Bulls better off with trade, not draft picks

By Steve Shonder

When NBA commissioner Adam Silver gets ready to announce the Chicago Bulls’ picks in the 2014 NBA Draft Thursday at the Barclays Center, he should be announcing a trade for both first-round picks.

It’s been long acknowledged the Bulls need a scorer to complement a healthy Derrick Rose. The powerful defensive unit put together by head coach Tom Thibodeau is great at disrupting the opposition’s offense, but it doesn’t matter how many times you can stop another team from scoring if you can’t score.

There’s a pretty obvious solution to ending the offensive malaise that’s halted the Bulls’ last four playoff runs: Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love or New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony — in that order.

Love or Anthony will be the offensive difference maker the Bulls have desperately needed for years. No player in the draft, at least anyone who’d be available at picks No. 16 or No. 19, will become a legitimate scoring option as quickly as the Bulls need in order to compete with the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers.

That’s why packaging those two picks and some other assets to bring in Love or free up cap space to sign Anthony is the Bulls’ best option for building a contender.

Both of these choices come with some risk — Love could opt out after the season and Anthony’s salary could hamper the Bull’s ability to build a good bench — but the rewards would be incredible.

Of the two, Love is the superior option, and the Bulls have the assets to make the Timberwolves the best offer of any team. An offer of the No. 16 and 19 picks in this year’s draft, the rights to Nikola Mirotic, Taj Gibson and the expiring contract of Carlos Boozer could be enough to pry Love away from the Timberwolves.

If that’s not enough, especially since the Bulls may have to absorb some of Minnesota’s higher-end contracts like Kevin Martin, there’s still the protected top-10 pick from the Sacramento Kings or even shooting guard Jimmy Butler to swap into the offer, which could easily seal the deal.

Anthony does give the Bulls the wing scorer they need, but Love has similar stats with a cheaper cap hit and better defensive play. Of course, if Anthony is really serious about taking less money for the chance to get a ring, he’d be the better option as the Bulls potentially bring over Mirotic while still having some cap room to rebuild their bench.

In this scenario, the Bulls would still trade away their two first-round picks in order to avoid picking up the near $3 million in cap space the two rookies would be — every dollar counts. They’d likely end up having to amnesty Boozer. Even given this situation, the Bulls will still have to make moves to free up cap space, like potentially moving Gibson.

Either situation will give the Bulls the scorer they need, but both need the chips to fall just right for the Bulls. And chips rarely cooperate.