(MCT) The Bulls have poked and prodded multiple prospects off the court, drilled and demanded of them on it.
They have scouted, charted and argued the merits of them all internally. They have traveled internationally, domestically and locally, traversing the path between the Berto Center court and draft conference room repeatedly.
And with the 20th pick in Thursday night's NBA draft, the Bulls will select ... they have no idea.
Of course, they certainly have strong opinions about multiple players, enough so that league sources insisted they were sniffing around on how to enter the lottery as late as this week. But most signs Wednesday pointed to the Bulls using their pick, with those talks labeled as exploratory and the target of those queries closely guarded.
If the Bulls don't use the 20th pick on a reserve big man or stretch-the-floor wing shooter, it will be as shocking as Joakim Noah's vintage 2007 draft-day outfit.
Drafting 20th, the Bulls obviously can't dictate much and the only goal is to add a rotation player who can contribute while playing on a rookie scale contract for multiple seasons. Adding a starter, as the Bulls have done with 2011 first-round pick Jimmy Butler at No. 30, is a bonus.
Though the Bulls are likely to re-sign Nazr Mohammed, he is slated for an emergency, fifth big-man role, like Kurt Thomas in the 2010-11 season. With the departure of Omer Asik last summer and Noah's recurring foot issues, adding another big man has become a need.
So, too, is outside shooting, a point coach Tom Thibodeau made clear in his postseason remarks the day after the second-round playoff loss to the Heat. Both Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson are likely to command more money than the Bulls are willing to spend in free agency, which could jettison not only long-range shooting but two ball-handlers who could make plays.
Though this isn't considered a star-laden draft, it does feature decent depth for both of those Bulls' needs. A shot creator to pair alongside Derrick Rose won't be addressed unless a trade is made.
Talk persisted that the Bulls were in on the Rockets' cap-clearing move to trade last year's No. 5 pick Thomas Robinson and flip the forward as part of a larger deal. But the Bulls have refused to part with their two main assets _ overseas prospect Nikola Mirotic and the Bobcats' first-round pick that could be unprotected in 2016 _ in the past and there were no signs of that changing.
Richard Hamilton's expiring contract, which can be bought out of its final season for $1 million of the remaining $5 million by July 10, has drawn little interest thus far.
Louisville's Gorgui Dieng is the most consistent Bulls' pick in national mock drafts, and his defensive prowess certainly could fit in Thibodeau's system. While Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr. isn't yet as adept a spot-up shooter as other wings who might be available when the Bulls pick, his overall savvy and toughness makes him an intriguing possibility.
Both those players fit the traditional Bulls' draft profile of a player who logged multiple seasons in a big-name college program. The worst recent example of straying from that was when the Bulls drafted LSU 6-foot-10 freshman Tyrus Thomas in 2006.
The Bulls tried to rectify that mistake by acquiring the potentially prized Bobcats' first-round pick. Thursday night, they will try to make a more immediate impact.