The Bulls' 2011 draft leaves little to be excited about. Trading up to pick Nikolo Mirotic at #23 and picking Jimmy Butler at #30 does little to improve the team in the short term, raising the point that trading for an NBA player would've been a more productive draft day.
Of course, the same logic that leaves one unimpressed with the players they drafted leads to the conclusion that the picks had equally bad value on the trade market for players on NBA rosters.
The Bulls don't exist in a vacuum. The NBA is a league of 30 teams with interests of their own, contending to put the best possible teams on the court. Trading the picks to improve the team right now would mean other teams valuing Mirotic, Butler, and the like in their tier greater than the asset craved by Bulls fans. That tier just simply wasn't over-valued for the Bulls to exploit.
Did they pick the best players available?
At that tier, seriously, who knows? Sure, they didn't fill needs, but NBA-ready players to improve the Bulls' rotation just weren't available. They picked a long-term project in Mirotic -- who won't be able to play in the NBA until 2015 -- and a shooting guard in Butler with the types of skills and physical attributes that could keep him as an asset in the NBA for a long career.
As for other players available, let's be honest, the difference between the Bulls' picks and who they passed up is marginal at best. It could be well argued that the difference is so marginal, it isn't really worth discussing. It's easy to throw hissy fits, but getting intellectually dishonest overrates bad players and undervalues the picks, the Bulls great coaching staff, and the highly accomplished front office. I'm not prepared to do any of that.
Nikola Mirotic is:
To put him in a box, he's a stretch-four. At 6'10" and reportedly an inability to create his own shot, but an elite 3-point jumper and free throw shooting that doesn't disappear against the elite competition of the NBA, he'll be a spot shooter used to open up driving lanes and a weapon for Tom Thibodeau's love of the inside-out offense to punish collapsing defenses.
He doesn't finish well at the basket, nor can he isolate or post up. But he's a willing runner up and down the floor, making him a highly efficient transition player. I can't find a good word about his defense, but hustle covers up weaknesses in Thibs' defense. He's a native of Montenegro, 20-years-old, and currently playing for Real Madrid in the Euroleague, where he'll remain under contract for the next three or four seasons. In the Euroleague, he plays both forward positions. His 7'1" wingspan and hustle could cover up defensive weaknesses on the wing, but that could be dangerous. That said, getting brutalized in the post and on the glass could be worse.
Here's a reel from his play on the international team at the 2010 Nike Hoop Summit:
Everyone's calling him a power forward, but his ability to make hustle plays, running the floor so well in transition; his versatility as a pick n' roll distributor; and universally sound shooting, makes him a long SF. It'd be nice to see him close on shots better and develop a quicker release on his jumper, though. Otherwise, he'll get eaten up on both ends by pump fakes on defense and he'll be less able to make defenses pay for collapsing the paint on his side.
Jimmy Butler is:
At best, he's Ronnie Brewer, right? He's 6'8" and listed as a SF, but his 6'8" wingspan makes him more likely to be a two-three wing player than the type of 6'8" player who'll be the tallest non-center on the court in a smaller lineup. Though a very good FT shooter and seemingly good-enough mid-range, he has no 3-point shot; nor does he have the handles to create in isolation. but his percentages were good in college.
I find his passing skills and basketball I.Q. with his hustle and defensive skills to make the comparison to Brewer more than a trite exaggeration. The skills he has aren't the type that diminish and his character says that they can only get better, but his weaknesses tell me that he's best maximized at the two, and his basketball I.Q. might turn him into an off-ball easy-bucket creator late in shot clocks.
Maybe he learns how to cut to the basket by playing with Brewer and having a coach that valuing heads-up low-risk improvising on offense. Otherwise, he's 21. Nowadays, a guy who spends three years in college and needed an extra year of fine tuning to get picked #30 is generally a WYSIWYG player.
I'm a huge fan of this type of player, but does his lack of shooting ability ever make him an improvement over Keith Bogans? Does his average wingspan make him too much a liability to have on the floor with Kyle Korver on the wing? Does he simply make Brewer more expendable some time in the next two or three years?
Smaller defensive lineups of Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Brewer, Butler, and Derrick Rose would expand switching options for those situations. The rises of Taj Gibson and Omer Asik last season could even amount to Butler giving Deng rest without sacrificing defense -- a luxury the Bulls rarely had with their rotation last season, which might've placed a ceiling on their playoff success.
Kind of excited about Malcolm Lee
If you're interested, "my guy" was Lee in this draft because I like his ability to play the point, two, and help defend threes at 6'5"; catch n' shoot; play defense with intelligent hustle; and be a secondary ball handler. The problem is that he's an awful shooter off the dribble who likes shooting off the dribble. The fear's that he's a chucker, but we'll see how malleable he is. He's likely going to be one of the very few second round picks of this draft who'll be legit NBA players for any amount of time, so grabbing him at #43 is a bit of a steal.
Read his profile at NBADraft.net.
Unfortunately, he won't be a Bull. He'll be in the deal to Minnesota that landed the Bulls the 23rd pick. Likely worth it. The only "loss" one could consider in trading up.