Although it was far from the biggest surprise of the 2013 NBA draft, the Chicago Bulls’ first-round pick raised plenty of eyebrows. Armed with a pair of selections in the hunt to build a team that can challenge Miami in the postseason, Chicago appears to have whiffed on at least one of the two.
Here’s a look at both new additions to the Bulls’ roster and what they bring (or fail to bring) to Derrick Rose’s team.
SG Tony Snell, New Mexico (Round 1, No. 20 overall): D+
In principle, Tony Snell checks off most of the boxes the Bulls were expected to look for in their first-round selection. He’s a big shooting guard who can play the 2 or the 3, knock down the three-pointer and play a little defense.
He just doesn’t do any of it all that well.
The New Mexico product is coming from a solid defensive team, but he’s not a playmaker who will force a bunch of turnovers. He’s a good long-range shooter but not a great one, and he’s a dreadful rebounder for his 6’7” height (2.6 boards per game).
The Chicago Bulls hold the 20th overall pick in Thursday night’s NBA draft, and the team has no shortage of concerns that the selection could be used to address. From the near-certain free-agent departure of playoff hero Nate Robinson to the perpetual quest for shooters around Derrick Rose, the Bulls have plenty of directions they could go with the pick.
Based on the group of players likely to remain on the board when the Bulls make their choice, these three are the most promising for Chicago’s future:
1. Shabazz Muhammad, UCLA
It’s kind of amazing that the Bulls have any shot at the player who entered college as the No. 2-ranked freshman in the country (trailing only probable top pick Nerlens Noel). However, Muhammad’s stock has already slid as far as the late lottery by many projections, so it would only take another few spots to leave him available to Chicago.
As strong as the Chicago Bulls are on defense, the offense has been another story entirely. Thus, it’s little surprise that the Bulls are considering an upgrade prior to the February 21 trade deadline.
According to the Chicago Tribune, the Bulls initiated talks with the Toronto Raptors about acquiring former No. 1 draft pick Andrea Bargnani in exchange for power forward Carlos Boozer. The Raptors have already shown a willingness to pull the trigger on big-ticket deals, having acquired Rudy Gay from Memphis in a three-team trade last week.
Whether or not Toronto turns out to show some interest in the pricey Boozer—or in a possible sidebar deal swapping backup point guards Nate Robinson and John Lucas III—is hardly relevant. There are few players in the NBA who would be worse fits in Chicago than Bargnani, and it’s mind-boggling that Bulls management isn’t acutely aware of that fact.
The NBA announced the All-Star reserves in both conferences on Thursday, and the news was surprisingly good for Chicago Bulls fans. Although the Bulls had no starters on the Eastern Conference team, both Luol Deng (making his second straight appearance) and Joakim Noah (a first-time All-Star) made the list of bench players for the East.
Both players obviously deserve enormous credit for keeping the Bulls in the playoff picture while superstar Derrick Rose rehabs his injured knee. That said, the All-Star Game is meant to recognize individual excellence above all, and it’s hard to justify sending both Chicago standouts in a year when some very strong candidates are staying home.
Deng seems the more plausible choice, as he’s shown immense versatility while carrying the Bulls’ offense. He’s averaging a team-high 17.4 points per game, pulling down 6.4 boards a night in a terrific frontcourt, and playing his usual impeccable defense.
Despite a late scare, the Chicago Bulls continued their dominance over the New York Knicks on Friday night. New York rallied in the final minutes to close to within five, but couldn’t finish the comeback in a 108-101 Bulls win.
These four elements stood out in Chicago's 20th victory of the season:
1. The Bulls could win a playoff series even without Derrick Rose
To be fair, this statement is more an indictment of the quality of the Eastern Conference than a proclamation of Chicago’s rise. Still, the fact remains that the Bulls have won road games against Miami and New York (the conference’s putative top two seeds) in the space of a week.
Chicago’s defense remains strong enough to keep them in the game against even elite opponents, and the offense—held together with duct tape though it is—has gotten the job done. Obviously, the Bulls will be a dramatically better team with even a partial-strength version of Rose, but the former MVP won’t be joining a lost cause when he does return from his knee injury.
On the other hand…
2. If anything happens to Luol Deng, Chicago is sunk