A look back on the past 15 years of Bulls draft night
Since Paxson became general manager in 2003, the Bulls have selected four players who have become All-Stars: Rose, Deng, Noah, and Butler
It's an important day for the Bulls Thursday. The Bulls have the No. 7 selection—at least for now—in the NBA draft. It comes following a disappointing season that also became a race for position in this draft. The Bulls earned that with a 27-55 record and 11 losses in their last 14 games.
The hope within the organization is that with this selection and any draft deals following last year's additions of Lauri Markkanen, Kris Dunn and Zach LaVine, who rarely played together, the Bulls can begin a move back toward respectability and competitiveness.
Can the Bulls do so with the addition of the selections from this year's draft? The Bulls also have No. 22 from the trade of Nikola Mirotic.
Although there always is debate about a team's reliability and perspicacity in the draft, the Bulls actually have been one of the more successful franchises in the draft during the tenure of basketball operations chief John Paxson considering their annual poistioning, which has been in the lottery just twice since the Derrick Rose draft in 2008.
The Bulls since Paxson became general manager in 2003 have selected four players who have become All-Stars, Rose, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler. The Bulls also have selected all-defensive team players in Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson, a Sixth Man in Ben Gordon and a first team all-rookie player in Lauri Markkanen.
There have been some misses, most notably with Tyrus Thomas in 2006. But the Bulls have had more hits than misses. Here's a look at the Bulls draft history in the last 15 years:
2003: Kirk Hinrich (7)
This was a success amidst the initial disappointment of Dwyane Wade going to Miami at No. 5. The Bulls were the first team taking Wade that seriously and all indications throughout the run up to the draft was he would fall to No. 7. In the last days before the draft, Heat staffers persuaded Pat Riley to change his mind and select Wade. Hinrich played 11 seasons for the Bulls and ranks among franchise leaders in points, steals and assists and is first all-time in threes made. Immediately after were T.J. Ford, Michael Sweetney, Jarvis Hayes and Mickael Pietrus, the latter two the Bulls other possibilities along with Hinrich.
2004: Ben Gordon (3) & Luol Deng (7)
This was a big time success, consecutive drafts that built the foundation of a 50-win type team. Gordon became one of the top clutch shooters in the NBA and Sixth Man of the Year as a rookie. He should have been Rookie of the Year as well instead of college teammate Emeka Okafor. The Bulls purchased the Suns No. 7 overall pick and added their No. 1 in 2005 to make the deal for Deng. Deng developed into one of the top two-way players in the NBA, an All-Star and all-defensive team player for consecutive home run drafts.
The Bulls didn't have their pick, which went to the Suns. But because of the team's improvement from the drafts of Hinrich, Gordon and Deng, the Bulls pick fell to No. 21. The Suns used it for Nate Robinson and then traded him to the New York Knicks.
2006: Tyrus Thomas (4) & Thabo Sefolosha (13)
The only real draft failure in the last 15 years. It wasn't considered a great draft with Andrea Bargnani being the No. 1 pick in the draft. The Bulls had the No. 2 pick from the Knicks signing of free agent Eddy Curry. The Bulls were uncertain about the next major prospect, LaMarcus Aldridge. The Bulls didn't believe Aldridge because of a lack of athleticism and uncertain commitment could be a major difference maker. They weren't wrong about that. Aldridge in 12 seasons has only been out of the first round in the playoffs three times. He helped push his way out of Portland over rumored jealousy of Brandon Roy. When the Spurs made the conference finals and were swept by the Warriors in 2017, Aldridge's only conference finals appearance, Aldridge complained to the Spurs about his secondary status to Kawhi Leonard. Aldridge emerged again last season with Leonard out, but the Spurs were out in the first round again. Though Aldridge was a six-time All-Star. So the Bulls took a chance on a super athlete in Tyrus Thomas. The traded down to add Viktor Khryapa, No. 2 for No. 4 and Khryapa, an intriguing wing player. The plan blew up with Thomas' mental fragility, erratic behavior and immaturity and Khryapa going back to play in Russia. It really was the only time in the last 15 years the Bulls drafted a big time boom or bust player. He busted.
The Bulls also had No. 16 from their pick. They sent cash and a second rounder to Philadelphia to move up to No. 13 and select Thabo Sefolosha. Philadelphia used No. 13 for Rodney Carney. Sefolosha proved a good defensive wing player and had a long NBA career, but was traded in his third season. Carney had a limited NBA run and played most of his career overseas.
2007: Joakim Noah (9)
The Bulls still were a contending team under the deft coaching of Scott Skiles and won 49 games. From the Curry signing, the Bulls also received the rights to swap draft picks with the Knicks. So the Bulls in another coup got No. 9 from the Knicks for their No. 23. The Knicks did well with DePaul's Wilson Chandler, but the Bulls hit the jackpot with Noah, who went on to play in several All-Star games, be named NBA Defensive Player of the Year and one season top five in the league MVP voting. Noah became one of the all-time fan favorites in franchise history and one of the league's elite competitors. A big time draft win.
2008: Derrick Rose (1)
It looked like it would be the draft that made the Bulls a potential champion. It was the great lottery luck as the Bulls with the ninth best odds landed the No. 1 pick. It also wasn't the no brainer it became in a few seasons when Rose was named Most Valuable Player. Many teams and even many media members and fans wanted the high scoring Michael Beasley, who was likened to Kevin Durant. The debate was intense for the Bulls as well before settling on Rose, who wasn't a high scorer his one season at the U. of Memphis. Rose's rookie season saw one of the great first round playoff series in NBA history with the multiple overtime games against Boston and then in 2010 and 2011 before Rose's knee injury in the 2012 playoffs, the Bulls had the best record in the NBA in consecutive seasons. It could have been the start of a dynasty.
2009: James Johnson (16) & Taj Gibson (26)
Though Johnson didn't truly develop until recent seasons with Toronto and Miami, the Bulls hit it big with Gibson at the bottom of the first round. He also became an all-defensive player and frequent starting power forward, a physical, hard working, elite teammate, a rare high level talent with a low first round pick. He became probably the sixth or seventh best player in that draft. It was another draft hit for the Bulls. The Bulls got Johnson with their pick after falling back to .500 that season. The Gibson pick came from a trade of Thabo Sefolosha for Denver's first round pick.
The Bulls didn't end up with a pick. The Bucks acquired a swap of first round picks from the John Salmons trade. The Bucks exercised the swap and selected Larry Saunders at No. 15. The Bulls thus got No. 17. But in attempting to clear salary cap space for free agents, which became Carlos Boozer among others after a bid for LeBron James failed, the Bulls traded the pick to Washington along with Kirk Hinrich. The Wizards used the pick for backup center Kevin Seraphin. Though the Bulls did not get James and Chris Bosh, the group they put together with Kyle Korver, C.J. Watson and Kurt Thomas won 62 games.
2011: Nikola Mirotic (23) & Jimmy Butler (30)
Arguably one of the best drafts in franchise history, though more because the players came from the bottom of the first round. Butler went on to become a starting All-Star and one of the top two-way players in the NBA, an all-defensive player, high scorer and Olympian. Mirotic was one of the top young players in Europe. The Bulls like with the Deng deal in 2004 paid cash for draft rights. The Bulls traded the rights to No. 28 pick Norris Cole and cash to move up to No. 23 to select Mirotic. Mirotic was runner up for Rookie of the Year, though he was traded this season for what became the rights to the No. 22 pick in this draft.
2012: Marquis Teague (29)
In conventional wisdom, this is often regarded as a failure draft. And though Teague proved a bust, it's hardly unusual at No. 29 in the draft. Teague played a season plus for the Bulls, was traded and then was out of the NBA. He was a classic example of a player whose career was shortened by leaving school too soon. Plus, it made sense for the Bulls to select a highly regarded college point guard with Rose injured and likely out the coming season. Though many point to Draymond Green at No. 35 in that draft as the reason for failure, Green was the Warriors' third pick in that draft and a true outlier, overlooked by everyone, some twice. In fact, almost all of the dozen picks before Teague in that draft already are out of the NBA. Yes, the Bulls got Toni Kukoc as a future pick with No. 29 in 1990. But in the last 20 years at No. 29 since journeyman Nazr Mohammed in 1998, 90 percent of the No. 29 picks were busts. There was one All-Star in Josh Howard, one time before a knee injury ended his career. The Bulls took a swing and missed that year, which is what most teams do and virtually every one misses when having No. 29. In the 1990s when the Bulls were selecting in the last one or two in the first round, they missed in eight straight drafts with Dickey Simpkins and Jason Caffey their best selections.
2013: Tony Snell (20)
It wasn't a good draft as the Bulls did better than the No. 1 Cavs, who took Anthony Bennett. There have been two All-Stars from that draft, Victor Oladipo on his third team and Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Jazz scored at No. 26 with Rudy Gobert, though it was a top 10 of busts that included Nerlens Noel, Cody Zeller, Ben McLemore and Trey Burke. Snell had some possibilities, though never proved engaged enough with the Bulls. He still doesn't seem so, though he has been a starter with the Milwaukee Bucks. He proved talented enough for the bottom third of the draft.
2014: Doug McDermott (11)
It did seem like the right move at the time and was endorsed by management and the coaching staff with internal demands to get more shooting. McDermott was one of the best ever shooters in the NCAA and considered higher level than Kyle Korver. The Bulls moved up with the Nos. 16 and 19 picks, which Denver used for Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris. McDermott never could become settled with the Bulls and was traded along with Gibson to the Thunder for Cameron Payne. McDermott since has played for the Knicks and Mavericks. Harris and Nurkic became starters with Denver, but the Nuggets still are struggling to even reach the playoffs and neither is projected to be All-Star level. This draft didn't work out in the Bulls favor, though at the time it seemed to all as a potential coup given McDermott's much higher ranking compared to Nurkic and Harris. Sometimes the mock drafts miss by quite a bit. But not one of the Bulls best.
2015: Bobby Portis (22)
It has proven an excellent selection, though more so recently and especially after Nikola Mirotic was traded. Portis has emerged as a potential Sixth Man of the Year candidate, a capable rebounder and physical player with an improved jump shot who would be a rotation player anywhere. The players picked ahead of him, Rashad Vaughn, Sam Dekker, Jerian Grant, Delon Wright and Justin Anderson have not performed as well. There were none selected after Portis who have done as well. So despite a third tier of the first round selection, the Bulls did well.
2016: Denzel Valentine (14)
Again, it wasn't a very good draft with Gorgeous Papagiannis selected just ahead of Valentine and right after Juan Hernangomez, Guerschon Yabusele, Wade Baldwin, Henry Ellison, Malik Beasley, Caris LaVert, DeAndre Bembry, Malachi Richardson, Ante Zizic, should I go on…..Valentine has become one of the team's best three-point shooters and averaged double figures last season for a good pick in a bad draft.
2017: Lauri Markkanen (7)
Looking like a potential grand slam. The Bulls acquired the No. 7 pick in the draft from the Timberwolves as part of the Jimmy Butler trade. Markannen made all-rookie first team and is looking like a star of the future for the Bulls. The pick the Bulls gave up in that draft was used by Minnesota for Justin Patton, who was injured and did not play.
Mohamed Bamba? Trae Young? Michael Porter? Wendell Carter? Mikal Bridges? Kevin Knox? Collin Sexton? The Bulls selection likely will come from among that group of players if there is not a trade of the draft pick. The Bulls history in the draft under John Paxson suggests they will get a high level contributing player since most Bulls drafts in the last 15 years have been grade A or B.
Got a question for Sam?
Submit your question to Sam at email@example.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.