Stephen Curry, Dorell Wright and Thompson, three future three-point contest contestants. The big question now is: With 6-6 two-guard Klay Thompson in the fold, what will Golden State do with Monta Ellis?

The Jimmer Fredette (No. 10) show is heading to Sacramento. Not all was in sync in Sacramento, though. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! tweeted: "The Sacramento coaching staff isn't happy with the selection of Fredette, sources say. They wanted a veteran guard, ala Felton or Parker." In any case, Arco Arena should see a rise in attendance.

Back-to-back: The Morris twins out of Kansas -- Markieff and Marcus -- went to the Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets at Nos. 13 and 14, respectively.

According to ESPN's Chad Ford, Kawhi Leonard, who was drafted by the Indiana Pacers at No. 15, will be traded to the San Antonio Spurs for George Hill. And here we all thought Hill was going to be the heir apparent to Tony Parker, whose name came up in trade discussions leading up to draft night. The Spurs' eggs are all in the Parker basket now, though, as Hill proved to be a very solid backup -- and showed he could be Parker's replacement sooner rather than later. Also, where does Hill fit in for Indiana? They already have Darren Collison running the point, though this will now encourage a competitive battle between the two.

Nolan Smith went higher than many projected, going No. 21 to the Portland Trail Blazers. According to Jason Quick of The Oregonian, the Trail Blazers traded Andre Miller to the Denver Nuggets for Raymond Felton. Felton will get his wish as the starting point guard in Portland, and it creates a perfect situation for Smith to learn the NBA game playing behind a proven guard. He was a guy the Bulls might have targeted, but was drafted higher than their first pick (No. 23) anyways.

Cross off Portland's Rudy Fernandez on your Bulls' wish list. According to ESPN's Marc Stein, Fernandez is heading to the world champion Dallas Mavericks for Jordan Hamilton (No. 26). Dallas clearly gets a great deal out of this -- the last thing they needed was a rookie to add to a title-contending team. Who knows how many years this cast, led by 33-year-old, Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki, has left, but adding Fernandez gives them yet another three-point weapon.

According to ESPN: "The Houston Rockets acquired point guard Jonny Flynn and Lithuanian big man Dontas Motiejunas in a trade with Minnesota during Thursday night's NBA draft and sent center Brad Miller and the 23rd pick to the Timberwolves. The Timberwolves then turned around and dealt the rights to Mirotic to Chicago for the rights to Cleveland State guard Norris Cole, selected 28th, and the 43rd pick." Former Bull Brad Miller is certainly making his rounds around The Association -- now, taking his talents up north.

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