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Bulls aim to find a contributor at No. 20

As Thursday's NBA Draft approaches, it doesn’t seem likely the Bulls, who have the 20th and 49th selections, will make a major trade to change any among their core of Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich, Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson, writes Sam Smith.
"There were online reports Monday that the Bulls were in discussions with the Cavaliers or Wizards about trading Luol Deng," writes Smith. "There is strong evidence there is no truth to the reports, as the Bulls have had no serious trade discussions regarding Deng or any of their top core players."
(David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images)

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

Sam Smith Mailbag

You know that chant you’re hearing from Bulls fans: We’re No. 20!

The annual NBA Draft is Thursday and the Bulls have the No. 20 selection in the first round and No. 49 in the second round. Given the team’s financial situation being in the luxury tax and possibly losing some reserve players to better offers from other teams, the Bulls likely will look at this draft to get a rotation player for this season with their first round pick and perhaps a player who can work his way in over the next two seasons with their second round pick.

It doesn’t seem likely the Bulls will make a major trade to change any among their core of Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich, Jimmy Butler, Luol Deng, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson.

2013 NBA Draft

I’d expect that group to return for the 2013-14 NBA season.

There were online reports Monday that the Bulls were in discussions with the Cavaliers or Wizards about trading Luol Deng. There is strong evidence there is no truth to the reports, as the Bulls have had no serious trade discussions regarding Deng or any of their top core players.

The Bulls probably will look to put Richard Hamilton into a draft day deal perhaps to move up, though that’s probably unlikely given Hamilton’s many injuries and his $5 million salary. If he is not traded, he has a $1 million buyout that could likely be exercised. The Bulls also have rookie Marquis Teague as a potential backup point guard. Though since Hinrich is moving into that position with Rose’s return, the Bulls could also explore Teague’s value on the market.

But given Teague did not play much last season, it’s not likely to be high. So he’ll probably return and will be looked upon to make a strong impression on the summer league team, which he did not do last year.

That’s eight.

The Bulls figure to return backup center Nazr Mohammed, but likely more as a third tier big man like Kurt Thomas a few years back playing more an emergency role. Thus, they’ll likely look for a big man either in the draft or in free agency with someone seeking a minimum contract to work his way back, perhaps like Samuel Dalembert, Rony Turiaf, Joel Przybilla, Jason Collins or Greg Oden.

That’s nine.

Perhaps the biggest offseason question will be whether the Bulls are able to retain Marco Belinelli.

It seems most likely backup guard Nate Robinson, who had perhaps his career season if also in excitement, will be moving on given the presence of Hinrich and Teague and a likely bigger offer for Robinson. But the Bulls still desperately need shooting, and Belinelli would be a strong presence. But he, too, could get a much bigger offer.

So figure at least three spots to fill with most likely Vladimir Radmanovic and Daequan Cook not returning. Malcolm Thomas probably will get another invitation to summer league with a chance to make the team.

So the Bulls will be looking at their No. 20 first round selection as someone who they’d like to add to the team for next season. I’d be surprised if they selected someone from Europe not ready to come to the NBA.

The problem, in part, is the uncertainty selecting that low in the first round. Although there are said to be reasonable prospects at the No. 20 spot in the first round, the recent history at No. 20 is not particularly encouraging.

Here’s a look at the No. 20 selection in the first round the last 15 years:

2012: Evan Fournier

2011: Donatas Montiejunas

2010: James Anderson

2009: Eric Maynor

2008: Alexis Ajinca

2007: Jason Smith

2006: Renaldo Balkman

2005: Julius Hodge

2004: Jameer Nelson

2003: Dahntay Jones

2002: Kareem Rush

2001: Brendan Haywood

2000: Speedy Claxton

1999: Dion Glover

1998: Roshown McLeod

That would be basically one starter in Nelson and maybe one or two rotation players.

But there’s hope if you know what you are doing, and the Bulls have been pretty good selecting lower in the draft in recent years. Because after No. 20, there were several starting and high level players selected with lower first round picks over the years. Here’s a look:

2011: Kenneth Faried (22) and Jimmy Butler (30)

2010: Jordan Crawford (27) and Greivis Vasquez (28)

2009: Taj Gibson (26)

2008: Courtney Lee (22), Serge Ibaka (24) and George Hill (26)

2007: Wilson Chandler (23) and Arron Afflalo (27)

2006: Rajon Rondo (21)

2005: Nate Robinson (21), Jarrett Jack (22) and David Lee (30)

2004: Tony Allen (25) and Kevin Martin (26)

2003: Boris Diaw (21), Carlos Delfino (25), Kendrick Perkins (27), Leandro Barbosa (28) and Josh Howard (29)

2002: Tayshaun Prince (23) and John Salmons (26)

2001: Gerald Wallace (25), Samuel Dalembert (26), Tony Parker (28) and Gilbert Arenas (30)

2000: DeShawn Stevenson (23)

1999: Jeff Foster (21) and Andrei Kirilenko (24)

1998: Ricky Davis (21), Al Harrington (25) and Nazr Mohammed (29)

So can the Bulls pull a player out of the pack at No. 20?

One way to judge teams in the draft is to take a look back and determine where their player would be selected if the draft were held today. As above, I’m leaving out last season’s draft as it’s too soon to make a judgment.

2011: Bulls traded the rights to Norris Cole and Malcolm Lee for the rights to Nikola Mirotic, who is the top young player in Europe. Cole comes off the bench for Miami. The Bulls selected Jimmy Butler at No. 30. If the draft were today, Butler probably would be eighth behind Kyrie Irving, Enes Kanter, perhaps Kemba Walker or Tristan Thompson, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, Nikola Vucevic and Kenneth Faried.

2010: The Bulls gave up their pick to Washington to create more cap room for free agents.

2009: James Johnson at No. 16 and Taj Gibson at No. 26. Johnson might be at about the same spot or just a bit lower in a pretty strong draft. But Gibson probably would be 10th or 11th after Blake Griffin, James Harden, Ricky Rubio, Stephen Curry, DeMar DeRozan, Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson, Jeff Teague and perhaps Brandon Jennings and Tyreke Evans. Gibson probably would be in a group with Nick Collison and maybe Gerald Henderson.

2008: Derrick Rose. Bulls remain No. 1 in the no-brainer pick.

2007: Joakim Noah at No. 9. Noah probably would be No. 2 after Kevin Durant, perhaps in a tie with Al Horford, who were both selected ahead of him.

2006: Tyrus Thomas with the No. 2 pick in a draft day swap to include Viktor Khryapa for the rights to LaMarcus Aldridge. Thabo Sefolosha at No. 13. We know the Thomas selection was the worst this Bulls management has made. But it was a poor draft with lottery picks that included Andrea Bargnani No. 1, Adam Morrison No. 3, Shelden Williams No. 5, Randy Foye, Patrick O’Bryant, Mouhamed Sene, Patrick O’Bryant and Hilton Armstrong all lottery picks. So Thomas still on potential even with his history could yet be a top 15 pick with half the first round picks from that draft already out of the league. Sefolosha was traded for the pick the Bulls used to draft Gibson. Sefolosha is regarded as a top defender and starts for Oklahoma City. He would today be probably fourth or fifth in that relatively weak draft after likely only Aldridge, Rajon Rondo, Rudy Gay and probably Brandon Roy, though he retired with injuries.

2005: The Bulls had no picks.

2004: Ben Gordon at No. 3 and Luol Deng at No. 7. Gordon was drafted perhaps a bit high, but even today likely would be seventh or eighth. His biggest mistake that has hurt his value was leaving the Bulls for more money and languishing in Detroit and Charlotte. He’d likely go behind Dwight Howard, Deng, Andre Iguodala, Al Jefferson, Kevin Martin and Josh Smith. Tony Allen was also in that draft, but mostly has not been considered better than Gordon. Others in the Gordon class could be Emeka Okafor, Devin Harris, J.R. Smith and Jameer Nelson. Doing that draft again, Deng at No. 7 would probably — based on back to back All Star-appearances and all-league defense — be only after Howard.

2003: Kirk Hinrich at No. 7. That was John Paxson’s first draft as Bulls general manager. The 2003 draft was the draft of the era with LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. But with those four ahead of him, Hinrich today would likely be ahead of Darko Milicic (2) and Chris Kaman (6) and perhaps only David West below him at No. 18 moving up.

So in the 10 years with Paxson in charge of personnel and Gar Forman added in 2009, the Bulls have basically beaten the odds in the draft by mostly selecting players who eventually rose above their draft day ratings. They get another chance Thursday.

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