This season the Bulls will pick in the second round at #38 but the second round has produced some familiar names for the Bulls.
There aren't going to be any "We're No. 38!" foam fingers produced and waved aloft this week in Chicago. But the Bulls still are hoping for some excitement—if not immediately, then in a few years—when they select No. 38 in this week's annual NBA player draft Thursday.
The Bulls do not have a first round pick. It's still possible they can trade for one. The Bulls 2021 first round pick was traded to Orlando in the Nikola Vucevic deal along with the Bulls' 2023 first round selection. The pick this year is No. 8 now for Orlando.
This is the first time since 2010 the Bulls won't be selecting in the first round of the draft and just the second time in the last 30 years. The previous management team highly valued first round selections, but the new management group headed by Arturas Karnisovas seems intent on adding primarily veteran talent.
The Bulls gave up their No. 1 selection in 2010 along with Kirk Hinrich to acquire salary cap room in hopes of signing LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh or two of the three. All three eventually teamed in Miami. In 2005, the Bulls gave up their No. 1 draft choice from the Luol Deng transaction the previous year when they swapped it for the Phoenix Suns No. 7 pick and selected Deng. The Suns used the Bulls No. 1 pick in 2005 at No. 21 for Nate Robinson. He then was traded to the Knicks.
Before then, the previous time the Bulls didn't have a No. 1 draft pick was in 1990 when then general manager Jerry Krause completed one of the best maneuvers of his tenure. At a time European players were not held in high regard, Krause used the Bulls No. 2 draft pick, then at No. 29, for Toni Kukoc, who is being enshrined this year in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. The Bulls No. 1 draft pick that year when to the New Jersey Nets for Dennis Hopson in a previous deal. The Bulls believing they were on the verge of playing for a title did not want to add more rookies at the time.
But as brilliant as the Kukoc selection became as he was a pivotal contributor to three Bulls championships, it was controversial at the time and not a great look for the team's stars, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. They condemned the selection because they wanted the money that was going to Kukoc to lure him from Europe instead being paid to the current players on the roster.
Though Krause was thinking well ahead of his time. He envisioned Kukoc as a Lakers' Showtime type player with Jordan and Pippen running the wings and Kukoc delivering the ball ahead in transition. It's a style of play that became more popular 20 years later. But with the Bulls' triangle offense at the time and increasing physical play and then the domination of Tim Duncan and David Robinson and Shaquille O'Neal and then Pau Gasol with Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, it wasn't until the recent Golden State Warriors run the open court style of play prospered. Krause was among the first to envision a group of like-sized tall players with the 6-11 Kukoc in the backcourt running and shooting. Phil Jackson eventually adopted elements of it, though Kukoc often played out of position at power forward to accommodate the three-time champion Bulls by the time he arrived in the NBA.
Here's a look both at the best No. 38 selections in Bulls history and the best picks outside the first round.
The Best No 38 picks:
Chris Duhon, 2004. The tough Duke guard played four seasons with the Bulls, starting about half his games. His was one of the more inspirational stories since he was taken the year after the Bulls picked guard Kirk Hinrich and in the same draft the Bulls selected guard Ben Gordon. So the Bulls attempted to get Duhon to spend a season in Europe in development. Duhon told the Bulls not only wouldn't he do that, but he was going to end up starting. And he did, starting 73 and playing all 82. He was about six foot and more of a combo guard, but he was tough and physical. Though not a great shooter, he set a Bulls three-point record making eight in a game his rookie season and was a major factor off the bench for the so called Baby Bulls when they swept the defending champion Heat in the playoffs. He signed a free agent deal with the Knicks in 2008.
Daniel Gafford, 2019. Gafford toggled between the G-league and the Bulls as rookie, but showed in cameo moments quick twitch, jumping jack athletic ability in blocking shots, averaging at least a block per game for the Bulls. He had a game with six blocks as a rookie and in his first game playing more than five minutes of fill-in time he scored 21 points. He became part of the major roster reshuffling with the trades for Nikola Vucevic and Daniel Theis and became a favorite for the Washington Wizards. He averaged 10.1 points and 5.6 rebounds in 23 games off the bench for the Wizards and 11.8 with two starts in the Wizards first round playoff defeat. The only other time the Bulls had the No. 38 pick, they selected Jordan Bell in 2017 for the Golden State Warriors in a cash transaction. Bell played for four teams in four seasons and finished last season on a G-league deal.
The Bulls best picks after the first round: Toni Kukoc, No. 29 in 1990. It was then barely a second round pick, No. 2 in the second round that the Bulls acquired for trading Dave Corzine after the 1988-89 season. DePaul's Corzine had been much maligned in Chicago when the Bulls acquired him for the popular Artis Gilmore. Kukoc was one of the most celebrated European players of all time at a time when NBA teams didn't have high regard for European basketball. Though Kukoc's Yugoslavian teams were defeating the top American collegiate teams so often in world competitions that the Olympic committee eventually asked the NBA to supply teams starting with the 1992 Dream Team. Kukoc finally came to the Bulls for the 1993-94 season when Michael Jordan retired. Kukoc was named Sixth Man of the Year for the 1996 Bulls champions, though in those three championship seasons he started more than 82 games combined. He made some of the most famous shots in Bulls history. There was the Pippen 1.8-second walkout against New York, a closer against the Indiana Pacers after Reggie MIller was bowing in what he thought was victory, crucial shots that kept the Bulls from losing Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals and big shots in the 1997 and 1998 Finals. In seven seasons for the Bulls, Kukoc averaged 14.1 points with 217 starts.
Norm Van Lier, No. 34 in 1969. The Bulls made a mistake they rectified after two seasons. Always looking then for a center, the Bulls drafted the 6-1 Van Lier and immediately traded him to the Cincinnati Royals for center Walt Wesley. Wesley played one season for the Bulls and was let go in expansion. In his second season with Cincinnati, the feisty Van Lier led the league in assists. But the notoriously penurious Royals made him available. The Bulls reacquired him in 1971 for center Jim Fox and Van Lier went on to team with Jerry Sloan to become the most fierce and feared backcourt in the NBA. He helped lead the Bulls to a run of averaging more than 50 wins over five seasons and a seventh game conference finals loss in 1975. Van Lier played seven seasons for the Bulls and in unofficial statistics led the league in confrontations that made that team one of the toughest in the league. Van Lier later became a longtime Bulls broadcaster and community activist and favorite.
Clifford Ray, No. 40 in 1971. The defensive center went on to average double figure rebounds for three seasons with the Bulls and rank among the league leaders in rebounds per minute both coming off the bench and starting when Tom Boerwinkle missed most of a season. Those Bulls, however, kept losing in the playoffs to teams with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar or Wilt Chamberlain. So before the 1974-75 season, Ray was traded to the Warriors for elite big man Nate Thurmond. Thurmond recorded the first quadruple double on NBA history soon after joining the Bulls. But he was in decline and Ray helped the Warriors defeat the Bulls in the 1975 playoffs and win the 1975 NBA championship.
Pete Myers, No. 120 in 1986. The sixth round draft pick played his rookie season with the Bulls and then bounced around to four other NBA teams and to Italy before returning to the Bulls in 1993-94. He played a vital role in that near miracle season after Michael Jordan retired for the first time, starting 81 games and even beating out high priced free agent Ron Harper for a starting backcourt position with his relentless defense. With Jordan's return to the Bulls, shooting guard Myers signed with Charlotte. He returned to the Bulls as an assistant coach and served three games as an interim head coach.
Jack Haley, No. 79 in 1987. I never remembered someone more excited to make the team. There were more productive low round picks, like Mark Landsberger, Trenton Hassell, Rod Higgins, Roger Mason and Erwin Mueller. Even free agent bust Howard Porter. Haley was a bench towel waving leader who played two seasons for the Bulls and got one start before playing for three other teams and then returning to the Bulls for the 1995-96 season. He played in just one game that historic season, the final in the regular season. But behind the scenes he was vital in remaining close with Dennis Rodman and making sure the hard partying Rodman arrived on time for the games, which wouldn't have been possible without Haley.