Bulls pick Teague in NBA draft
Kentucky guard taken 29th to provide depth while Rose is out
Marquis Teague with Kentucky coach John Calipari. (Mark Cornelison/Lexington Herald-Leader Photo / June 28, 2012)
After using the 29th pick in Thursday's NBA draft on the 6-foot-2 point guard, they like what he eventually might be able to do backing up and possibly playing alongside Derrick Rose.
They also like the fact he will be on his rookie scale contract for five seasons.
With Rose, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng and Joakim Noah all making $11.3 million or more next season, the Bulls need rotation players with small salaries. Taj Gibson already qualifies. The Bulls hope last year's first-round pick, Jimmy Butler, is ready to take that step next season.
And now comes Teague, one of four Kentucky players drafted in the first round and the younger brother of Hawks point guard Jeff.
Teague tested well athletically at the predraft camp with a 401/2-inch vertical leap and a 3.16 time in the three-quarters court sprint. The Bulls drafted him without working him out at the Berto Center, evidence they were surprised he was available.
"We feel we got a real value in this pick," general manager Gar Forman said. "He's another guy who can break defenses down, get in the paint and make plays for himself and others. He has great speed and quickness and a really, really high ceiling."
Teague, an Indianapolis native, averaged 10 points, 4.8 assists and 2.7 turnovers in helping Kentucky to the NCAA tournament championship as its starting point guard. He is not considered a strong shooter and connected on just 41.2 percent from the field and 32.5 percent from 3-point land.
Forman said defensive concerns were allayed in part by a Thursday phone conversation with Kentucky coach John Calipari, who noted progress in his lone season. Teague's arrival almost surely spells the exit of C.J. Watson, who has a $3.2 million team option for next season.
The Bulls previously explored trading into the lottery, dangling Deng as bait, according to league sources. But talks never grew serious with any lottery teams who could absorb most or all of Deng's $13.365 million salary into salary cap space, and those talks quieted over the last few days.
The Bulls face luxury tax issues this summer with plans to match offers on restricted free agent Omer Asik and thus only were looking to make a deal that could shave significant payroll. Harrison Barnes, whom the Bulls met with at the predraft camp earlier this month, went to the Warriors at seventh. The Warriors were offering only bad contracts in return for a chance to take their lottery pick.
"We like the core group of guys we have," Forman said.
The summer of 2014 appears to be the Bulls' next opportunity for major change. That's when Deng's contract expires and the Bulls almost certainly will use the amnesty provision on Boozer. That will clear $29.5 million off their books.
It's also at this time that the Bulls are expected to sign 2011 draft-day acquisition Nikola Mirotic, who is playing overseas for Real Madrid.
Just 19, Teague is a project who projects into this future plan.
"It's a big step going from colleges to pros," coach Tom Thibodeau said. "The fact he has played in big games helps. The fact he has been around the pro game helps. He has to learn our system and our players. He made very good progress throughout last season. We're expecting him to do the same. His quickness in transition and ability to get in paint is a big plus."