The best No. 4 selections in NBA Draft history

Sam Smith also examines the Bulls' history with the No. 4 pick.
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later
Draft 2020 | AT&T Bulls Draft Coverage

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Sam Smith goes through the Bulls history with the No. 4 pick in the NBA Draft and looks back at the best players ever selected in the spot.

The 2020 NBA Draft for the Bulls could be called the homonym draft.

The Bulls have the number four pick. Which seems like a choice among probably four players for the team's future ‘fore the regular season finally begins with the golf season and shouts of fore finally fading in the distance.

So will it be among these four? Deni Avdija, Obi Toppin, Onyeka Okongwu or LaMelo Ball?

Or among these four? Tyrese Haliburton, Killian Hayes, Kira Lewis or Isaac Okoro?

Spelled differently. But sounding the same, at least in potential impact.

Four score and seven days ago, it seems, we've been speculating about these similar prospects. And while the basketball world will in the long run little note nor long remember this draft, there still is the great task remaining for the player and by the player to consecrate the draft decision and not make the No. 4 draft pick another disappointment.

At least produce a civil choice.

The Bulls technically have had the No. 4 pick in the NBA draft four times, a fifth time if you count the 2006 draft swap that netted them the No. 4 selection for Tyrus Thomas. The Bulls would rather not remember that decision, which had them trading their No. 2 pick to Portland for No. 4 and Viktor Khryapa. It seemed like a good idea at the time since the Bulls needed the super athlete type like Thomas was supposed to be while scouting reports indicated LaMarcus Alridge was too immobile for NBA longevity. It's why scouting isn't science.

Though critics frequently point to that misstep, the Bulls actually have been clever in the Draft even when they didn't experience good fortune and get Derrick Rose. Jimmy Butler was selected 30th and Taj Gibson, Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic were selected in the 20s. They also got Joakim Noah at No. 9, multiple All-Stars out of the top five, which isn't common. But sports is a "what have you done for me today" business. The team's recent selections, Coby White, Wendell Carter and Lauri Markkanen, were essentially the correct picks for the slot. The team just didn't get lucky in the lottery. We'll see if they do this time with the move from a projected No. 7 to No. 4.

Though four hasn't been Chicago's lucky draft number.

Tom Boerwinkle

1968: Tom Boerwinkle. The likable seven footer who later became a Bulls broadcaster was the most unappreciated among the early 70s Bulls who were oh-so-close to excellence. They had 1965 No. 4 pick Jerry Sloan (by Baltimore to the Bulls in the 1966 expansion draft), Norm Van Lier, Chet Walker and Bob Love, all All-Stars other than Boerwinkle for a perennial contender that averaged more than 50 wins for five tough seasons. Boerwinkle was one of the best passing centers ever, a screen setter and rebounder who often was condemned for who he was not, Wilt and Kareem, the centers whose teams kept beating the Bulls. Finally the Bulls traded for Nate Thurmond to counter the center Goliaths. But Thurmond was past his prime and traded. Back went Boerwinkle to starting without complaint. Though undervalued, Boerwinkle was the must successful No 4 pick in franchise history. There were no All-Stars selected after Boerwinkle, who was No. 4 after Elvin Hayes, Wes Unseld and Bob Kaufman, who all made All-Star teams.

2001: Eddy Curry. He coulda made the Bulls a contender. He coulda made himself somebody. No, Eddy Curry wasn't a bum. He was just a too nice kid who probably would have been happier if he didn't grow into one of the most remarkable seven foot bodies ever. Curry was light on his feet like a ballet dancer or acrobat with soft hands and nimble moves. He just didn't particularly like basketball. The Harvey native was Jerry Krause's next great plan with fellow 2001 draft pick, seven footer Tyson Chandler. But as high school kids they weren't ready for the NBA and after four seasons finally on the verge of a breakout, Curry suffered a heart scare that led to his trade to the Knicks. He played three good seasons in New York before various maladies on and off the court prematurely ended his career after playing in 26 games his last four seasons in the NBA. He played briefly in Asia in later years. Kwame Brown was the No. 1 pick in Curry's draft. There were six played selected after Curry who became All-Stars, Joe Johnson, Zach Randolph, Gerald Wallace, Tony Parker, Gilbert Arenas and Mehmet Okur. The last two were second rounders.

2000: Marcus Fizer. That draft was the beginning of the end of Krause's run with the Bulls as he used all his draft capital, six picks in that draft led by Fizer at No. 4. It was the most curious pick of all because the Bulls still had Elton Brand, a similar player who was far superior. Fizer was an undersized scoring forward like Brand, but coached in college by then Bulls coach Tim Floyd, who was influential in the selection. Fizer played four seasons for the Bulls off the bench and was basically out of the NBA after one season with the Bucks. He played a few seasons in the D-league and then in Puerto Rico, Asia, Israel and South America. The 2000 draft was one of the weakest ever with the only All-Stars after Fizer being Jamaal Magloire and second rounder Michael Redd.

1980: Kelvin Ransey. You don't remember him because he was traded on draft day to Portland for the rights to the No. 10 pick, which the Bulls used for Ronnie Lester. Point guard Lester actually might have had a great career, but he suffered a serious knee injury in the NCAA tournament. The Bulls still took him and he played off the bench four seasons with knee problems before two seasons with the Lakers. He then became a respected league executive. Ransey had a better run and was first team all-rookie, but also was out of the league in six seasons. All-Stars Andrew Toney, Kiki Vandeweghe and Jeff Ruland were selected after Ransey with Toney right before Lester.

Tyrus Thomas

2006: Tyrus Thomas. Selected at No. 4 after the Bulls moved down from No. 2 as Aldridge made seven All-Star teams. The Bulls 2004, '05 and '06 teams with Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Luol Deng and Andres Nocioni had been a 47-win team said to be just in need of one great athletic wing player. Thus the move for Thomas since the Bulls had Curry and Chandler with Khryapa considered a reliable reserve who was starting for Portland. But the rural Louisiana Thomas at 19 seemed overwhelmed by the NBA and Chicago. He was traded after four seasons and quickly drifted out of the NBA. He later briefly played in the D-league and Germany. It was another weak draft with All-Stars after No. 4 being Brandon Roy, Rajon Rondo, Kyle Lowry and second rounder Paul Millsap. Roy and Aldridge were the only All-Stars selected in the top 20.

The fourth position in the NBA draft also hasn't been a sweet spot in the league's history. In the last decade, only Kristaps Porzingis was selected for an All-Star team. He was injured and didn't play and later traded to Dallas. Memphis' Jarren Jackson Jr. is highly regarded, but has had injury problems. Aaron Gordon from 2014 has been the most reliable No. 4 pick this decade with Wesley Johnson and Dragan Bender out of the NBA and Josh Jackson and Dion Waiters barely hanging on.

Here are the best players in NBA history from the No. 4 draft position:

Dave Cowens, 1970. The agile big man was a way ahead of his time 6-9 center who led the Celtics to a championship return in the late 1970s with hustle and speed. He began to change the position that had been limited to giants operating in the post as a versatile scorer and defender.

Dolph Schayes, 1948. One of the first great big men of the game and subject of one of the early bidding wars when he was drafted in the old Basketball Association of America before the merger that created the NBA. He became a 12-time All-Star and champion teaming with Johnny Kerr in Syracuse.

Chris Paul

Chris Paul, 2005. Though never with a title team, he's been one of the elite point guards for more than a decade. He's a 10-time All-Star who resurrected his career last season in Oklahoma City as an MVP candidate.

Jerry Sloan, 1965. The original Mr. Bull was a two-time All-Star and eight-time all-defense player who was regarded as one of the toughest ever to play the game. He went on to a Hall of Fame coaching career with Utah.

Lou Hudson, 1966. He was the original Sweet Lou, a super athletic shooting guard who had a six year NBA run averaging more than 25 points per game making six All-Star teams.

Russell Westbrook, 2008. One of the most celebrated and polarizing players in the NBA, a triple double record breaker and nine-time All-Star known for his fabulous athletic and erratic play as he led the league in scoring twice.

Dikembe Mutombo

Dikembe Mutombo, 1991. The Hall of Famer played for six teams, had his jersey retired by two and may be the greatest humanitarian ever to play in the NBA in building a hospital in Africa. He was an eight-time All-Star and four-time Defensive Player of the Year whose colorful finger wagging about blocks became an NBA favorite.

Chris Bosh, 2003. His career ended prematurely after the discovery of a blood clot. He was an 11-time All-Star who played for two Miami title teams with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, primarily as a supporting player with excellent shooting range while being on the leading edge of modernizing the big man stretch forward game.

Rasheed Wallace, 1995. An ambivalent figure whose anger often matched his talent. He was one of the most penalized players in NBA history with records for ejections and technical fouls while also being a four-time All-Star and a champion with the Detroit Pistons.

Alvan Adams, 1975. A perimeter shooting center in the mold of Jack Sikma who was an All-Star and Rookie of the Year averaging almost 18 points his first five seasons.

Micheal Ray Richardson, 1978. An incredible two-way guard who was a four-time All-Star, all-defense and three-time steals leader before being banned from the NBA for drug use and going on to multiple championships and All-Star recognition overseas.

Glen Rice, 1989. A three-time All-Star and All-Star game MVP who was one of the elite shooters in the game.

Jamal Mashburn, 1993. A scoring forward who became one of the youngest ever to score 50 in a game and averaged almost 20 points over a dozen years in the NBA.

Xavier McDaniel, 1985. A tough, physical forward who averaged 20 points his first six years in the NBA with an All-Star appearance.

Stephon Marbury

Stephon Marbury, 1996. A two-time All-Star scoring point guard who went on to a legendary career as the greatest player in the Chinese league.

Sam Perkins, 1984. One of the best big man shooters who played 17 years in the NBA and more than 160 playoff games.

Lamar Odom, 1999. A 6-10 player who had the skills of a point guard was a Sixth Man winner and two-time champion eventually felled by drug issues.

Dick Barnett, 1959. A two-time NBA champion and champion in the rival ABL who teamed with Walt Frazier on legendary New York Knicks teams of the early 1970s. Antawn Jamison, 1998. A two-time All-Star forward who also was a Sixth Man winner.

Byron Scott, 1983. A three-time champion with the Lakers who teamed in the backcourt with Magic Johnson on one of the elite teams in league history.

Chuck Person, 1986. One of the top shooting forwards of the era who played 17 years.

Got a question for Sam?

Submit your question to Sam at asksam@bulls.com

The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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