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Bulls excited about Jimmy Butler, may have to wait on Nikola Mirotic

Jimmy Butler (left); NikolMirotic (right)

Jimmy Butler (left); Nikola Mirotic (right)

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Updated: June 24, 2011 2:16AM



Bulls general manager Gar Forman didn’t expect Marquette forward Jimmy Butler to be available when they picked at No. 30 in Thursday’s NBA draft.

When he was, Forman knew without hesitation: He was their guy.

With few good outside shooters still available to fill the team’s need at shooting guard, Forman stayed true to his word by drafting the best player still on their draft board.

‘‘We are extremely excited to add Jimmy Butler to our team,” Forman said at the United Center. ‘‘There wasn’t any discussion tonight as far as what we were doing at 30. It took about three seconds . . . and we had our pick in. We felt he really fits us moving forward.’’

Butler, a four-year player for the Golden Eagles, averaged 15.7 points and 6.1 rebounds last season and was named All-Big East honorable mention. The 6-7, 220-pound Texas native saw most of his minutes at forward, but he believes he can be a shooting guard at the NBA level.

Butler shot only 35 percent from three-point range last season.

‘‘I’m a guard. I think that’s where I gotta make my mark in this league,’’ Butler said in a conference call with Chicago media. ‘‘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. I’ll be in the gym working on everything because no part of my game’s perfect.’’

Butler might not fit the Bulls’ need for a shooter, but he does fit into coach Tom Thibodeau’s defensive philosophy.

‘‘He’s a very, very versatile defender,’’ Forman said. ‘‘As we watched him throughout his career at Marquette, he can guard twos, he can guard threes and he can guard fours. And there were even games when they were assigning him to guard the point guard.

‘‘We think he’s going to be an above-average defender on this level who’s going to have a chance to be an excellent defender as he matures.’’

The Bulls also were active with a trade, but fans won’t see the result of that activity for quite a while. The Bulls dealt the 28th and 43rd picks to the Minnesota Timberwolves to acquire the rights to Nikola Mirotic, the 23rd pick.

Mirotic, a 6-10, 220-pound forward who plays in Spain, likely won’t play for the Bulls for at least several years because of an expensive buyout clause with his Real Madrid team.

The Bulls made a similar move in 2008, when they traded for the rights to center Omer Asik, but Asik signed an NBA contract only two years after he was drafted.

The Bulls likely made the trade because they didn’t want two more guaranteed contracts on their books heading into labor uncertainty. Because they weren’t able to add a shooting guard through the draft, the extra roster spot and money should allow them to sign one in free agency.

Forman can’t talk about the Mirotic trade until it’s approved by the league.



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