[Let me preface this post by introducing myself so that you don't think Matt is responsible for this madness. My name is Mike Aparicio and I'll be contributing to the Bulls Blog from time to time.]
With Brian Grant set to sign with the Phoenix Suns, the Bulls free agent options for a backup forward have dwindled to names like Tom Gugliotta and Malik Allen. Hardly inspiring. One player that may end up filling the position has managed to stay under everyone's radar. Everyone except John Paxson's, that is. His name is Drago Pasalic.
Depending on your frame of reference, the very name evokes memories of either Ivan Drago from Rocky IV ("I must break you!"), or two failed projects from the Jerry Krause era by the names of Dragan Tarlac and Dalibor Bagaric. Krause brought in both players hoping to find the next Toni Kukoc, but neither one even ended up being the next Brad Sellers.
Enter Pasalic - a 6'11", 236 pound forward from Croatia - who went undrafted last June and averaged 9.6 points and 4.2 rebounds for the Bulls in the Las Vegas summer league. While neither Tarlac nor Bagaric managed to shoot over 40 percent from the field or average more than three points or three rebounds, Pasalic has potential to be an effective option off the bench.
He's only 21-years-old, but Pasalic has four years of professional experience playing in the Adriatic League and for the Croatian national team. Pasalic averaged 14 points and six rebounds for KK Split last season and in the 2003 World Junior Championships put up 20+ points and rebounds twice, including a 32 point, 22 rebound monster versus Slovenia. (Granted, he gave up 37 and 13 to Erazem Lorbek in the same game.)
Scouting reports praise Pasalic's sweet mid-range jumper, quick release and athleticism. (NBAdraft.net compares him to Gugliotta - the young version, I hope.) In five games of Vegas Summer League play, Pasalic made 21-of-44 from the field (47.7%), including 4-of-12 from three-point range.
So far the Bulls have managed to keep last season's team intact and upgraded from Frank Williams to Eddie Basden. Pasalic won't provide the veteran experience of Gugliotta or the inside toughness of Allen, but theoretically he has to be an upgrade over Jared Reiner and Lawrence Funderburke and should come just as cheap. Pasalic's summer performance should earn him an invite to training camp and ultimately, perhaps, a spot on the opening day roster.