GROUP C: “The Young Studs”
6.) Doug McDermott
Deciding where Doug McDermott fits on this list wasn’t very difficult. That’s because the Creighton star was involved in a draft day trade that showed how valuable he already is. Trading for the 11th pick came at a steep price. The Bulls dealt the No. 16 and 19 picks and a 2015 second-rounder to the Denver Nuggets for McDermott and Anthony Randolph (whose $1.8 million contract was quickly flipped to the Orlando Magic along with two second-round picks). I highly doubt Gasol or Gibson would haul in as much in a trade. The Bulls gave up quite the package for McDermott, but it’s hard to argue his place on the team.
Whether McDermott starts or comes off the bench is a moot point; the kid will play regardless. McDermott earned the nickname Dougie McBuckets for a reason. He can flat out shoot the ball, leading all DraftExpress Top 100 players in catch and shoot, off of screens, and off the dribble points per play. McDermott should be around a 40 percent shooter from deep upon arrival, a feat that hasn’t been done by a Bulls rookie since Ben Gordon in 2005. The Bulls’ front office splurged on McDermott because they know he’s NBA ready and provides a shooter that the team is sorely missing. McDermott will be a plus offensively, that isn’t in doubt, but his defense is.
Thibodeau is very selective about his rotations. If McDermott can’t defend, Thibs won’t play him late in games (I’m still having nightmares of D.J. Augustin trying to guard Andre Miller in the playoffs. Post-up score, post-up score, post-up score). McDermott isn’t very agile and he’s only an average athlete. He has nice size at 6-foot-8, but his wingspan only measures at just over 6-foot-9. McDermott is also allergic to collecting steals and blocks, finishing his career with just 34 steals and 14 blocks in 4,569 minutes. To put those totals in perspective, T.J. Warren, the next college small forward taken off the board, compiled 63 steals and 21 blocks last season. McDermott was taught to not take risks defensively and stay in good position, but those poor defensive numbers are still a bit alarming. McDermott would be wise to learn from a player like Dunleavy who’s carved out a career as a solid team defender despite being limited physically.
McDermott has loads of potential. He’s providing the Bulls with exactly what they need from a role player at the cost of a rookie salary. Many Bulls fans scoffed at what it took to secure the 11th pick, but McDermott will make an immediate impact if he’s given the chance. It won’t take long for him to become a fan favorite in Chicago.
5.) Nikola Mirotic
Nikola Mirotic, the 23rd pick in the 2011 draft, will finally leave the comfort of Spain to play for the Chicago Bulls this season, but he didn’t come cheap. The former Real Madrid star headed to Chicago thanks to a three year, $16.6 million contract, meaning he’ll be the highest paid European rookie in NBA history this season. Mirotic is an international man of mystery of sorts, having dominated overseas but remaining largely unknown to most Bulls fans.
I discussed Mirotic in depth here. To put it quite simply; Mirotic will be an above-average role player at worst. The 23-year old has never had a PER lower than 20 in either the ACB or the Euroleague since he became a regular in 2010-11. He finished with a career-high 24.3 PER in the Euroleague last season in 31 games, which ranked third in the league (min. 15 GP). For those unfamiliar with the international game, the Euroleague is the very best competition in the world outside the NBA. The second best league outside the NBA is the ACB, where Mirotic was named MVP in 2013. So yeah, the dude can play, but the biggest problem is where he fits with the Bulls right now.
Pau Gasol ain’t coming off the bench. That means the likely starters are Gasol and Noah in the frontcourt with Gibson repeating his sixth man role. Mirotic is going to play the vast majority of his minutes at power forward, so playing next to Gibson is less than ideal. A more formidable rotation would include Gasol coming off the bench to play with Mirotic, but that’s not happening. Mirotic will likely have to accept a small role this season, even if he’s getting paid a healthy $5.3 million.
Mirotic had a stellar debut for the Bulls’ on Monday, leading the team with 17 points in their first preseason game. He didn’t look like a rookie, nailing three 3-pointers and playing with supreme confidence. Mirotic’s step-up-heat-check 3-pointer late in the fourth quarter capped off his terrific performance. He even displayed some European swag as he yelled and pounded his chest after each score. Mirotic crashed back to Earth the next day against Detroit. Mirotic finished with 0 points, five turnovers, and fouled out in just 14 minutes. Mirotic wasn’t nearly as aggressive as he consistently passed up on open looks and appeared lost. Mirotic was also shaky on the defensive end to say the least. He just isn’t strong enough to defend power forwards at this point in his career and he’s also not mobile enough to guard small forwards. He’s not going to be a star right away, but shot selection and defense are areas where he’ll need to improve.
Mirotic won’t contribute to the Bulls as much as Gasol or Gibson this season, but his reasonable contract and sky-high upside make him one of the Bulls’ most valuable assets. Chad Ford, ESPN’s draft guru, went as far as saying that Mirotic would’ve gone fourth overall in the 2013 Draft had he been available. He’s that good. Mirotic will continue to climb up this list as he acclimates to the NBA game.
4.) Jimmy Butler
Jimmy Butler shot 39.7 percent from the field last season and 28.3 percent from behind the arc and yet he still comes in at No. 4 on this list. He’s that good at everything other than scoring.
The 25-year old finished fourth in the league in steals per game (1.9), ranked sixth among shooting guards in DRPM (1.23), and held opponents to a middling 11.0 PER at the shooting guard position. Watching Butler play defense is breathtaking. He is an active, relentless defender who rarely eases up on his opponent. He constantly plays the passing lanes, bodies up his opponents, and sacrifices his body whenever necessary.
Butler isn’t a complete negative on the offensive end. He draws loads of fouls due to his aggressive play at the rim (.49 FTA/FGA for his career). Although he struggled from downtown last season, he should be capable of knocking down open jumpers playing next to a point guard who draws as much attention as Derrick Rose. Butler is as safe a bet as any young player in the league to continue producing at a high level for years to come. Which brings up the question; should the Bulls extend Butler now or later?
Butler is owed a minimal $2 million this season before becoming a restricted free agent next summer. The Bulls have until Halloween to offer Butler an extension. When assessing the recent free agent market, the Bulls would be wise to extend Butler as soon as possible.
Chandler Parsons and Gordon Hayward, two players with similar upside and age as Butler, each signed max contracts this summer. Hayward got four years, $63 million from the Jazz, while Parsons drew three years, $46 million from the Mavericks. Houston chose not to match Parsons’ contract, something I fear could happen to the Bulls with Butler (ala Omer Asik).
Avery Bradley is a good precedent for what Butler should be offered by the Bulls. Bradley, like Butler, is a young player who struggles offensively but is a beast on the defensive end. Bradley signed a four year, $32 million deal with the Celtics this summer. I know that sounds a bit pricy, but $32 million sounds a hell of a lot better than $63 million. The Bulls need to cut out the competition and re-up Butler as soon as possible. At worst Butler is a perennial All-Defensive team performer, something he already accomplished last season.
Make sure to check out CCS tomorrow as I finally reveal the top three trade assets on the Bulls.