Bulls take New Mexico's Snell at No. 20 in draft
DEERFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The Chicago Bulls decided big help on the outside was a bigger need than a big body down low, so they addressed it in the draft on Thursday - twice.
First, they grabbed New Mexico wing man Tony Snell with the 20th pick and added another outside shooter in the second round, going with Florida's Erik Murphy at No. 49.
"I think we addressed a need,'' coach Tom Thibodeau said. "(General manager Gar Forman) and his staff worked very hard all year watching these guys. Both guys shoot the ball extremely well. He feels that Snell has a big upside, and he feels that way about Erik Murphy.''
It's not hard to see why the Bulls looked to beef up their outside shooting. Just look at the NBA finals.
Whether it was Danny Green delivering a series-record 27 3-pointers for San Antonio, Ray Allen making a season-saving 3 for Miami or Shane Battier nailing six from long range for the Heat in Game 7, the value of outside shooting was there for everyone to see on the biggest stage.
Throw in the fact that Derrick Rose is expected to be back, drawing collapsing defenders, and that Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli could be gone, and it made sense that the Bulls looked for outside help.
"It was crazy knowing I went to the Bulls,'' said Snell, who could have a role behind Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler. "I watched (Michael) Jordan play my whole life. I watched Derrick Rose. He's a really great player. I can't wait to work with him and help the team win.''
Snell converted 39 percent of his 3-pointers while averaging 12.5 points as a junior for the Lobos last season and helps fill a big need on the outside for Chicago. He is considered a solid defender who can guard multiple positions, which had to please coach Tom Thibodeau.
Murphy is known as much for his ability to connect from the outside as his inside play even though he's 6-10. He averaged 12.2 points and led the SEC in 3-point shooting at 45.3 percent as a senior last season, earning first-team, all-conference honors.
Now, both players are joining a team eyeing a return to contention in the Eastern Conference with Rose poised to come back from his injury. The former MVP sat out last season after having surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee.
How effective he'll be at least at the start remains to be seen. But Rose's return makes the Bulls far more compelling after a 45-win season in which they were in more of a holding pattern, waiting for the return of a superstar that never happened.
Just about every other key player got banged up at some point, and the ailments continued to add up in the postseason, whether it was Joakim Noah's foot problem, Kirk Hinrich's badly bruised left calf or Deng's reaction to a spinal tap, which landed him in the hospital.
Despite all that, the Bulls managed to knock out Brooklyn in the first round before bowing to eventual champion Miami in five games.
On Thursday, Forman said the medical reports were all good.
"Joakim's feeling a lot better,'' he said. "Derrick's in here, he's working every day. He continues to feel good and is making progress. Luol I think is feeling better, and Kirk's been in here pretty much every day working out. I think we're heading in the right direction there.''
Deng's name has surfaced in trade rumors lately. There were also reports that the Bulls were discussing an extension with one year remaining on his contract.
"We value Luol as you all know,'' Forman said. "You've heard Tom talk about it during the season and you've heard us talk about it for years. Luol's a big piece of what we're doing. He's been a big piece of the success we've had the last couple of years and he'll continue to be a big piece of what we're doing moving forward. We don't talk about contract negotiations publicly, but obviously, we're very high on Luol and look forward to him coming back healthy and having a great year next season.''
As for the draft, there were a number of ways the Bulls could have gone, given their need for another big man to support Noah and their issues on the perimeter. Chicago ranked 21st in 3-point accuracy, and two of the biggest outside threats could be gone, with the streaky Robinson likely leaving and Belinelli possibly landing a bigger role with another team through free agency.
So the Bulls went with Snell, who played with San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard at Martin Luther King High School in Riverside, Calif.
"Both of us are hard workers,'' he said. "I've seen how hard he works, and I know what it takes to be a great player. The position he's in right now, he did a fantastic job and I hope I can do the same thing.''
He also credited former New Mexico coach Steve Alford for improving his footwork, defense and mental toughness. The Bulls were the first team Snell worked out for after the combine, and he had a good feeling he might wind up in Chicago after that.
"I felt really good, had a little taste of what it's going to be like,'' he said. "I really felt great throughout the workout.''
Snell sees himself as a player who can come off curls, catch and shoot. He's also considered a solid passer, but at 200 pounds, he probably needs to add some muscle.
The Bulls could still use another big man given Noah's plantar fasciitis in his right foot and the departure of Omer Asik to Houston as a free agent last offseason, and at least one prominent fan made it clear he thought that was the direction the Bulls should go.
During a toast at a state dinner in Dakar on Thursday, President Barack Obama said he hoped the Bulls drafted Senegal's Gorgui Dieng. He called the 6-foot-11 shot-blocking and rebounding force from Louisville an "outstanding big man'' and added "maybe the Bulls will get him.'' Dieng wound up being drafted by Utah at No. 21 and traded to Minnesota.
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