John Paxson is demanding change.
The Bulls VP of basketball operations made that very clear on the final night of what was an immensely disappointing regular season, using that mid-April evening to all but call his collection of players soft.
“We need to make some changes,’’ Paxson said. “To me, in my mind, the biggest disappointment was this team lacked a collective fight to them. And I’ve never been around a good group of players or team that didn’t fight together. That’s just the truth.’’
That change started on Tuesday night.
Thanks to a weighted scrambling of ping-pong balls, the Bulls made their return to the NBA Draft Lottery for the first time since 2008, landing the No. 14 pick for the upcoming June 23 draft.
In other words, the worst-case scenario for the 42-40 team.
Not that it was much of a surprise, as the Bulls only had an 0.5 percent chance of landing the top pick, as well as just a 1.8 percent chance to move into the top three.
That magic from ’08 when the Bulls overcame just a 1.7 percent chance to win the No. 1 pick and select Derrick Rose? Long over.
Coincidentally, like they were back in the Rose draft, the Bulls will once again be heavily leaning toward snagging a point guard.
“The draft’s always been big to us,’’ general manager Gar Forman said. “I think there’s opportunities in this draft. You hear people say it’s maybe not as strong of a draft. To us, there’s always opportunities to us in a draft. We feel where we’ll be picking, we’ll have an opportunity to get a very good player. That’ll be one piece.’’
Landing draft talent hasn’t exactly been a strength of Forman’s lately.
Since selecting Jimmy Butler with the last pick of the first round in the 2011 draft, Forman has landed the likes of Marquis Teague, Tony Snell, Doug McDermott and Bobby Portis. Teague was a complete bust, while Snell is slowly leaning in that direction.
McDermott proved to be a solid rotation player, but came at the cost of two first-round draft picks to acquire, while the jury is still out on what Portis can become.
Your move, Gar.
As far as what’s on Forman’s radar at that point guard spot, there’s talent in the cupboard. Kris Dunn would be an ideal fit for what Fred Hoiberg wants from his point guard, but won’t likely make it out of the top five. That leaves the likes of Tyler Ulis and Dejounte Murray.
The wildcard in all of this, however? How much change do the Bulls want exactly? Butler’s name will continue to float out there in trade rumors, with Boston a strong suitor.
Then there’s what’s going on in Minnesota. The Timberwolves and new coach Tom Thibodeau could be a perfect destination for Butler, with the Bulls getting the No. 5 pick overall and maybe the likes of Ricky Rubio, who would also be the perfect drive-and-kick point guard for Hoiberg.
Either way, everything is on the table for the Bulls.
“We’ve got to take a look at everything,’’ Forman said. “We’ve got to explore all options and I don’t think there’s anything that’s off the table when you have a disappointing year like this. With that said, obviously Jimmy has had a fantastic year. From where he was to where he’s gotten to, he’s become a very, very valuable player for us.’’