Drafting for Dummies
by Mike Maloney(NBA)
Posted on November 19, 2007, 2:17 PM
The NBA Draft is always entertaining to watch, whether it's to see which teams look completely clueless as they make a pick using reasoning that is apparent to no one but that team's management, or to see what kind of wacky trades are going to be pulled off. However, to me, the best part of the NBA Draft by far is to look back on it five, ten years later, and see what teams picked up absolute steals, and what teams completely blew it with their lottery pick. Now, I can't verify this, but I have a feeling that this practice became popular due to the 1984 draft. In case you don't know, this was the draft in which the Houston Rockets selected Hakeem Olajuwon with the #1 overall pick. The Chicago Bulls selected an unknown guy at some small school in North Carolina named Michael Jordan, who would go on to become the best player in NBA history. So what makes this draft so fascinating to reminisce about? That would be the #2 overall pick made by the Portland Trailblazers. This designation goes to none other than Sam Bowie, the original Ryan Leaf. Now granted, Bowie probably gets picked on a little too much because he just happened to be drafted in between two of the greatest NBA players ever. While his career was disappointing, he did play for ten years and averaged 11 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
So, how does all this play into this particular column? Well, as I mentioned, with the Blazers picking up Sam Bowie, the Bulls were able to draft Michael Jordan, who would be the cornerstone for the Bulls for the next 14 years (Well, 12, technically). Over the next few years, they would draft the likes of Horace Grant, Scottie Pippen (Drafted by Seattle, traded to the Bulls for Olden Polynice), Will Perdue, BJ Armstrong, and Tony Kukoc, all guys who would help the Bulls dominate the 1990s and win six titles in eight years. Okay, Will Perdue was mostly there just to take up space, but he still helped. The point is, the Bulls were able to make good draft picks, and put together a solid team capable of winning championships.
However, once the team dismantled following the 1998 championship, it was time to once again depend on high draft picks to rebuild the team and bring it back into contention. Well, it didn't work out so well this time around, and the Bulls have just recently managed to find a way out of all those losing seasons. Since they are struggling mightily so far this season, I thought it would be fun (or painful) to take a look at the Bulls' draft picks over the past ten years, and see how they panned out, and maybe take a look at a few players that the Bulls could have drafted, but missed out on.
Players drafted by Chicago:
Elton Brand: After losing Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan, Dennis Rodman, and Phil Jackson, the Bulls proceeded to rack up a horrible record, and were rewarded with the #1 overall pick, which was Elton Brand. Brand has proceeded to have an incredibly successful career, putting up 20 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per game, along with 2 blocks, and is one of the top forwards in the league. The problem? The Bulls traded him after two years (He put up 20 and 10 both years) for the rights to draft Tyson Chandler (We'll get to him later).
Brand was probably the most talented player drafted by the Bulls in the post-Jordan era, but the Bulls ended up dumping him to go for a player straight out of high school. Brand now plays for the Clippers and is still putting up solid numbers.
Ron Artest: All-Star #2 drafted by the Bulls in 1999, Artest would play for the Bulls for three years before being traded in 2002 to the Indiana Pacers, along with Brad Miller, for Jalen Rose. This trade could probably be looked on positively or negatively. Artest was averaging 13 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 2.5 assists in his time with the Bulls, numbers that went up with increased playing time in Indiana. However, Artest is also a total headcase, and was one of the key instigators in the huge Detroit/Indiana brawl from a few years ago.
Artest was a solid talent, great defensive player, but not the most stable player. Trading him away didn't have to be a total mistake, but dumping him along with a solid center presence in Brad Miller and really only getting someone like Jalen Rose (Who ended up going to Toronto anyways) in return probably was not a good move in hindsight.
Key Misses: With the #1 overall pick, the Bulls did well in picking probably the best player to come out of the draft, despite trading him two years later. Ron Artest was also a solid pick, as there were only two players drafted below him who became All-Stars. One of those players is Andrei Kirilenko, a player who has shown to be very talented, but can be very inconsistent. The real miss here, and to no fault of the Bulls, really, is Manu Ginobli, who was drafted at the end of the second round by the San Antonio Spurs. Foreign-born players are often more of an experiement, and it's more difficult to determine how successful they will be in the NBA.
Actually, this was a pretty good draft for the Bulls, the reason it's looked back upon so negatively is because both draft picks were gone within three years for very little in return.
Marcus Fizer: The Bulls picked up the 4th overall pick in the 2000 draft, and used it to draft another power forward (Brand). Fizer spent 4 years with the Bulls, never averaging above 12.3 points or 5.7 rebounds in a season. After that, he tried to find somewhere else to play, spending a season with the Milwaukee Bucks. He's now out of the NBA, and really did nothing to help the Bulls become a better team.
Jamal Crawford: The Bulls actually drafted Chris Mihm, but immediately traded him to the Cavs for Jamal Crawford. Crawford also spent 4 years with the Bulls. His last year was his best year with the team, scoring 17.3 points a game along with 5.1 assists. After consistent improvement over the four seasons, he was traded to the Knicks.
Key Misses: The 2000 draft was not a very good one, with only three All-Stars coming from the class. However, one of those All-Stars, Michael Redd, went in the second round, not too long after the Bulls had three consecutive picks in the second round (#32-34). Redd was a big miss for the team, as he has developed into a very dangerous shooting guard, while none of the Bulls' picks are still on the team, and only one (Crawford) is still in the NBA, and nowhere near the level of a Michael Redd.
Tyson Chandler: Here's the painful one. The Bulls end up with the #2 overall pick in the 2001 draft. After the Washington Wizards draft Kwame Brown #1 straight out of high school (Stick to playing basketball, MJ), Chicago picks another high schooler, the 7-foot tall Tyson Chandler. The whole reason the Bulls end up with this pick is because they traded Elton Brand to the Clippers. Chandler proceeds to disappoint for several seasons, partially due to his age, and partially due to back problems.
Despite growing into an impressive defensive player, his offensive skills were lacking. After signing a 6-year, $63 million contract, Chandler was traded following the 2005-2006 season, after averaging only 5.3 points and constantly getting into foul trouble. The Bulls had also signed free agent Ben Wallace, who basically played the same role as Chandler. Instead of Wallace being an improvement, however, his skills are deteriorating due to his age, meanwhile Chandler has been have a resurgence in New Orleans, putting up career numbers.
Eddy Curry: Another high school player, Curry was the #4 overall pick. He was supposed to form a duo with Chandler to help turn the Bulls around. However, like most high school players, he struggled, despite showing flashes of his potential. Despite his post-up ability, he often faces criticism for his lack of defense and rebounds. Before the 2005-2006 season, Curry was traded to the New York Knicks. This was an ugly situation, as Curry had been hospitalized at the end of the previous season with an irregular heartbeat. The Bulls requested a DNA test to check and see if he had a heart condition, and Curry refused to take one, citing privacy issues. The Bulls did end up getting two first round draft picks out of the deal, which will be mentioned later.
Key Misses: There aren't a lot of misses here, but the big one is Pau Gasol. Gasol was the #3 overall pick, and would have been a much bigger benefit for the Bulls than Chandler (Especially considering the constant attempts by the Bulls these days to trade for Gasol). Tony Parker also went late in the first round, but he can also be filed away under the category of "Foreign players who seem to be risky to everyone else but the San Antonio Spurs".
Jay Williams: Forget what I said, this was the painful one. Jay Williams, #2 overall pick in the NBA draft. Pretty decent rookie season, nothing spectacular. Then, in the offseason, Williams was in a motorcycle accident, broke his pelvis, severed a nerve in his leg, tore three ligaments in his knee (including his ACL), and hasn't played a basketball game since (Although he tried to make a comeback this year for the New Jersey Nets). So, all the Bulls get from their #2 pick is an average rookie season, and $8 million in the hole.
Key Misses: The loss of Jay Williams might be a little more manageable if not for what the Bulls could have had instead. First off, the Bulls had tied for the worst record in the NBA, giving them and Golden State the best chance at the #1 overall pick, Yao Ming. Instead, that honor goes to Houston, and Chicago ends up at #2. However, dropping all the way down to #9 was a high school player that actually has materialized into a presence, and that's Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire.
Kirk Hinrich: Hinrich was the #7 pick overall, and was the first legitimate piece of the 'New' Chicago Bulls. After many failures, Hinrich has developed into one of the best defensive point guards in the NBA, and is skilled on offense as well. He recently signed a 5-year, $60 million extension, so the Bulls have no interest in parting with Kirk in the near future. Hinrich is the captain of the team, and as such, the team succeeds and struggles based on his play.
Key Misses: Unfortunately for the Bulls, this was one of the years they didn't get a Top 3 pick, otherwise they could have found themselves with someone like Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, or Lebron James on their team. Still, with the #7 pick, Kirk Hinrich was definitely the best player still available. With Jerry Krause out at GM, new GM John Paxson seemed to have much better vision in making draft picks.
Ben Gordon: Gordon was the #3 overall pick out of UConn, and was another stone in the foundation for the Baby Bulls. He is a dangerous jumpshooter, and has shown to have great propensity to come through in the clutch, hitting big shots at the end of games or putting together big fourth quarters. His size limits his abilities, and he is not a strong finisher in the lane. However, despite his size, he is powerful, which allows him to succeed at the professional level. Gordon declined a 5-year, $50 million extension at the beginning of this season, making him a restricted free agent at the end of the year.
Luol Deng: In what has turned out to be the steal of the draft, the Bulls acquired Deng from the Suns, who drafted Deng as the #7 overall pick. Deng is probably the second-best player to come out of the draft, and has constantly improved his game in each year with the Bulls. He's only 22 years old, so he has not yet reached the peak of his game. Deng has emerged as the most talented all around player on the Bulls, and is another cornerstone on the team from a chemistry standpoint.
Key Misses: Really, there aren't any. Dwight Howard was probably the best player to come out of the draft, and he went #1 overall. The argument could be made that Devin Harris might have been a better pick than Ben Gordon, just because Harris' overall game is stronger, but you can't deny Gordon's scoring ability, and Deng has turned out to be a great pick at #7. It will be interesting to see what the future of these players will be, as both turned down 5-year, $50 million extensions, and will be restricted free agents. Paxson should re-sign Deng unless he's a complete idiot, but Gordon could be tough depending on what kind of money is on the table, considering his limitations as a player.
I'm not going to analyze the 2006 and 2007 drafts (The Bulls didn't have any picks in 2005), since it's too early to figure out how the Bulls made out, and who they might have missed out on. However, thanks to the Eddy Curry trade, the Bulls ended up with two first round draft picks (Thanks Isiah!), which they used to draft Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah, both high energy forwards to help strengthen the front court defensively.
It's tough to think that the Bulls had Elton Brand on their team and dropped him for basically nothing, could have drafted Pau Gasol or Amare Stoudemire, and barely missed out on Yao Ming and Lebron James/Carmello Anthony/Dwayne Wade. While I appreciate what Jerry Krause did for the Bulls, assembling the team that he did in the 1990s, I'm glad he stepped down when he did, because it was pretty apparent that he was not able to see the big picture when drafting lottery picks, which is why the Bulls have had 10 Top 10 overall picks since 1999.
I will say that while John Paxson has done a nice job putting together the team that he wants, this year is really the defining year for this group, and depending on how things go, he's going to have to come to a decision on whether or not this unit can get it done, or if big changes need to be made.