2014 NBA Draft: Cameron Bairstow selected #49 by the Bulls
Cameron Bairstow experienced a nervous wait before hearing his name called at number 49 by the Chicago Bulls in the 2014 NBA Draft. In being selected, he joined compatriot Dante Exum who was taken at number 5 by the Utah Jazz. He becomes the second Australian not only drafted in 2014, but also from the New Mexico Lobos, following in the footsteps of Australia's first ever NBA player in Luc Longley.
Bairstow, The Pick and Roll's 2014 Australian college Player of the Year, put together one of the best all-time single year performances by an Australian in college basketball, but also in New Mexico school history. Arguably, he was the most improved player in all of college basketball. He averaged a Mountain West best 20.4 points per game on 55.6% shooting from the field alongside 7.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.5 blocks per game. While he was controversially overlooked for Mountain West Player of the Year recognition, his outstanding performances in the conference tournament earned him the Most Valuable Player award as he led the Lobos back to the NCAA Tournament.
Pre-draft, many observers cited Bairstow's perceived lack of athleticism and potential inability to stay in front of quicker perimeter players defensively as being his major weakness and a potential barrier to him being drafted. Along with a need to extend his shooting range to beyond the three-point line, he was only considered an outside chance at being selected in the second round. However Bairstow brings size, strength and an already demonstrated ability to score inside and an automatic mid-range jumper. With an almost unrivalled work ethic and an exemplary team player, Bairstow impressed teams in pre-draft workouts, unveiling that he had extended his shooting range to beyond the arc.
Following Bairstow's selection, it quickly became know that the Chicago Bulls were even considering trading up to ensure they snared the big Australian. Bulls General Manager Gar Forman told the Chicago Tribune;
"He's a guy that we're real excited to get. He fits our culture. He's a strong, physical player who has a good skill level. He can shoot the midrange shot. He has experience and has a lot of international competition."
Bairstow during pre-draft workouts was described by fellow draftee Shabazz Napier as being a 'man among boys', and is someone who can contribute immediately to the Bulls. However unlike Exum, he does not yet have a guaranteed contract; that is something he will need to earn during the pre-season. However should he continue to improve and build upon his game and demonstrate his value to the Bulls, there is no reason why he can't join Exum on court in the 2014/15 NBA season.