It was during one month in October just before the start of the 1986-87 season that general manager Jerry Krause built the Bulls into a champion. It would take almost five years before the Bulls made it to the NBA Finals and then a championship. But it was those few weeks in October that assured the team’s future with the draft picks in the middle of the lottery, where the Bulls figure to be this season.
Here’s a look at how the Bulls did picking between 6 and 9 in previous NBA drafts.
Meanwhile, it was one of those Krause October 1986 transactions that yielded the Bulls a first round selection, No. 6 in the 1989 draft. The Bulls would use it for Stacey King, now a Bulls broadcaster. And while King did not reach the distinction he produced in college, he did become a valuable reserve for three Bulls championship teams.
King was one of two No. 6 picks in the draft the Bulls have had in their franchise history. The other was Orlando Woolridge in 1981, who would figure in that October surprise. In fact, it was refusing to match the New Jersey Nets free agent offer sheet for Woolridge that netted the Bulls the No.6 pick they would use for King.
Woolridge, a 6-9 forward from Notre Dame drafted in 1981, should have been a brilliant, athletic complement to Michael Jordan. But he would be felled by drug problems with the Bulls and after five seasons in Chicago allowed to sign with the Nets for the compensation of the first round pick and two seconds. Woolridge averaged more than 20 points his last two seasons with the Bulls, 22.9 in Jordan’s rookie season and 20.7 in 1985-86 when Jordan missed most of the season with a broken foot. Woolridge was a spectacular dunker and great practitioner of the alley-oop dunk, though he didn’t develop much of a shot until later in his career. He played with six NBA teams after the Bulls, was suspended by the league for drug use, and he also played overseas.
King was one of the top collegiate scorers in a wide open U. of Oklahoma game, averaging 26 points and 10 rebounds as a senior. But he was blocked in Chicago from a starting role by Horace Grant. He played five seasons for the Bulls, averaging 6.6 points, and was traded to Minnesota for Luc Longley. Longley became the starting center on the second Bulls championship triple.
But it was that deft maneuvering with draft picks in that five to 10 range, where the Bulls potentially sit this season, that enabled Krause to construct the tower around the foundation of Jordan.
What started the events that October was Bulls center Juwan Oldham signing a free agent offer sheet with the Knicks. The Bulls had no intention of retaining the shot blocking Oldham, but they wanted to get something in return. He had been with losing Bulls teams for four years. The pivotal element was obtaining the draft pick from the Knicks. It was a more principled way of building a team instead of the intentional losing that has gone on in recent years around the NBA.
The Knicks had traded Chicagoan Darrell Walker to the Denver Nuggets for their draft pick, which became No. 8. So the Bulls swapped Oldham for that pick in the 1987 draft. Meanwhile, Seattle had traded Gerald Henderson to the Knicks for their No. 5 draft pick, the Knicks looking quickly to put together a competitive team now that they had Patrick Ewing and Bill Cartwright. The Knicks got No. 18 in exchange and used it for guard Mark Jackson.
The Bulls had sniffed out Scottie Pippen from little Central Arkansas U. for that 1987 draft. But Pippen’s stock began to soar with impressive redraft camp performances. Krause then used the No. 8 pick he’d acquired for Oldham to induce Seattle.
The Supersonics wanted Georgetown guard Reggie Williams with their No. 5 pick. The Bulls also had their own pick, which was No. 10. Seattle wasn’t interested, but told Krause if Williams were not available at No. 5, they would swap their No. 5 for the Bulls No. 8 that came from the Oldham deal along with a future second round pick. The Sacramento Kings at No. 6 were all in on Pippen and desperately trying to trade up to get him as well. The Los Angeles Clippers selected Williams. So the Supersonics agreed to the trade for the Bulls No. 8 pick they had acquired from the Knicks.
The Bulls selected Pippen with No. 5. Seattle took Olden Polynice with the Bulls pick at No. 8. The Bulls then used their own pick at No. 10 for Grant. Reggie Miller went next at No. 11.
The Bulls were able to move up two spots in the 1985 draft —Krause’s first as general manager—from No. 11 to No. 9 to get Charles Oakley by swapping picks with Cleveland and giving Cleveland guard Ennis Whatley. Oakley then was traded to New York for Cartwright in a swap of first round picks, the Bulls using theirs for Will Perdue. Thus the Bulls were able with those transactions and the draft picks to fill out their championship starting lineup and much of the bench that became so important in winning the playoff series against Detroit in 1991 and going on to three titles.
Thus there is much a team can do not only with players selected at the top of the lottery but also with draft picks in the second five of the draft:
No. 7. 2017. Lauri Markkanen. The Finnish forward was acquired through the Jimmy Butler trade when the Bulls swapped their No. 16 pick to Minnesota. Markkanen was the Bulls leading scorer and rebounder among regulars who played all season as a rookie. He set NBA rookie three-point shooting records and was considered an NBA rising star.
No. 7. 2003. Kirk Hinrich. This was supposed to be the Dwyane Wade draft. The local kid from Marquette had a breakout NCAA tournament, but few still saw any great stardom. It was the LeBron/Carmelo draft with this Darko curiosity. Pat Riley in Miami always believed you build with a big man and seemed intent on taking Chris Kaman, which would have pushed Wade to seventh. The Bulls were certain they’d get Wade even up to draft day. Riley was persuaded only on draft day by his staff to go for Wade. The Bulls were in a late scramble with staff split among Hinrich, shooter Jarvis Hayes and defender Michael Pietrus. John Paxson made the right call with his first draft choice as GM.
No. 7. 2000. Jamal Crawford. That draft was the start of the departure of Elton Brand. The Bulls used their No. 4 pick for Marcus Fizer and then from the Toni Kukoc trade acquired the Washington pick, No. 7. They ended up flipping it with Cleveland (Chris Mihm) right behind at No. 8 to take Jamal Crawford. Crawford had ACL surgery after his first season, but then came on fast to average 17.3 points his fourth season with the Bulls with a 50-point game. Crawford then was traded to the Knicks for a package led by Othella Harrington.
No. 7. 1982. Quintin Dailey. Probably the most embarrassing pick in franchise history. Dailey was a talented shooting guard, averaging more than 25 his last season in college at the U. of San Francisco, powerful with a good touch. But he pleaded guilty to assault just days before the draft, causing the National Organization for Women to picket the Bulls opening game in protest. Dailey was also suspended multiple times for drug problems. He played four years for the Bulls and then for the Clippers and Supersonics in a 10-year career.
No. 9. 2007. Joakim Noah. The pick used to select Noah was acquired in the Eddy Curry trade. Noah went on to become a multiple All-Star, the Defensive Player of the Year, and the heart of soul of several Bulls teams and one of the most popular players in franchise history.
No. 9. 1986. Brad Sellers. The seven footer came along decades too soon. Michael Jordan was persuaded the Bulls should have drafted ACC player Johny Dawkins; little known Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was condemning the Bulls for not taking Dawkins. Sellers was a big guy who could shoot from outside, even from three-point range. But the Bulls were demanding he be a physical, inside player. He lost his starting job after two seasons to Scottie Pippen and then was traded after three seasons to Seattle for the draft pick the Bulls used for B.J. Armstrong.
No. 9. 1978. Reggie Theus. One of the best picks in franchise history. The high scoring Theus went on to make two All-Star teams with the Bulls and was runner up for Rookie of the Year. The colorful Theus became one of the team’s most popular players, a frequent participant in Chicago nightlife who liked near Rush Street downtown and was often known as Rush Street Reggie. He averaged 23.8 in the 1982-83 season. But he had a run-in with coach Kevin Loughery, was benched in the 1983-84 season and then as the Bulls looked to lose in an attempt to draft Akeem Olajuwon he was traded to Kansas City for Steve Johnson. After six seasons with the Bulls, he played seven more NBA season for four teams and averaged 18.5 points for his career.