Drafting a master plan for Bulls
How to build an NBA Finals contender in seven easy steps
Entering the 2009 NBA draft, the Chicago Bulls need to create magic in order to become next year's version of the Orlando Magic (and maybe even next year's Lakers). To do this, they'll have to pull off seven semi-miracles.
The Bulls own the 16th and 26th picks Thursday night. But it's more complex than just whom they will pick. The Bulls must make serious -- but not drastic -- decisions on certain positions, players and strategies. Is it easier said than done? Of course. But it all starts with having a plan in place inside the draft room Thursday. So, Chicago needs to have an ironclad, rock-solid, foolproof plan in effect. In other words, the Bulls can't afford to screw up this draft.
Here's my seven-point plan:
1. Draft DeJuan Blair with the 16th pick.
If the Pitt big man is available, this is the no-brainer of the entire draft (including the Clippers' picking Blake Griffin at No. 1 and the Knicks' picking Steph Curry at No. 8). Blair would be the perfect complement to everything Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas aren't inside. Blair is a force on the block. Noah is a warrior, and Thomas is a potential All-Star. Together, they could create the best young, three-headed defensive monster in the NBA. Which, if handled with brilliance, could be the missing piece for Chicago to become the most feared team in the East.
2. Hire Charles Oakley as a special assistant to player development. For Blair to become the player the Bulls really need, he needs to learn how to play the NBA game the way it used to be played -- before the game went soft. He needs to learn from the sensei. The NBA today is full of players who want to be hard but play like pampered soccer superstars. Under Oakley's tutelage, Blair could become the type of player whom people in the league don't want to go up against. He has all the physical tools, he just needs the right person to bring out the Maurice Lucas in his game. The second the Bulls draft Blair, Oakley needs to be on the payroll.
3. Use the 26th pick in one of these three options:
Option 1: Package No. 26 in a Ben Gordon sign-and-trade deal to be announced July 2.
Option 2: Package the pick in a Luol Deng deal that will be finalized by night's end.
Option 3: Simply select Wayne Ellington with the 26th pick.
4. Make an agreement with Gordon before Thursday for him to remain a Bull.
Technically, the Bulls can't offer BG anything before July 1. All the talk is that the Pistons will go at him hard. The Knicks are reportedly in the mix, too. As his first order of business, new Bulls GM Gar Forman needs to conduct a back-alley, off-the-record deal with Gordon, "persuading" him to stay. This needs to be done before the draft so that Chicago can enter Thursday with a sense of stability about its starting lineup.
5. Or make an arrangement with Gordon before draft day so that he agrees to a future sign-and-trade with Houston to get Tracy McGrady to replace him.
The Rockets have proven they might not be a "better" team without McGrady, but they play harder, win more and overachieve without him. The business side of the game will hit the Rockets the same way it's about to hit the Bulls. It's never good business to lose a great player and have nothing to show for it. T-Mac would be the perfect complement to Derrick Rose in veteran leadership, size and skill. Plus, the "chemistry" issue that McGrady had to deal with in Houston would not exist in Chicago. And the Bulls don't lose more than 20 (very necessary!) points a night in the process.
6. At 10:20 p.m. ET, John Paxson needs to put the call in to Steve Kerr.
Pax: "Steve, hey it's me, Pax."
Kerr: "Hey. So you're calling about Amare, I figure."
Pax: "No. We had that conversation last season before you fired Terry [Porter]. I know you are trying to keep Amare, so I'm not even going to go down that road with you."
Kerr: "Thanks, man. Because when I saw you name come up on the caller ID, I was skeptical about picking it up because I knew you were calling to try to make a deal with Amare. So, what are you calling for, my friend?"
Pax: "I want to talk to you about Shaquille."
Pax: "Unless you have another one on your roster (laughs). See, I heard you say with all this talk about Shaq possibly going to the Cavs that you didn't want to trade him for nothing. Well, I want to offer you something much more than nothing."
Kerr: "You mean, Deng?"
Pax: "Unless there's another one on our roster that you might be interested in (laughs). Yes, Deng. John Salmons kinda threw a wrench in our plans. We had no idea he was going to be this good. So now we don't know what to do with Luol. He's too good to come off the bench, and Salmons is too good to play behind him, and we really can't start both because it will create balance problems for our offense. Now, the way I see it, Deng would be the perfect 3 for you to replace what you lost in Shawn Marion and Boris Diaw. He's a perfect complement to Amare, and he'll take pressure off Grant Hill to carry the small forward position all season long. We'll also throw in Tim Thomas and around $3.5 million in cash."
Pax: "Steve, you still there? Steve?"
Kerr: "John I'm gonna have to call you back. Stay by the phone. Don't move!"
7. Get everyone's ring size if you can make this the Bulls' 2009-10 roster:
Derrick Rose, Tracy McGrady or Ben Gordon, John Salmons, Tyrus Thomas, Shaquille O'Neal; with a bench of Kirk Hinrich, Joakim Noah, DeJuan Blair, Wayne Ellington, Brad Miller, Anthony Roberson and DeMarcus Nelson.
Like I said, "semi-miracles." But if between Paxson, Forman, owner Jerry Reinsdorf and a little friendly help from Kerr (think Danny Ainge/Kevin McHale in the Kevin Garnett deal), the Bulls can get creative with salary structure and not live in fear of the salary cap, miracles can happen.
Don't trip, it all really could happen.
Scoop Jackson is a columnist for ESPN.com and ESPNChicago.com.