They are your new Chicago Bulls.
Well, sort of.
The Houston Rockets actually selected Mirotic with the 23rd pick but then traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Chicago took Norris Cole with the 28th pick but traded him and the 43rd pick to Minnesota for the rights to Mirotic. Here’s the hitch: Mirotic — a shooting big man whose ceiling supposedly ranges somewhere between Andrea Bargnani and Jason Kapono — is under contract with the Spanish club Real Madrid until 2015, so don’t expect to see him in a Bulls uniform any time soon. He’s basically a farm experiment with the hope for future returns.
On ESPN 1000’s Chicago’s Gamenight, Gar Forman said: “We’ve done it in the past and Omer Asik is a good example of that. We went into this draft possessing three picks and we certainly didn’t feel we were in a position to keep three rookies, and maybe even two rookies. We obviously want to continue to bring young players into our situation, but at the same time, we feel we’re at a level now where we’re trying to compete and get better and compete for championships. We’ve still got a lot of work to do and we’ve still got roster spots and some different avenues we can take to try and improve our team. Now that the draft’s over that’s where we’re headed next.”
It makes sense. Rather than draft three rookies — two of which might not even make the team — the Bulls picked a guy who could make an impact a few years from now.
According to ESPN’s Chad Ford: “I like the Mirotic pick. He he was a lottery talent who slid because of contract issues, but the Bulls can afford to be patient and allow him to continue to develop in Europe. They do take a risk that he doesn’t ever come here (Mirotic is already getting paid major coin in Europe), but at No. 23, it’s worth the gamble.”
That brings us to Butler.
The Bulls got him with the 30th pick, and there are several reasons to be optimistic about this guy. From everything I’ve heard and read, he’s an intelligent two-way player with a strong work ethic. He’s a solid (though not spectacular) athlete who moves well without the basketball. Butler has a reasonably consistent mid-range jumper he can knock down either pulling up or spotting up. He attacks the rim (6.5 FTA last season) and makes smart decisions (1.59 assist-to-turnover rate). Most importantly, he’s a determined and focused defender.
On the downside, Butler isn’t a three-point shooter (only 34.5 percent during his senior season), can’t create his own offense and doesn’t have a “go to” skill. He has the all-around skills to become a solid roleplayer…but that’s probably his ceiling.
Still, there’s a good chance Butler can contribute “out of the box” as Luol Deng’s primary backup.
Butler has had a difficult life — his mother kicked him out when he was only 13 years old — and the adversity has made him a hard-working, high-character man. That should make him a perfect fit for Tom Thibodeau’s demanding (but rewarding) team culture.
Said Forman: “Jimmy is a guy that we felt really just fits us to a ‘T,’ as far as the type of the person he is, his makeup and his character, and as far as his game is concerned. There’s been no question in our minds for quite a while that Jimmy was a real, real fit for this team and this organization. The thing that we’re so excited about with Jimmy is his versatility. He’s 6-8, he’s got a nice frame, a strong body, he’s a good athlete and he’s a very, very versatile defender. As we watched him throughout his career at Marquette, he could guards twos, he could guard threes, he could guard fours and there were even games where they would assign him to guard the point guard.
“Offensively, he’s got some skills that could help our team moving forward. At his size, he can put the ball on the floor and he can handle it. He’s got a nice stroke. I’d say he’s a mid-range shooter, but with his stroke, we project that he can add range to his shot. He’s a strong driver to the basket and can finish plays going to the basket. Each time we met with him, he really kind of blew us away, so we really feel he’ll be a fit in the locker room, he’ll be a fit with the culture of this team, we think he’ll fit on the floor and we were ecstatic Jimmy was around when we were picking 30th.”
As for Butler, he wants to start defending people right now. Seriously.
Said Butler: “I want to win games and I’m going to do whatever it takes to help the Chicago Bulls win a championship. I’m going to guard. I think that’s where I’ve got to make my mark in this league. I’m going to put in that work to be able to guard LeBron and Dwyane Wade. I’m going to be able to spread the floor out. I’m working on my outside shot. But I think the biggest thing is defense. I think that’s where I’m going to be a pest. I’m going to take up everybody’s space, make them work for every little thing.
“I really take pride in my defense. I take it personal when somebody scores on me. I know you can’t shut down guys every night, but you can give it your best effort and that’s what I’m going to do on both ends on the court every night.”
I’ll give him this: He’s ready to challenge the Gods. I hope he’s also planning to work on his long-range shooting.
Said Butler: “I think I will be able to play [shooting guard]. I want to stay at this level for a long time and in order to do that, I’ve got to get better at every aspect of my game, not just shooting, so I’ll be in the gym working on everything because no part of my game’s perfect.”
With a potential lockout looming, the Bulls needed a confident, mature, internally motivated self-starter, and Butler sure seems like that kind of person.
I’m sure Bulls fans were hoping that management would use draft night to address the shooting guard position or find a three-point sniper — I know I sure was — but I think Forman did pretty well. He invested in a potentially valuable future asset and hopefully found a (much needed) backup for Deng. The other needs, well, they’ll just have to be addressed via free agency or trades.
Bonus video of Nikola Mirotic:
Bonus video of Jimmy Butler: