NBA lottery isn’t the way for Bulls
BY JOE COWLEY Staff Reporter December 1, 2013 8:10PM
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Updated: December 3, 2013 6:15PM
The San Antonio Spurs are the exception, not the rule.
In 1997, they hit lottery gold.
With David Robinson sidelined and their record suffering, the Spurs landed the No. 1 pick and grabbed Tim Duncan. It was their only appearance in the draft lottery since the NBA went to a weighted system in 1990.
In most cases, the draft lottery isn’t a quick fix. It’s quicksand, grabbing an organization by the foot and slowly sucking it down.
So fans who think the Bulls should tank the season and get in the lottery for a stellar draft class in June should think again. It’s a good concept on paper that often leads to long suffering.
Of the 30 NBA teams, 20 have spent at least four consecutive seasons in the lottery since 1990. Thirteen have spent five or more years in the lottery. Once a team enters the lottery in back-to-back seasons, the average stay is about 4.2 years.
So, yes, Kentucky’s Julius Randle looks like a can’t-miss power forward. And, yes, Duke’s Jabari Parker would look great back in his hometown, playing alongside Derrick Rose for the 2014-15 season. And then there’s Kansas’ high-flying Andrew Wiggins, who could slide right into the Bulls’ small-forward vacancy after Luol Deng becomes a free agent.
Even general manager Gar Forman acknowledged that this upcoming draft could fall under the ‘‘special’’ label.
“There is a lot of talk about it, but you can never . . . people say good draft, bad draft, strong draft, deep draft, top-heavy, whatever,’’ Forman said. “Our feeling is that if you do your work, there’s always value in the draft, always opportunities there.’’
That’s what the Bulls have counted on recently, whether it was landing Taj Gibson with the 26th pick in the 2009 draft or Jimmy Butler with the 30th pick in 2011. Even rookie Tony Snell, who was the 20th pick last June, is paying dividends lately, starting for an injured Butler.
The Bulls’ mentality is they can land quality starters and rotation guys and not have to be in the lottery to do it.
That’s why Forman and executive vice president John Paxson covet draft picks and also understand that prying picks from other organizations isn’t easy anymore.
“You do get that sense,’’ Forman said. “It’s hard for me to speak on every team, but from the Bulls’ standpoint, we have always put great value in the draft and draft picks. Historically, it’s very rare that we trade a first-round draft pick because we value getting good young players into our organization and we value scouting and feel like we’ve had some level of success, not only when we’ve drafted high but when we’ve drafted in the 20s.
“So there’s always great value in draft picks.’’
And in case people needed a reminder, the Bulls are no strangers to the lottery. After the Michael Jordan Era, the Bulls spent six consecutive years hoping for the pingpong balls to pop out their way, drafting Elton Brand (1999), Marcus Fizer (2000) and Jay Williams (2002).
Landing Rose in 2008 was obviously a franchise-changer, but, again, landing a future MVP doesn’t always mean an instant ticket out of the lottery process. The Cleveland Cavaliers landed LeBron James in the 2003 draft and were back in the lottery the next season, grabbing Luke Jackson.
So before the “We need to start being sorry to land Jabari’’ signs show up at the United Center this week, there’s a history lesson to be learned.
One projection of the lottery picks in the 2014 NBA draft:
1. Andrew Wiggins, SF, Kansas
2. Jabari Parker, SF, Duke
3. Marcus Smart, PG, Oklahoma
4. Dante Exum, PG, Australia
5. Julius Randle, PF, Kentucky
6. Joel Embiid, C, Kansas
7. Rodney Hood, SF, Duke
8. Gary Harris, SG, Michigan State
9. James Young, G/F, Kentucky
10. Semaj Christon, PG, Xavier
11. Wayne Selden, G/F, Kansas
12. Noah Vonleh, PF, Indiana
13. Glenn Robinson III, SF, Michigan
14. Jordan Clarkson, PG, Missouri