Bulls' philosophy: 'Best player available'

Seasons of scouting are more important than the combine for Gar Forman, left, and John Paxson. AP Photo/Charles Cherney

CHICAGO -- As Gar Forman watched players race up and down the floor Thursday at the NBA draft combine, the Chicago Bulls' general manager reaffirmed a belief he has stuck to throughout the years in regard to drafting prospects.

"As we put together tiers and evaluate guys, our philosophy has always been to draft the best player available," Forman said. "I think when you're trying to fill needs, that's probably more in free agency or via trades. But with that said, if we have two guys that we rank as equal, then we'll look more at need. But if we feel a prospect is a level above a prospect where we may have a need, we're going to take the best prospect available."

Recent drafts have borne out the veteran basketball man's philosophy. Many believed the Bulls would select a big man to back up Joakim Noah in last year's draft, particularly with prospects Gorgui Dieng and Mason Plumlee still on the board. But Forman decided to go with swingman Tony Snell out of New Mexico -- a decision that didn't immediately pay off for the Bulls while Dieng and Plumlee finished out the season well.

No matter whom Forman decides to select in this draft, he knows the player must be able to fit into the system that he and executive vice president John Paxson have developed along with head coach Tom Thibodeau. The player has to be hard-working and must embrace being coached by the ever-demanding Thibodeau.

"The background work and interview process is important to us like it is a lot of other teams, but you can tell some of that on the floor," Forman said. "We always talk about when you've watched these guys for a couple years and really evaluated them, practice, games and film -- when you meet them, a lot of times you can see their personality on the floor as you visit with them. It all kind of ties together. So part of that is on the floor -- how hard they play, the energy they bring, how they interact with teammates, how they respond to coaching. All those kind of things are important."

That's why Forman, Thibodeau and the rest of the Bulls' front office will continue to watch and see what unfolds at the combine -- but they all know that no matter what they see over the next few days won't mean as much as what they've seen over the past couple of seasons.

"Most of these guys we've scouted extensively for years," Forman said. "And we've seen them in game situations, we've seen them in practice situations. We've done an enormous amount of background work on each and every one of these guys. Though there's some value in the drill part, you can always learn something when you get another look -- really the biggest value of this to us is what happens this afternoon, tonight, [Friday] afternoon and [Friday] night. It's the first opportunity to sit down with a lot of these guys in an interview-type setting and get to know a little bit about their makeup, their character, get a chance to visit with them.

"And then a number of these guys we'll have into our building, where we get to spend even more time with them, and put them through a workout that's more specific with what we want to see. The other thing that's so important about the combine for us and all 30 teams is Saturday and Sunday, the medical [portion] -- where they complete physicals and get a sense if there's any type of problems, either short-term or long-term from a physical standpoint."