Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The second pick in the draft

The NBA Draft lottery was held tonight, and the Chicago Bulls ended up with the number one pick. The Miami Heat ended up with the second pick. From all accounts, this year's draft is dominated by power forward Michael Beasley (from Kansas State) and point guard Derrick Rose (from Memphis). So the big guessing game over the next month will be which of these two players Chicago will choose.

My question is: why settle for one?

The Miami Heat are looking to get back into contention quickly. With Dwayne Wade on the roster, they really can't afford to take a long-view (he becomes a free agent in 2010, and presumably he won't resign if they aren't competitive at that point). Either Rose or Beasley (or both) might become franchise players a few years down the road, but will they be game changers next year or the year after? Hard to say.

With that as the backdrop, what are the Heat's needs? Admittedly, I don't watch that many of their games, but I think it's safe to say that Wade, Marion, and Haslem form a solid shooting guard/small-forward/power-forward trifecta. Miami needs a quality center and point guard.

What about the Bulls? Coming into this season, many people (including myself) expected them to compete for the Eastern Conference championship. After this (disappointing) season, the sense I get from reading Blog-a-Bull is that Chicago fans would be willing to take a step backwards next season in order to create a "higher ceiling" for the team going forward. At the same time, the Bulls do have a number of solid players on their roster, even if they don't have a superstar. For big men, they have Drew Gooden, Tyrus Thomas, and Joakim Noah. Gooden has already proven that he can be an important contributor on a finals-worthy team (Cleveland, last season), Thomas is still viewed as having tremendous potential, and Noah had a very solid rookie season. At guard, the Bulls rotation is headed by Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, and Larry Hughes.

I think the Bulls should offer Gooden, Hinrich, and either Hughes or Thomas to the Heat for the second pick in the draft. The Bulls most likely get worse next year as Rose and Beasley both struggle as rookies, but they'll have a very talented nucleus of Rose, Gordon, Luol Deng, Beasley, and Noah. And they'll all be young with a chance to grow together.

Would the Heat make this trade? It depends. In theory, it would meet their needs for a point guard and center that could immediately step in and help them be competitive. However, while he's been highly regarded in the past and played on Team USA, Hinrich had a very disappointing season this past year (the administrator at Blog-a-Bull considers him to be average at best). Gooden, for his part, is more of a power forward than a center, although I don't think there are many centers in the NBA at the moment who he can't guard. If the Bulls sweeten the pot by adding Thomas or Hughes (or both, or any other player the Heat want that isn't part of the nucleus I mention above), then I'd think the Heat would at least need to think about it. But maybe my valuation of the players on the Bulls is still too influenced by last season rather than the season that actually just happened.

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