Michael Jordan

Who makes the Bulls' Mt. Rushmore of draft picks

The Bulls have had several draft picks make huge impacts for the team, including the GOAT


Sometimes, like in 1984, the NBA Draft can be memorable. Sometimes, like in 2000, it can be the opposite.

In the first instance, the Chicago Bulls selected Michael Jeffrey Jordan with the third overall pick, a move that eventually transformed the franchise into a global brand.

In the latter, they drafted---deep breath here---Marcus Fizer, Chris Mihm (immediately traded for Jamal Crawford), Dalibor Bagaric, A.J. Guyton, Jake Voshkul and Khalid El-Amin. Not only did world recognition not follow, but neither did NBA domination.

Ah, the fickle nature of drafts. Teams spend months scouting, researching, probing into players’ pasts and still the process is an elusive, inexact science. But sometimes, you strike gold.

With apologies to Joakim Noah, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson, here is the Bulls’ Mt. Rushmore of draft picks.

Michael Jordan, 1984

The Houston Rockets selected Hakeem Olajuwon with the first overall pick. The Portland Trail Blazers, who already employed Clyde Drexler, drafted Sam Bowie at No. 2. And the rest is NBA history.

Then-Bulls general manager Rod Thorn drafted Jordan out of North Carolina, where he already had sank an NCAA-title winning jump shot and played for the legendary Dean Smith.

Jordan merely went on to win Rookie of the Year, five most valuable player awards, six NBA Finals most valuable player awards, 10 scoring championships, a defensive player of the year award and enter the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. His standing as the centerpiece of the Bulls’ dynasty that produced six NBA championships in eight seasons immortalized him for all-time with a statue inside the United Center atrium.

And his marketability and pioneering status in sports marketing helped cement the Bulls as a global brand for decades to come. Not bad for the third overall pick.

Horace Grant, 1987

One could quibble that Noah’s heart-and-soul style for the near-miss Tom Thibodeau-coached teams in the 2010s carried more franchise impact, particularly since Noah spent nine seasons in Chicago while Grant only stayed for seven.

But Grant not only served as the head of the snake for assistant coach Johnny Bach’s Doberman defense during the Bulls’ first three-peat, but he also represented one of Jerry Krause’s greatest nights as general manager. Before selecting Grant, the rugged power forward, with the 10th overall pick, Krause engineered a draft-night trade with the Seattle SuperSonics for the draft rights to Scottie Pippen.

Not a bad overall haul.

Grant and Pippen immediately formed a strong bond both on and off the court. And while Pippen lasted for the entire dynasty, winning six championships, Grant’s defensive versatility, rebounding and reliable midrange jumper proved so vital to the first three-peat. Plus, he rocked awesome sports goggles long before they became the norm.

Toni Kukoč, 1990

While Kukoč largely earned Hall of Fame enshrinement by virtue of his overall impact on the game that included his sterling international career, his role in the Bulls’ second three-peat is undeniable. That Krause drafted him in the second round proved the executive’s shrewdness and attention to detail, leaving no stone unturned.

Kukoč played three more seasons internationally before coming to the Bulls in 1993, shortly after Jordan’s first retirement. And he quickly won the respect of even the most skeptical of teammates in Pippen, who initially viewed Kukoč as Krause’s pet project, with his combination of selflessness, skill and versatility.

Kukoč earned NBA Sixth Man of the Year honors following the 1995-96 season. And the Bulls don’t win Game 7 of the 1998 Eastern Conference finals against the Indiana Pacers without Kukoc’s performance, which featured huge 3-pointers in the third quarter of a taut affair.

Kukoč’s ability to handle any role, whether it be starting or coming off the bench, and penchant for hitting big shots in crucial moments underscored his Bulls’ tenure. It’s hard to find such an important contributor that deep in the draft, but Krause did and Kukoč delivered.

Derrick Rose, 2008

The Bulls overcame 1.7 percent odds to shockingly win the 2008 NBA Draft Lottery. Their prize? A hometown hero in Rose.

Rose won Rookie of the Year honors and eventually became the youngest most valuable player in NBA history when he captured the award following the 2010-11 season at age 22. That’s the season in which he helped lead the Bulls to the Eastern Conference finals against LeBron James and the Heat.

The No. 1 pick isn’t always a slam dunk selection. Some draft prognosticators lobbied for the Bulls to select smooth scorer Michael Beasley. Instead, then-general manager John Paxson selected Rose, who starred locally in high school at Simeon Career Academy before helping lead Memphis to the NCAA title game in his lone collegiate season.

Rose’s combination of speed and strength in a point guard body proved electrifying. His meteoric rise during his first four seasons, two of which featured the Bulls leading the NBA in regular-season victories, only made his fall from grace following a torn anterior cruciate ligament and successive knee injuries all the more painful. But he provided countless memories before then that will endure for Bulls’ fans for all-time.

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