LEXINGTON, KY - JANUARY 03: John Calipari the head coach of the Kentucky Wildcatstalks with Marquis Teague #25 during the game against the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans at Freedom Hall on January 3, 2012 in Louisville , Ke;ntucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
The Chicago Bulls were overjoyed to find Kentucky point guard Marquis Teague still available with the No. 29 overall pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. SB Nation Chicago's Ricky O'Donnell likes the selection, too.
The Chicago Bulls worked out 50 prospects before the 2012 NBA Draft, and Kentucky's Marquis Teague wasn't one of them. Given that Teague was projected by nearly everyone as a post-lottery pick, usually slated in the early 20s in mock drafts, it's a bit curious why the Bulls didn't at least bring the point guard in for a visit. The Bulls will tell you they couldn't believe their luck when Teague was available with the No. 29 overall selection, and it's hard to think they're lying. Yes, pro drafts are inherently all about misdirection, though it's tough to characterize Chicago's decision to keep Teague out of the Berto Center as some sort of a Krausian smokescreen. Players like Teague are not supposed to slip to the second-to-last pick of the first round. The Bulls genuinely seem elated. The fans should be, too.
Marquis Teague was a great pick. Sure, this team has bigger holes on the wings with the expected departure of Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver, but you don't pass on someone with Teague's upside. This is an ultra-athletic lead guard with all the tools to make a big splash in the NBA. He's young -- only 19 -- so there will certainly be growing pains. Given that Chicago is set for major roster turnover, I'm sure it was tempting for Gar Forman and John Paxson to go with a more NBA ready player. Instead, the Bulls rolled the dice on the player with the highest ceiling available. I've heard for years that Marquis Teague was always a better prospect than his brother Jeff -- who turned in a stellar second half last season in his sophomore campaign for the Atlanta Hawks. If that comes to fruition, the Bulls will have themselves one hell of a backup guard.
Teague is The New NBA is every way. This league is dominated by blinding athleticism at the point guard position at the moment, and Teague fits right in. As a freshman, he was steady-handed and self-aware enough to guide Kentucky to a national championship at the lead guard spot. Yes, a team that boasted six picks in this year's draft seems like a shoe-in for the title in hindsight, but NCAA Tournament history is littered with examples of youth failing during the intensity of the one-and-done tournament. Teague was a big part of that troupe, and will have a chance to make an impression in the pros just like his college team's three other first round picks.
Now, it's a question of how Teague fits in with Chicago. To say the status of these Bulls is "up in the air" right now almost seems to be putting it lightly. Point guard is the position in the most flux.
The selection of Teague has everyone citing the end of the C.J. Watson era. If true, that would be very unfortunate. Why isn't this the end of John Lucas III? The Bulls will soon make a decision on whether or not to bring back Watson for one-year, $3.2 million. It will make all the difference in Chicago being watchable in 2012-2013.
Given the supremely reasonable price and abrupt length, there is no reason the Bulls should pass on bringing C.J. back. We went over the team's current salary cap woes yesterday, and it's true that retaining Watson likely means going into the luxury tax for a season when the Bulls aren't considered a title contender. I say: who cares? If the Bulls are led by Lucas and Teague next season, eyeballs will roll out of heads from Kankakee to Waukegan, and everywhere in between. This is also the last year before luxury tax penalties become ultra stiff. If owner Jerry Reinsdorf is ever going to pay the tax, it may as well to be keep Watson. Without him, the immense pain Chicago already feels in regards to Derrick Rose's torn ACL will only intensify.
I'll go as far to say I might prefer keeping Watson over restricted free agent and backup center Omer Asik. Asik is certainly valuable, and it sucks to lose a 26-year 7-footer for nothing. But Asik will get $5 million next season, and likely sign a contract for something around four-years $25 million. It's more important to keep Taj Gibson, who's a free agent after next season. Also, NBA benches are meant to turn over. Just look at the Bulls' dynasty years. Chicago can find another warm body to backup Joakim Noah next season. Finding a competent starting point guard like Watson at such a bargain basement price on only a one-year contract will be impossible.
The plan, as I want it: Teague backs up Watson next season, Teague backs up Rose going forward.
Alex Sonty, who killed draft coverage at Blog-a-Bull all the way through, raised a point earlier I also wanted to make: if Teague is really good, he'll likely out-price himself when his rookie deal expires. Tough shit. That's how the NBA works, and yes: it's very possible Teague doesn't fully develop until his third or fourth season, right when Chicago has to pay him. I see Teague as a Jrue Holliday-type who might be able to give the Bulls some minutes at the shooting guard spot as well. Remember, in an alternative universe where the Bulls select Holliday instead of James Johnson in the 2009 draft, Holliday is likely backing up Rose and getting some minutes at the two. This pick could correct that mistake.