With the second round of the NBA playoffs in full swing, many Chicago Bulls fans have moved onto non-NBA pastimes. However, their focus should be on the teams still playing, and how they compiled their rosters. Many of the teams fighting to earn a trip to the conference finals (Golden State, Portland, San Antonio, Oklahoma City) built their teams through the draft (with notable exceptions).
The Bulls have followed suit, and worked hard to build through the draft. With the 2016 NBA Draft just over a month away, it is time to look at how the Bulls will likely improve their roster: drafting and maintaining talent.
The odds of the Bulls trading away either member of last season’s starting backcourt are very low, and as I have written here before, very shortsighted. Projecting next season’s backcourt based on offseason moves, free-agent acquisitions and draft selections is all speculation. For the Bulls, it’s not all that difficult. (A quick glance at last season’s depth at every position)
Derrick Rose will be back as the Bulls’ starting point guard next season, barring the front office making a big offseason trade: something they have rarely done. Aside from retaining Rose, the rest of the depth at the position needs to be revamped.
For the last several years the Bulls have signed shoot-first short point guards as backups. Aaron Brooks filled this role for the last two seasons, but he is an unrestricted free agent and will not be back. This will leave the Bulls searching for depth in a free agent market led by some notable names, none of whom the Bulls will be able to pay. The list of unrestricted free agents are less costly, but the Bulls would be wise to stay away from most of them. Instead, they should explore drafting a point guard.
The Bulls will likely have the 14th pick in the draft, which based on many mocks will leave them selecting a point guard. There is even speculation that the Bulls will look trade up in order to draft a point guard they covet.
One option would be to move up in the draft in order to select a point guard as the heir apparent to Rose. Trading up to select a point guard such as Providence’s Kris Dunn would only make sense if the Bulls were able to package a player or players who should no longer be a part of the Bulls’ plans going forward, such as Tony Snell. Unless a low cost option presents itself, a better course of action would be to stay put.
After running ESPN’s mock draft simulator over 25 times, the Bulls selected Kentucky point guard Tyler Ulis every time. Ulis was a star and a floor leader during his time at Kentucky, but his size and shooting could hinder him in the NBA. At only 5-foot-9 he has below average NBA size, and his poor 3-point shooting could prove to be a problem.
However, he returned to school for his sophomore season and earned SEC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year honors. He also does not turn the ball over, while orchestrating the offense on and off the court. Ulis could prove to be an exceptional backup for Rose, bringing the heart and leadership – especially in the second unit – that was so desperately needed last year. (Note: the last John Calipari-coached point guard drafted in the first round by the Bulls – aside from Rose – flamed out quickly.)
Rose had his most successful season since his first knee surgery, and barring any setbacks health-wise he will be the starting point guard next season. And it should be noted that he will have more than enough incentive to prove he can not only stay on the court, but show he is still an elite player, as he enters the first real contract year of his career. With Rose’s future in Chicago unclear, securing a young point guard should be essential.
Wild trade rumors aside, Jimmy Butler is a two-time All-Star on the second year of a max contract, and he will be back next season as the Bulls’ starting shooting guard. The Bulls drafted Butler on potential: a defensive stopper who played hard and knew his role. He then blossomed into the elite all-around player that every team hopes to find in the draft. Trading him as he enters his prime would be unlikely in the NBA.
E’Twaun Moore proved to be much more than a serviceable back up this past season and the Bulls would be wise to try and re-sign the five-year NBA veteran, if he does not require too large of a contract. Moore was a steadying influence every time he was on the court and he was the Bulls most consistent player last season in a limited role.
The Bulls traded Kirk Hinrich for Justin Holiday at the deadline last season, and he proved to be a reliable reserve. Holiday is on the books for next year at a very reasonable price. These two players should be all the depth the Bulls need at shooting guard.
Moore’s performance last year could also allow the team to consider playing him, Butler and Rose together far more often, with Butler sliding over to small forward. This option will be based a lot on what moves the team can make in the frontcourt, which I will discuss shortly.