CHICAGO – It's no secret the Chicago Bulls could use some help on the perimeter. Whether they'll address it in the draft is another story.
With MVP Derrick Rose leading the way, the Bulls made a big leap to a league-leading 62 wins and the Eastern Conference finals thanks to a major overhaul that came on the heels of back-to-back first-round playoff exits.
They fell short, though, against Miami in the playoffs. Their inability to connect from the outside was glaring, but that doesn't necessarily mean they'll address it in the draft.
The Bulls own the 28th and 30th picks, plus a second-rounder, and general manager Gar Forman said he is more inclined to go with the best available player than one who fills a need. He was also quick to point out that weaknesses can be addressed through free agency and trades, even though the looming lockout is casting a huge cloud of uncertainty over the landscape.
"I've always been a huge believer that you draft the best player available," Forman said. "Every team in the league has certain needs. When you look at needs in my mind, there's not just the draft. You've got free agency, you've got trades and you've got the draft. When you're higher up in the draft, which we've been at times in the past, if you've got two guys that are tiered closely together then you may go for need. When you're drafting as late as we're drafting, we're not necessarily going to go for need. We'll go for two guys that we think fit the culture we've created and can play in the rotation, if not immediately then somewhere down the road."
The Bulls generally prefer more experienced players from winning programs like Kirk Hinrich (Kansas), Ben Gordon (Connecticut), Chris Duhon (Duke), Joakim Noah (Florida) and Taj Gibson (Southern California).
Rose was an obvious exception when they drafted him with the No. 1 pick out of Memphis in 2008. Another was Luol Deng out of Duke in 2004, and both worked out well for Chicago. Tyrus Thomas and James Johnson did not.
"I do think that we want to get guys that fit with the guys that we have," Forman said. "Guys that are workers, guys that have been a part of winning, guys that accept roles. That's where a lot of our digging comes in. More times than not, we're going to go with makeup and character."
Possible options for Chicago could be Butler guard Shelvin Mack, Purdue power forward JaJuan Johnson, Duke guard Nolan Smith, Duke forward Kyle Singler, Cleveland State point guard Norris Cole and Hofstra guard Charles Jenkins. Georgia's Travis Leslie, Michigan<s Darius Morris, Richmond forward Justin Harper, Marquette forward Jimmy Butler and Oakland center Keith Benson.
Forman said the Bulls brought in 40 to 50 players for workouts, and he figures about 20 of them will be gone before Chicago selects. He also expects both first-rounders to stick with the team and doesn't anticipate keeping three rookies, meaning that second-round pick (No. 43) could get cut, traded or stashed overseas.
Forman has been exploring trade options, but he doesn't see the need for a major shakeup, even with a big obstacle down south standing in the way.
Never mind that the Heat came up short against Dallas, they figure to be in the championship mix for years to come and could be a major headache for the Bulls. They already are, actually.
The Heat gave Derrick Rose fits in the conference finals and without a reliable shooter, the Bulls were out in five games. How bad was it for Chicago?
The Bulls hit 10 of 21 3-pointers in Game 1 against the Heat and got nothing — or so it seemed — the rest of the way, going 21 of 78 from long range after that.
They shot 42.2 percent overall and 32.9 percent on 3-pointers during the playoffs, not that they shot great during the regular season, either. Chicago ranked 19th in field-goal percentage (46.2) and 18th on 3-pointers at 36.1 percent.
Keith Bogans started all 82 games at shooting guard, and Forman said he "had a good year for us." Whether the team picks up its option on him remains to be seen. The deadline is July 10, but the looming lockout figures to put that on hold.
"We like our team," Forman said. "Our feeling is still for the most part is that it's a young team that's going have a chance to grow together down the road. We want to give this team a chance to grow together."
AP freelancer Bradford Doolittle in Deerfield, Ill., contributed to this report.