Bulls won’t have to worry about drafting a bust

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The NBA draft is coming up Thursday, and somebody is going to screw up badly.

An organization, a general manager, a fleet of draft scouts — we don’t know who — but there will be bad first picks that will haunt teams for years to come.

May I just say LaRue Martin and leave it at that?

Or Greg Oden?

Or maybe the name Sam Bowie hits closer to home, in that Michael Jordan would have been a Trail Blazer if somebody in Portland hadn’t seen fit to take the Kentucky big man with the second pick in the 1984 draft, in front of the best player of all time.


But if you look further, that’s not the worst of what is generally considered the worst draft mistake ever. The Indiana Pacers actually had traded that coin-toss first or second pick to the Trail Blazers the year before for center Tom Owens. Remember him? Tom? Owens?

Even the Houston Rockets, who won the 1984 coin toss and picked first, could have had Jordan, who went third. They took Hakeem Olajuwan instead. Not bad, but . . . You want Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra?

The Bulls this year have the 22nd pick in the draft — way down there — so it would be foolish to expect too much drama, good or bad.

The 22nd man taken is the equivalent of — if you were just picking five-man teams to play gym ball — the second-best player on the fifth-best squad. Hard to make a huge mistake that low on the talent pole. But you could pass up a quiet gem.

It happens often.

A number of really good players have come from picks at or lower than 22. Tiago Splitter, Marc Gasol, Kenneth ‘‘Manimal’’ Faried, DeAndre Jordan, and Omer Asik come quickly to mind.

Why, the Bulls themselves got the sometimes-exceptional Nikola Mirotic after the Rockets drafted him at No. 23 in the 2011 draft. Not only that, they snagged All-Star shooting guard Jimmy Butler at No. 30 that year.

Back in 2009, the Bulls drafted workhorse forward Taj Gibson at No. 26.

You do your homework, you know your topic, and you can help build your team no matter where you pick. A draft that has only two rounds means no pick is a throwaway.

Right now, after such an injury-laden season with a veteran club, with a superstar point guard, Derrick Rose, who may or may not be healthy for the near future, the Bulls have a puzzle to fix.

Most mock drafts have the Bulls looking to get assurance behind Rose, with little Aaron Brooks having reached his peak (not too high) well before the playoffs and Kirk Hinrich diminishing rapidly.

A poll of national beat writers, with the results compiled by the New York Times, has the Bulls taking Duke point guard Tyus Jones (6-2, 185) at No. 22. Jones is described in the poll as ‘‘a winner at every level.’’ Nice. Except he’s never played in the NBA.

Sports Illustrated has the Bulls taking 6-6 Arizona sophomore forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, stating, ‘‘If his offensive game can be developed, he’s a steal here.’’ If he grows a foot, he’ll be 7-4 and an even bigger steal. Dreams.

It’s interesting to note that former Bulls coach Scott Skiles was taken at No. 22 by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1986 draft. He had a decent career, once dishing out an NBA-record 30 assists in a game.

No. 22 the year after Skiles, 1987, was Reggie Lewis, taken by the Boston Celtics. Lewis died at age 27 of sudden cardiac arrest.

Other sad things happen to players at all levels of the draft. And there’s no knowing those causes in advance.

There’s an AOL humor site that has a video and song calling up the biggest busts of all drafts, with one line going: ‘‘It’s a lottery, now, the number-one pick/You pass on Durant and it just makes you sick . . .’’

That’s what the Trail Blazers (again!) did, taking Oden with the first pick in 2007 instead of superstar Kevin Durant, who went second to Seattle.

The No. 22 pick in that draft was mediocre Jared Dudley. Three spots ahead of him was Javaris Crittenton, to the Los Angeles Lakers. Crittenton allegedly joined the Crips gang once he got to Los Angeles and is now serving 23 years for manslaughter after shooting a woman to death.

You never know.

It seems 6-11 Karl-Anthony Towns will go first this year to the Minnesota Timberwolves. But maybe the Lakers, drafting second, will get a better deal with Chicago homey and Duke teenager Jahlil Okafor.

Somebody will take a stiff like Kwame Brown, Darko Milicic, Sebastian Telfair, Adam Morrison, Shawn Bradley or Hasheem Thabeet.

That’s a given.

Pray it’s not the Bulls.

Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.

Email: rtelander@suntimes.com

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