Chicago Bulls

Gordon became the first rookie to ever win the NBA's Sixth Man award.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
2005 DRAFT SELECTIONS
None
CURRENT FREE AGENTS
Tyson Chandler (restricted)
Eddy Curry (restricted)
Chris Duhon (restricted)
Lawrence Funderburke (unrestricted)
Adrian Griffin (unrestricted)
Othella Harrington (unrestricted)
Jannero Pargo (restricted)
Jared Reiner (restricted)
Frank Williams (unrestricted)
RECENT DRAFT SELECTIONS
2004: 3. Ben Gordon, Conn.
31. Jackson Vroman, Iowa State
38. Chris Duhon, Duke
2003: 7. Kirk Hinrich, Kansas
36. Mario Austin, Miss. St.
45. Matt Bonner, Florida
53. Tommy Smith, Ariz. St.
2002: 2. Jay Williams, Duke
31. Roger Mason, Virginia
44. Lonny Baxter, Maryland
2001: 4. Eddy Curry, Thornwood H.S. (Ill.)
30. Trenton Hassell, Austin Peay
45. Sean Lampley, California
2000: 4. Marcus Fizer, Iowa State
7. Chris Mihm, Texas
24. Dalibor Bagaric, Croatia
32. A.J. Guyton, Indiana
33. Jake Voskuhl, Conn.
34. Khalid El-Amin, Conn.
By Bill Evans

When the 2004-05 season began: They donít call these kids the baby Bulls for nuthiní. General Manager John Paxson added four rookies to an already young roster before the season and hoped that this would be the year that Chicago would return to the playoffs for the first time since Michael Jordan silenced the Delta Center crowd in 1998.

What happened? Nine games into the 2004-05 season, the Bulls had as many wins as Paris Hilton has Oscars. But these Bulls, unlike Paris, eventually demonstrated their talent, winning 47 games, exceeding the cumulative total of the first three seasons of the post-Jordan era. They lost a first-round series against the Eastís other up-and-comer, Washington.

Paxson, who had struck gold with Kirk Hinrich in 2003, was 4-for-4 in 2004. Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Chris Duhon and Argentinian Andres Nocioni all paid immediate dividends for the Bulls, who were 44-21 in their final 65 games to climb to fourth in the East.

Gordon, like another Bulls shooting guard drafted 20 years earlier, was the third overall pick. Like his predecessor, Gordon was at his best in crunch time, pitching in 10 or more fourth quarter points 21 times. He dazzled as the Bulls top reserve, averaging 15.1 ppg and earning NBA Top Sixth Man honors.

Deng, a 19-year-old rookie, averaged 11.7 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists. The lanky 6-8 forward joined Gordon on the All-rookie first team despite missing 21 games and the entire postseason because of injury.

As lottery picks, Gordon and Deng were expected to succeed. Duhon, a second-rounder, and Nocioni, an undrafted free agent, were pleasant surprises. Duhon started 73 games, averaging 5.9 points, 4.9 assists and 1.0 steals per night. Nocioni, who started 38 games at forward, averaged 8.4 points and 4.8 rebounds.

Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry both enjoyed their most productive seasons, and Hinrich Ė who seldom gets mentioned in same breath as draft classmates LeBron, Carmelo and Dwyane Ė is just as valuable to his team. The Bulls captain averaged 15.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 6.4 assists and 1.58 steals per game.

What now? The Bulls shouldnít expect any help via the draft, having traded both selections. That being said, another young player is the last thing these Bulls need.

Given Paxsonís track record the last two seasons, thereís not much the team does need, except medical clearance for Curry, whose enlarged heart kept him out of the playoffs.

Curry, Chandler, Duhon and Othella Harrington are all free agents, as are reserves Jannero Pargoand Adrian Griffin. The Bulls say any changes they make will be minor, and have announced their intent to match any offers for Curry, Chandler or Duhon.

Expect them to dip into the free agent market next summer, when Antonio Davisís contract expires.