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Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Bulls have flexibility, but big man likely

By Nick Friedell

Mason Plumlee
John Paxson likes drafting guys from winning programs, and Mason Plumlee fits that bill.
CHICAGO -- One of the biggest luxuries of having a successful system in place in the NBA is the ability to draft whomever you want, not necessarily bound by need as are many teams. The Bulls have been so consistent over the past three years under Tom Thibodeau that they have the ability to go in a number of directions as they get set to pick at No. 20 in the NBA Draft next week.

The Bulls have developed that consistency in large part due to the types of players Gar Forman and John Paxson have selected and signed over the past few years. Forman has said over the years that Bulls aren't just looking for solid players, they're looking for solid character guys who will fit into the fabric of their locker room.

The Bulls could decide to take the best player on their board, they could draft another foreign player and stash him away for a few years as they did with Nikola Mirotic, or they could opt to fill a hole on their roster as they get set for a season that will be filled with championship expectations. With that in mind, a quick glance at the Bulls roster would indicate that while the Bulls could go in a number of different directions, the safe money is on them looking for a big man and giving a reformed bench some more depth.

Guards: Derrick Rose figures to be back in form after missing last season while recovering from ACL surgery. Kirk Hinrich will be back as well, but his issues with various ailments should give management pause as to whether he will be able to hold up over the course of an 82-game schedule. Marquis Teague is hoping to earn a firm place in the rotation in his second year. Jimmy Butler appears to be the starting two-guard heading into camp and will have more pressure than ever to live up to the expectations fans have set for him after a solid finish to last year.

The Bulls will likely have four holes to fill this in this group considering Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli, Daequan Cook and Rip Hamilton are probably going to be gone. Robinson and Belinelli will likely get more money than the Bulls are willing to offer and Hamilton will be bought out of the final year of his deal and look to catch on somewhere else. Cook struggled to knock down open three-pointers and doesn't appear to figure into the Bulls' plans.

If the Bulls decide to select a guard, they'd probably look for more of a 2 or 3, instead of a point guard. They were pleased with Teague's athleticism and they think he can take the next step in his progression this year.

Forwards: Luol Deng comes into the season on the last year of his deal. Carlos Boozer comes into the year knowing there's a very good chance he'll be amnestied next summer. Taj Gibson heads into camp with the pressure of trying to live up to his new contract worth over $30 million. Vladimir Radmanovic never really played and won't be back. Malcolm Thomas opened some eyes during last year's summer league but had no impact after being signed late in the year.

Centers: Joakim Noah had the first All-Star year of his career and led the Bulls in a Game 7 win over the Brooklyn Nets in the first round. He must figure out how to overcome the plantar fasciitis he's been dealing with the last few years in order to maintain the high level of play. Nazr Mohammed gave the Bulls a few good minutes in the playoffs, but he was mostly a non-factor throughout the year and made the loss of Omer Asik to the Houston Rockets last summer even more glaring. The Bulls would love to find a young big man to learn from Noah but will he be available at the 20th spot in the draft?

Here are a few of the possibilities that could be around for the Bulls at No. 20:

Mason Plumlee, Duke: This is who ESPN.com's Chad Ford has the Bulls selecting in his latest mock draft.

Here's what Ford has to say -- "The old adage in the draft is that "bigs rise" (I think Tom Penn said it at least a dozen times in our NBA draft combine broadcast) -- and it's true. But it's interesting to see which bigs are rising -- it's the young ones like Adams and Gobert, not the older ones. Plumlee had a season worthy of being a lottery pick, and he would be a great get here if he falls this low. The Bulls need support for Joakim Noah, and Plumlee excels in getting up and down the floor."

Gorgui Dieng, Louisville: The Bulls will be drawn to the fact that Dieng has been in Rick Pitino's program for three years and won a national championship last season. He can learn in Thibodeau's system and try to gain a spot in the rotation over time.

Jeff Withey, Kansas: The big KU alum spent four years in Bill Self's program and gradually added more muscle to his frame. As Ford and many others have noted, he was one of the best shot blockers in college last year and would be able to fit well into Thibodeau's schemes off the bench.