Lets kick things off by getting the obvious out of the way. With the third overall pick in the 1984 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls selected Michael Jordan, a 6’6 guard coming out of North Carolina. Not only is this the best pick in the history of the Chicago Bulls franchise, it could possibly be the greatest draft pick any team has ever had. Of course this would not have happened if either Houston or Portland went with Jordan instead of their respective picks. Things worked out in the long run for Houston, who chose Hakeem Olajuwon with the first overall pick of the draft. Olajuwon went on to win back-to-back championships in 1994 and 1995 and would become one of the greatest centers the game has ever seen. Portland on the other hand wasn’t so lucky.
Sam Bowie was heavily recruited coming out of high school. The center wound up playing for the University of Kentucky and had his breakout season during his sophomore year which saw him average 17.5 PPG and 9 RPG. His highlights in college didn’t come without a hitch though as Bowie had a well documented history with injuries, particularly with his left tibia. Portland ultimately took a chance with Bowie’s injuries and picked him over Jordan with the second pick in the draft. Chicago dodged a bullet on this one. Injuries would continue to plague Bowie’s basketball career until 1995 when he hung up his sneakers for good. He is widely regarded as being one of the biggest bust in NBA history.
The Bulls made a pick 33 years ago that would put them on a path to greatness. While they’ve had excellent picks in years before and after 1984, not all of them would be as memorable as Jordan’s. Keep in mind that players who were notable members of the Bulls for various reasons such as Luol Deng, Tyrus Thomas and Scottie Pippen were acquired via draft trades and not draft picks by the organization. Here are the 10 best and 10 worst draft picks by the Chicago Bulls aside from the MJ pick, because we all know he’s no.1.
20. Best: Orlando Woolridge
Known for his high-flying dunking ability, the late Orlando Woolridge was selected by the Bulls with the 6th pick in the 1981 NBA Draft. Woolridge was one of the premier rim rockers in all of professional basketball. Some of his best years came during the Jordan era with the 1984-85 season being the standout among them. He would average 22.9 PPG and when combined with Jordan, the two averaged just over 50 PPG. Woolridge got to show off his dunking prowess in the 1984 dunk contest and outscored Clyde Drexler and Michael Cooper with his showcase. The alley-oop is also synonymous with the small forward as he was one of the first to be on the receiving end of the offensive play. He would play for a number of teams including Italian League club Benetton Treviso before retiring in 1996.
19. Worst: Tony Snell
With the 20th overall pick in the first round of the 2013 draft the Bulls were in need of a perimeter threat that could help spread the floor and knockdown triples. Chicago was 21st in three point percentage the season before so Tony Snell sounded like a decent fit for the situation. Averaging 5.3 PPG during his tenure with Chicago, Snell saw limited success while falling in and out of the rotation. He had his moments with the team but his efforts just weren’t enough.
The forward was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks for Michael Carter-Williams in an exchange that left many Chicago fans feeling like they got the better of the deal. Both teams are still struggling after the trade so there really are no winners in this case.
18. Best: Reggie Theus
UNLV has had its fair share of talented players come through its doors and Reggie Theus is one of them. One of only eight players to have their jersey retired by the school, Theus was the 9th overall pick in the 1978 draft. In his rookie campaign he showed fans that he was the real deal by averaging 16.3 PPG and 5.2 APG and was the runner up for the Rookie of the Year Award. His sophomore season surpassed his first as Theus saw his numbers increase in both categories. After two trips to the NBA All-Star game he was seen as one of the best players on a number of Bulls team that featured players such as Artis Gilmore and Orlando Woolridge.
Despite his solid play Chicago would trade Theus for Kansas City Kings backup big man Steve Johnson and three second-round draft picks in 1984. The Bulls would lose 27 of their next 33 games after Theus was shipped off to the team that would eventually move to Sacramento. It’s not the worst trade we’ve seen the Bulls make but it’s definitely up there.
17. Worst: Will Perdue
Will Perdue was another player who gained popularity while serving as a member of the team during the championship years led by Michael Jordan (he was a part of all three teams during the first three-peat). Currently an analyst for Comcast Sportsnet Chicago, Perdue backed up Bill Cartwright until he became a starter in 1994 but the emergence of Luc Longley ended up turning him into trade bait.
The center was shipped off to the San Antonio Spurs for Dennis Rodman before the start of the 1995-96 season. With career averages of 4.7 PPG, 4.9 RPG and 0.7 BPG it’s safe to say that the 11th pick in the 1988 draft wasn’t a deciding factor in those championship victories. At least he proved to be useful in being a trade piece that got Rodman.
16. Best: Ben Gordon
The microwave 2.0, Ben Gordon could get buckets at just the right time during his playing days with the Chicago Bulls. Chosen with the third overall pick in the 2004 draft, Gordon got his NBA career off to a hot start averaging 15 PPG while shooting 41 percent from behind the arc. His first year in the league was a success and he would be rewarded for his great play by becoming the first rookie to earn the Sixth Man of the Year award along with a spot on the NBA All-Rookie First Team.
Gordon will forever be remembered by Bulls fans for his role in the 2009 first-round playoff series against the Boston Celtics. Gordon averaged 24 points in a back-and-fourth series that would go seven games and include a triple overtime contest in game six of the series. He is now attempting an NBA comeback with the Texas Legends of the NBA Developmental League.
15. Worst: Brad Sellers
When Michael Jordan tells you to do something you should probably do it. Brad Sellers was a 7-foot center from the University of Ohio with the shooting ability that was hard to find at the four and five spots back in the 80s. Jordan insisted that former general manager Jerry Krause take Duke guard Johnny Dawkins but Krause went with Sellers instead. Sellers sporadically started for Chicago during his four seasons with the team but didn’t contributed much on defense or offense. Never averaging more than 9.5 PPG and 4.7 RPG in a season with the Bulls, Sellers wound up being traded to the Seattle SuperSonics for the 18th overall pick in the 1989 draft which would turn out to be point guard B.J. Armstrong.
14. Best: Toni Kukoč
Coming out of the Republic of Croatia forward Toni Kukoč was relatively unknown to the Chicago Bulls and the rest of the NBA. Selected with the 29th overall pick in the second round of the 1990 draft, the Bulls grabbed Kukoč with their lone pick of the evening. However, Kukoč wouldn’t come over to the league until 1993 after playing three more years with the European club team Benetton Treviso. Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, who already had two NBA championships to their names, would get their first look at the Croatian native during the 1992 Summer Olympics. The United States would crush the Croatia national team 117-85 with Jordan and Pippen locking down the 23-year-old player for a majority of the game.
Once he was officially a member of the Bulls, Kukoč would go on to become a key piece to the Bulls second championship three-peat and is currently the last player to win the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award and an NBA Championship in the same season.
13. Worst: James Johnson
James Johnson really doesn’t excel at any aspect in the game of basketball. In a draft littered with guard talent, Chicago chose Johnson in 2009 with the 16th pick of the night. He would play only two seasons in Chicago before being dealt in 2011 to the Toronto Raptors midway through the season. To this day teams continue to sign Johnson despite the fact that he has never averaged more than 9 PPG in his career. Fortunately the franchise took Taj Gibson that same night with their second pick of the draft. Gibson is still with the team and has provided a nice low-post presence for the team on a consistent basis.
Johnson also had that weird phase where he dyed his hair red in an attempt that made him look like a wannabe Dennis Rodman. It’s really the only memorable thing he has done in the league so far.
12. Best: Elton Brand
The first overall pick in the 1999 draft, Elton Brand did not receive the recognition he deserved during his NBA career due to the fact that he was playing for a Clippers team that at the time was one of the worst in the league. The draft could have gone any way as the Bulls had their fare share of options with the first pick. Steve Francis, Baron Davis and Lamar Odom were all up for grabs but Chicago made the right decision and went with Brand over the others.
With numbers of 20 PPG and 10 RPG, his first year in the league was a success and he would share NBA Rookie of the Years honors with Francis. Brand brought new hope to the city of Chicago but after only two seasons with the Bulls, he was shipped off to the Clippers for Brian Skinner and the draft rights to Tyson Chandler in one of the worst trades the league has ever seen. The Duke product would become a two-time All-Star before wrapping up his career on October 20th, 2016.
11. Worst: Jimmy Collins
There aren’t many athletes that leave the NBA on their own terms after two seasons. Jimmy Collins is one of them though. Collins was selected with the 11th pick in the 1970 draft and was taken before future Hall-of-Famer Nate Archibald. The shooting guard played in 55 games his rookie season and just 19 in his second before leaving for the ABA. What a disappointment.
His coaching career would last much longer than his playing career but Chicago probably isn’t to happy about that. He would serve as an assistant coach for the Illinois Fighting Illini men’s basketball team before moving on to a head coaching position with the UIC Flames. This is one of the better examples of a wasted draft pick.
10. Best: Joakim Noah
When Chicago needed some extra energy on the court Joakim Noah was the man to fulfill those needs. With one of the most awkward looking jump shots the game of hoops has ever seen, Noah quickly became a fan favorite in the city of Chicago. The 2007 draft wasn’t exactly filled with talent but Chicago made the most with their 9th overall pick by selecting Noah. In 2014 he was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year becoming the second Bull to earn the award after Michael Jordan took the honors during the 1987-88 season. A selection to the All-NBA First Team shortly followed and raised Noah’s stock even higher. Injuries have begun to slow down the center and the team made the decision to not resign Noah after his contract expired this past summer. After signing a four-year $72 million dollar contract, the two-time All-Star is now playing for his hometown team, the New York Knicks.
9. Worst: Corey Benjamin
Corey Benjamin played three years for the Bulls after being selected with the 28th pick in the 1998 draft. A guard with some decent dunking ability, Chicago was looking to bring some excitement back to the team after Jordan’s departure. This guy was not the answer to that dilemma. Fans found that out after Benjamin decided to challenge the recently retired Jordan to a game of one-on-one. Jordan destroyed Benjamin in the match up that was anything but competitive (this shouldn’t surprise anyone).
After his three seasons with Chicago, Benjamin would sign two ten-day contracts with the Atlanta Hawks before his departure out of the NBA for good. He would spend the rest of his career playing overseas. At least he wasn’t stuck riding the pine in foreign countries like he was in the NBA.
8. Best: Horace Grant
Sporting his trademark goggles, Horace Grant was noted for his defense play that earned him a spot on the NBA All-Defensive Second Team on four different occasions. Grant was taken with the 10th pick in the 1987 draft ahead of notable players such as Reggie Lewis, Reggie Miller and Mark Jackson. The pick would payoff for the Bulls as Grant played a significant role in the first three-peat put on by Chicago and would earn a fourth ring in his one and only season with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2001. His career numbers on paper might not be the most eye-catching (11.2 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1 BPG) when compared to other great players of his time but rest assured Grant will someday find himself in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
7. Worst: Marquis Teague
Talk about earning a roster spot with your last name. Marquis Teague, the brother of Indiana Pacers point guard Jeff Teague, was a part of a 2012 draft that didn’t receive much attention outside of the top pick in Anthony Davis. Luckily players who are now standout players in the league including Damian Lillard, Bradley Beal and Andre Drummond have saved the draft from being one of the worst in recent years. Going back to Teague, who was selected with the 29th overall pick by the Bulls, the one-and-done Kentucky alum went on to be one of the most frustrating point guards to watch in franchise history. Averaging only 2.2 PPG in his two years with Chicago, Teague was taken before Jae Crowder and Draymond Green. Let that sink in for a second. Former head coach Tom Thibodeau wanted Green back in 2012 but the duo known as GarPax thought Teague would be a better fit overall. Not even close.
After being traded to the Brooklyn Nets in 2014, Teague played one season for the team, made an appearance in the D-League and is now playing in Israel. Draymond Green has won an NBA Championship and is getting ready to play in his second All-Star game. Need more time to let that sink in? It might take a life time before Bulls fans are over this one.
6. Best: Artis Gilmore
Artist Gilmore entered the NBA through means that are not normally seen in major league sports. The American Basketball Association, which Gilmore dominated in, was shut down in 1976. An ABA dispersal draft was then held to accommodate the players who were on teams that folded after the league went under. The 1972 ABA Most Valuable Player was selected first overall by Chicago and averaged 17.6 points per game, 10 rebounds and two blocks in his seven years with the Bulls. He represented the team in three NBA All-Star games and played in six total before retiring in 1988. Gilmore was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011. The A-Train will be remembered for his workhorse mentality, his ability to play both ends of the floor and of course his afro, which is one of the greatest of all time.
5. Worst: Jay Williams
Jay Williams finds his way onto our list for reasons a bit different from the rest of the previous players mentioned. It wasn’t his actions on the court that got him a spot on our list; instead it was a series of unfortunate events that led to an early end to his career. This is a tragic pick more than anything but the scenario involving Williams really did hurt the Bulls for quite some time.
Williams, Amar’e Stoudemire and Yao Ming were standout names in the 2002 draft. He would be taken by the Bulls with the second pick and a bit of hope was restored in the franchise after a dismal season the year before. Inconsistent play in his first season was a bit concerning for the Bulls but they kept their heads held high and waited for the talent to break out. Unfortunately the Bulls would never see this come to fruition. On a June night back in 2003, Williams was riding his motorcycle and crashed into a streetlight resulting in multiple career altering injuries.
After hearing that Williams’ basketball career may be over, Chicago made the decision to waive the promising young player. Attempts at a comeback showed the determination of Williams but he was a shell of the player the Bulls saw playing for Duke just one year earlier.
4. Best: Jimmy Butler
Talk about a diamond in the rough. Jimmy Butler was selected with the last pick of the first round in the 2011 draft. Names such as Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker and Derrick Williams garnered most of the spotlight in that draft but Butler would go on to prove all of his doubters wrong. In his senior year at Marquette he quietly averaged 15.7 PPG and earned an All-Big East Honorable Mention for his second straight year. Butler found himself playing limited minutes during his first year in the league but would see not only his minutes increase, but almost everything else on the stat sheet start to rise as well. The rise in production was starting to gain the attention of those around him.
The 2014-15 campaign saw him average 20.0 PPG, 5.8 RPG 3.3 APG and 1.8 SPG and the NBA decided to reward his efforts by naming him the 2015 NBA Most Improved Player. Butler, who is now the face of the Chicago Bulls, is now gearing up to play in his third straight All-Star game (he was selected last year but sat out because of injuries). He went from being a virtual nobody to one of the best players in the league today but with poor play coming from the team this season, trade rumors involving Butler have once again reared their ugly head. No one knows for sure what the Bulls plans are for Butler but regardless of the situation, Butler is still one of the premier players in the league today.
3. Worst: Eddy Curry
Eddy Curry was considered to be one of the best players in the nation during his senior year at Thornwood High School, located in South Holland, Illinois. His performances in the league, along with a case of laziness and a poor work ethic that resulted in him being out of shape for a majority of his career, showed something else though. Both him and Tyson Chandler became members of the 2001 draft after they made the decision to forgo college and head straight to the league fresh out of high school. Chicago, in what would turn out to be one of the worst trades in Bulls franchise history, sent Elton Brand to the Clippers for Chandler after Los Angeles selected him with the second pick of the night.
Curry was taken fourth overall by the Bulls in a draft that featured all-time great busts Kwame Brown and DeSagana Diop. In 2003 a reporter asked then-coach Scott Skiles what Curry could do to improving his rebounding in games. He replied by simply saying “Jump.” That’s some tough criticism coming from your head coach. It was a failed attempt at forming some sort of twin-tower duo with the two teenagers; Bulls fans remember these years as being some of the worst the team has ever experienced.
2. Best: Derrick Rose
With a 1.7 percent chance of landing the first overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls were on the outside looking in. The Windy City had seen nothing but sub-par basketball since the departure of Michael Jordan but something special was just upon the horizon. The Bulls, with the second-largest upset in NBA Draft Lottery history, earned the first overall pick that year and gave Chicago its choice of talent between two budding players who were being seen as the top two picks of the draft. The first was Michael Beasley, a forward out of Kansas State who put up numbers that nobody could ignore (26.2 PPG, 12.9 RPG). Many believed that he had the athleticism and skill set that would translate well into the NBA. Beside him was an explosive guard out of the University of Memphis known as Derrick Rose.
While his numbers (14.9 PPG, 4.7 APG & 4.5 RPG) were not as eye catching as Beasley’s, Rose already had a connection with the city of Chicago as he grew up in Englewood, a neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. The Bulls went with Rose and everything after that was history. Rose would become the youngest MVP in NBA history after earning the award in 2011 but a torn ACL in his left knee the following year drastically changed the landscape for Rose and the entire Bulls organization. Four years later Rose would find himself being traded to the New York Knicks in a move that caused Chicago fans to simply ask themselves the question “What if Rose never got hurt?”
1. Worst: Marcus Fizer
Marcus Fizer was the best player heading into the 2000 NBA Draft. That shows how awful that draft really was. As great as he was at Iowa State University, this pick still makes little to no sense years later. Elton Brand was coming off a stellar rookie year so what do the Bulls do? Draft another power forward with the fourth overall pick. They could have at least traded him for something better in return but Chicago chose to stick with their decision. With 31 tattoos, a number almost equivalent to the amount of games he started (35), Fizer never averaged more than 12.3 PPG and the team would let him go in free agency after he tore his ACL during the 2003-04 season. Let’s be happy Chicago drafted Michael Jordan all those years back cause it almost makes up for horrible draft picks like this. Emphasis on the word “almost”.
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