Bulls The forth pick belongs to the Chicago Bulls, one of three first round picks.  The Bulls are represented for the 4th pick by Jamie Resin.  The Bulls select:

Darius Miles, SF, 6-8, East St. Louis High School

I. Season Overview

The days of Michael, Scottie, and Phil Jackson seem like they occurred in a previous millennium.  Oh, wait… they did.  You get the point.  The Red and Black are now well into the rebuilding process, having completed the process of purging salaries and ridding themselves of anyone remotely associated with their championship seasons.  The 1999-2000 edition of the Bulls completed the season with a woeful 17-65 record, second worst to only the hapless Clippers (that is their name right, the Los Angeles Hapless Clippers?).  Anyway, having earned (for lack of a better word) the first pick in the 1999 draft and not blown it, and having stockpiled plenty of draft picks and flexibility under the salary cap, the Jerrys are prepared to (attempt to) build Dynasty #2.  Although Bulls fans suffered through a brutal season, they kept coming out to the United Center, compiling the league’s best attendance mark, and they actually witnessed some rays of hope for the future.  The brightest of the bright spots was the selection of Elton Brand with the first pick of the 1999 draft.   Although some pundits questioned the selection, in light of the superior perceived “upside” of Lamar Odom and Steve Francis, the Jerrys opted not to start their rebuilding process with a character question mark – and selected the rock solid Brand, as a cornerstone at the power forward position.  While lacking the height of some NBA power forwards, Brand displayed great ability and heart and earned the Bulls first ROY award since Michael Jordan (ok, he split it with Steve Francis).  Jordan went on to win 6 championships… time will tell if Elton can follow in his footsteps.

II. Draft History

In recent years, the Bulls have not had the luxury of picking at the top of the draft.  Here are their selections from the last five drafts:

1999: Elton Brand (Duke), 1st pick; Ron Artest (St. John's), 16th pick; Michael Ruffin (Tulsa), 32nd pick; and Lari Ketner (UMass), 49th pick

1998: Drafted Corey Benjamin (Oregon State), 28th pick; Shammond Williams (UNC), 34th pick; Maceo Baston (Michigan), 58th pick

1997: Drafted Keith Booth (Maryland), 28th pick; Roberto Duenas  (Barcelona, Spain)

1996: Drafted (and renounced) Travis Knight (UConn), 29th pick

1995: Drafted Jason Caffey (Alabama), 20th pick; Dragan Tarlac (Greece), 31st pick

III. Management and Coaching

Jerry Reinsdorf, owner of the Chicago White Sox, acquired controlling interest in the Bulls in 1984.  He brought Jerry Krause, who had previously been a scout in the White Sox organization to build a team around Michael Jordan.  Krause proceeded to do so, drafting Horace Grant and Scottie Pippen, and bringing in Phil Jackson to add the proper Zen to the mix.  The Jerrys’ plan worked, and his Airness and Co. won 6 championships.  Following the 1998 championship, the friction between Krause and Jackson, and the escalating salaries prompted the Jerrys to tear down the aging Bulls and start anew.  Tim Floyd, a competent college coach at Iowa State without NBA experience was brought in to coach, and take his lumps during the rebuilding process.  Floyd’s greatest accomplishment to date as Bulls head coach has been to avoid jumping from high windows or playing with sharp objects.  The temptation must have been difficult to resist at times.  Nonetheless, he appears to have a good rapport with the young team, and is unlikely to become a scapegoat any time soon.

IV. Players

A.      Center: The center position was manned by Will Perdue and Chris Anstey.  The Bulls have the option to bring back Perdue, but are more likely to let him go and attempt to put his contract dollars to better use elsewhere.  Anstey is a free agent, and although he may play for an NBA team next season, it is not likely to be the Bulls.  Dickey Simpkins, a power forward, played out of position at center for much of the season, making 48 starts.  He took $2.3 million of Jerry Reinsdorf’s money.  That’s not likely to happen again.  Center is a position of urgent need.  The Bulls possess the rights to international players Dragan Tarlac (Greece) and Roberto Duenas (Spain) from previous drafts.  If either one is capable of banging with NBA pivot men (more likely Tarlac), it’s conceivable that either could cross the Atlantic to give some help in the post, but neither one is a full-time answer.

B.       Power Forward: This position belongs to Elton Brand for as long as he wants it.  Pencil him in the starting five for the next decade.  His rookie numbers of 20/10 were the first double/double average for a Bull in over two decades, and put him among the elite of NBA power forwards.  Some commented that his numbers were achieved in blowout losses, which is of course true.  He brought his best effort night after night, however, playing in 81 of 82, and we’ll take those numbers any day of the week.   Brand is signed through 2003.  In the 2nd round in the 1999 draft, the Bulls selected Michael Ruffin out of Tulsa, as a defensive stopper and rebounder to bring off the bench.  He played in 71 games, and brought good hustle, if not much else.  He is also signed through 2003.

C.       Small Forward: The last of the Bulls’ championship nucleus, Toni Kukoc was expected to man the small forward position during the 1999-2000 season.  Instead, he missed much of the early season with an injury, and played in only 24 games for the Bulls, before being shipped to Philly in a 3 way deal which brought Chicago the #7 pick in this year’s draft.  While the Bulls expected great things from Elton Brand, they could not have expected rookie Ron Artest (16th pick in the ’99 draft) to show so much so soon.  Artest stepped into the vacant small forward position and contributed 12 pts/4 rbs/1.65 stls, starting 63 games, and was named 2nd team All-Rookie.  Artest needs to improve the consistency of his outside shooting, but his all-around game is solid, he is athletic, and he figures to be a part of the Bulls nucleus for years to come.  Artest can play both the 2 and 3 positions.  He is signed through 2003.  The Bulls could certainly use some depth at the small forward position.

D.      Shooting Guard: Prior to the season, the Bulls sent Brent Barry and his long-term contract to Seattle in exchange for Hersey Hawkins, and his shorter-term deal.  Hawkins spent most of the season with nagging injuries, and was generally quite unproductive.  He is signed through 2001, which will be his last season as a Bull.  In the event a contender is in need of a shooter off their bench, Hawkins won’t make it through 2000-2001 in Chicago.  Chris Carr was the Bulls’ most productive player off the bench, after coming over from the T’Wolves.  Carr plays hard and doesn’t shy away from contact at either end.  He played for the minimum last season, and it would be nice to see him back.  Corey Benjamin, the Bulls’ top pick from 1998, had one of the Bulls’ greatest achievements in 1999, defeating Michael Jordan in a much-publicized game of one-on-one.  Unfortunately for Corey, that was one of his few highlights.  Benjamin is a very athletic player who has yet to gain a feel for the NBA game.  He is signed through 2002, with a team option for 2003.  Fred Hoiberg is the “Steve Kerr” of this edition of the Bulls, bringing a consistent outside shot off the bench.  “The Mayor” spent much of the campaign sidelined with injuries.  He is a free agent who earned only $800,000, and the Bulls would like to bring him back.

E.       Point Guard: The Bulls showcased one player at the point (B.J. Armstrong) who played his way into retirement, and another (Randy Brown) who should be forced into early retirement.   Brown started 55 games at the point, showing some adequate D, but an extremely limited offensive repertoire.  After earning (ha) $5.8 million in 1990-2000, he’ll have to look elsewhere for employment in 2000-2001.  Matt Maloney also spent some time at the point for the Bulls, but isn’t a part of the team’s future plans.  This is an area of urgent need.

V. Team Needs and Possible Offseason Moves

As noted, the Bulls most urgent positions of need are the Point Guard and Center positions, followed closely by the Shooting Guard position.  That said, it is even more critical that the Bulls continue to add to the nucleus of Brand and Artest by adding more solid NBA-caliber talent at all positions.  The Bulls’ brass knows how critical it is to build a team around talented players (i.e. Michael Jordan) rather than attempting to fill holes on the floor (i.e. Sam Bowie).  With the #4 and #7 selections in the draft, there do not appear to be point guards who are worthy of selection.  Look for the Bulls to use those picks to draft the two best players available.  It would sure be nice if one of them were a center, most likely Chris Mihm or Joel Pryzbilla, or one of them could be used in a trade to acquire a center, such as the Blazers’ Jermaine O’Neal.  It would be optimal to use the other on an athlete such as Darius Miles, Courtney Alexander, or DerMarr Johnson. The #24 pick, and the #32, 33, and 34 picks should also be utilized for adding talented players, regardless of position.  The best case scenario would be to use at least one of them to select a point guard, such as Jamal Crawford, Keyon Dooling, Craig Claxton, Erick Barkley, or A.J. Guyton.

The part where it really gets interesting will be in the Bulls’ pursuit of free agents.  Having stockpiled enough cash under the cap to offer the maximum salary to two players, the rumor mills had been churning with the notion that Tim Duncan and Grant Hill might elect to take the Bulls’ cash and propel Chicago towards another title run.  That scenario seems increasingly unlikely.  At this time, more likely top targets appear to be Eddie Jones and Tracy McGrady.  If they can’t be landed, look for the Bulls to set their sites on some combination of Rashard Lewis of the Sonics, Tim Thomas of the Bucks, Derek Anderson and Maurice Taylor of the Clippers, and Austin Croshere of the Pacers.  If McGrady or Jones elect to join the Magic, Ron Mercer would become a possibility for the Bulls.  In the event that Krause can’t find the proper takers for the Bulls’ dollars, he won’t hesitate to keep it in the vault for another year, and wait for 2001. He is nothing if not patient.  They have another two first rounders in the 2001 draft, so the rebuilding process will continue…

VI. My Selection

With the 4th pick in the 2000 Usenet Mock NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls select: Darius Miles: The high school sensation may have more upside than anyone in this year’s draft.  His long arms and spring remind some of Kevin Garnett.  Michael Jordan commented that he wouldn’t hesitate to select Miles if he held the #1 pick.  Sorry Mike, you don’t. The negatives with Miles are obviously his lack of experience and lack of polish.  He shot only 48% from the line in high school (despite shooting 66% from the field).  Despite his phenomenal athletic ability, he isn’t likely to be able to defend at the NBA level any time soon, although his speed, quickness, and long lanky frame are the stuff that great defenders are made of.  Miles needs to put a lot of meat on his skinny frame, but in time, he should become an annual participant at All-Star weekend.  Like Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant, Miles will make teams regret passing on him in the draft after joining the NBA straight out of high school.  The only other potential downside would be the possibility that Miles does not recognize his immense ability until a few years down the road at which time he is on the way to free agency, a la Tracy McGrady.  Unlike Toronto, however, the Bulls should be able to keep a rising star in house.

I agonized over passing on Pryzbilla and Mihm based on the Bulls need for a true center.  Championship teams, however, are made by stockpiling great athletes who can play ball, not by filling slots on the floor.  Recall that the great teams of the Bulls dynasty never featured an outstanding center.  At the same time, I felt that with Atlanta picking at #6, barring a trade, either Mihm or Pryzbilla would be available when the Bulls pick again at #7.  The possibility of losing out on the opportunity to draft Darius Miles, was just too great to pass up.

VII. Other Players Considered

Joel Pryzbilla: Although the rumor mill had the Bulls more interested in Chris Mihm, the post season workouts saw the stock of Pryzbilla shoot up like a rocket, while Mihm’s went in the opposite direction.   The 20 year-old Pryzbilla had a troubled career as a Golden Gopher, which ended prematurely after he abruptly left the team following an academic suspension.  His strengths include outstanding shotblocking ability, which the Bulls desperately need, and an improving offensive game.  He projects as a player similar to the Cavs Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who was 1st team All-Rookie is 1997-98, before foot injuries slowed his promising career.  If Pryzbilla is still around when the Bulls select at #7, they would be wise to grab him.

Chris Mihm: Rumors have run rampant for some time that Chicago and Mihm have had their eyes on one another.  In fact, Jerry Krause was said to attend more UT games this season than some Longhorns’ season ticket holders.  Mihm is extremely agile for a man his size, has a nice offensive game featuring a good medium range jumper and fine passing ability.  He is not extremely quick, and not likely to emerge as a star, but could be a solid pivot man in the NBA for many years to come.  He has been criticized for lacking a mean streak, and was rumored to have had a very disappointing workout for the Bulls.

DerMarr Johnson: The freshman swingman from Cincy brings a silky smooth jumper and fluid athleticism.  The knocks on Johnson include his lack of consistent intensity and his need to show more interest at the defensive end of the floor.  That scouting report is quite similar to what a scout might have written about Glen Rice, who was the 4th selection in the 1989 draft.  Two big men (Ellison and Ferry) were selected ahead of Rice that year, and neither one of them have been nearly as productive in their NBA careers.

DeShawn Stevenson: If Miles is the next Kevin Garnett, Stevenson may be the next Kobe Bryant.  Stevenson is 19 years old, and it will be some time before he approaches his basketball ceiling, but what a high ceiling it is.  He is a magnificent athlete, sporting a 44” vertical.  He has outstanding ballhandling, passing and shooting skills, and although he tended to hot dog in All-Star games, he has always been known as a team player.  At 6-5/210, he already has an NBA-type physique.  Someone will get a future super star when they select DeShawn Stevenson.

VIII. Likely Selection

With the 4th pick, the Bulls are likely to consider the trade offer on the table from the Blazers of Jermaine O’Neal.  The sweetest part of the deal for the Bulls would be the possibility that O’Neal could not only bring them a shotblocking presence, but could also help attract his good friends Tracy McGrady and Tim Thomas as free agents.  A starting five of McGrady, Artest, Thomas, Brand, and O’Neal would be a significant upgrade from a year ago, and a very promising young line up.

Most trade rumors don’t pan out however, and the more likely scenario would be choosing between Mihm and Pryzbilla. I expect Krause to stick to his guns and pick Chris Mihm… but that doesn’t mean he should.  If he misses on Mihm, there will be other opportunities to grab a similar player.  Players like Darius Miles don’t come along often.

Craig Simpson - Usenet Draft Commissioner
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