In the wake of Kerry Wood announcing his retirement from the Chicago Cubs, fans have engaged in a number of discussions surrounding Chicago sports. Wood certainly left a lot of fans wondering what could have been had he stayed healthy, but Wood isn't the greatest "What if" player in Chicago. In fact, there are a number of players and scenarios that have made fans ask that multi-million dollar question over the years.
In the coming days, we're going to look at the biggest "What if" players and scenarios in each Chicago team's history. Monday, we looked back at the five biggest "What if" players/scenarios in Blackhawks history. Today, let's stay at the United Center but switch locker rooms. Who are the five biggest "What if" players/scenarios in the history of the Bulls?
Honorable Mention: What if the Trail Blazers weren't stupid?
The Bulls might have had Sam Bowie at the third overall pick instead of Michael Jordan. Thank you, Portland.
5. What if the Bulls had drafted ANYONE decent between 1991 and 1998?
Consider, for a moment, the list of players the Bulls drafted between using a second round pick acquried from Orlando in 1990 on Toni Kukoc and using the first overall pick in 1999 on Elton Brand:
1991: Mark Randall
1992: Byron Houston, Corey Williams, Litterial Green, Matt Steigenga
1993: Corie Blount, Anthony Reed
1994: Dickey Simpkins, Kris Bruton
1995: Jason Caffey, Dragan Tarlac
1996: Travis Knight
1997: Keith Booth, Roberto Duenas
1998: Corey Benjamin, Shammond Williams, Maceo Baston
Wow. Just... wow. Looking back at some of the talent the Bulls "missed" on during that stretch is mind-blowing, but you really can't complain about results that include six titles. But man, if they could have had something, anything around for after Jordan left the second time... Those are 17 wasted draft picks.
4. What if Jay Williams hadn't bought a motorcycle?
The second overall pick in the 2002 Draft, Williams was supposed to come into Chicago the year after the Bulls added a two-headed beast of a front court (Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry) and turn the Bulls into a dominant Eastern Conference powerhouse. In his rookie year, Williams averaged 9.5 points and 4.7 assists per game for the Bulls, but showed signs of being the special player they saw in his three seasons at Duke.
But in mid-June 2003, just a year after he became the would-be face of the Bulls, Williams got on a new Yamaha sportbike and slammed it into a pole. He suffered injuries to his legs and pelvis that required multiple surgeries and, ultimately, ended his promising career. He tried to come back a few times, but was never the same.
It is because of the organization's history with Williams that fans are now praying that Derrick Rose isn't on this list in 10 years after he comes back from his recent knee injury. But fans also have to consider that, if not for Williams' injuries, the Bulls wouldn't have drafted Kirk Hinrich in 2003 and might not have been in position to take Rose in 2008. It's hard to comprehend how the future of the Chicago Bulls was changed by Williams' accident.
3. What if the Bulls had developed a big man in the early 2000's?
The Bulls have certainly used their share of picks on big men since Jordan retired. They selected Brand first overall in 1999, power forward Marcus Fizer in 2000 (and center Chris Mihm, but he was immediately traded for Jamal Crawford), Chandler and Curry in 2001, Tyrus Thomas in 2006 (whom they acquired for another center, LaMarcus Aldridge, during the draft), and Joakim Noah in 2007. The 2000 class was one of the worst in recent memory, so we'll give the Bulls a pass for wasting a pick on Fizer. But Brand, Chandler and Aldridge have all been solid big men in the NBA for years and were, at one point, property of the Bulls.
2. What if the Bulls had kept Olden Polynice?
During the 1987 NBA Draft, the Bulls had two of the first ten selections, at numbers eight and ten overall. Their selections were Olden Polynice from from Virginia at number eight and Horace Grant from Clemson at ten. However, during that draft the Bulls made a decent trade, swapping Polynice for the player Seattle had selected fifth overall from Central Arkansas: Scottie Pippen.
Polynice had a... nice career. In 1,058 career games in the NBA, he averaged 7.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. He averaged a double-double in 1993-94, a season he split between Detroit and Sacramento, averaging 11.6 points and 11.9 rebounds per game. Polynice played for five difference organizations (Seattle, the Clippers, Detroit, Sacramento and Utah) and currently ranks 39th in NBA history with 2,730 offensive rebounds.
Pippen went on to be a Hall of Famer, a six-time champion, a member of the Dream Team and was named to the league's 50 Greatest Players list. He was also a member of the All-Defensive team ten times, played in seven All-Star Games and was named the MVP of the mid-season event during the 1993-94 season. Pippen still ranks sixth in NBA history in steals (2,307).
If that isn't bad enough for Sonics fans, the teams also swapped first round picks in 1989 in the deal. Seattle drafted Jeff Sanders, while the Bulls selected BJ Armstrong.
1. What if the Bulls had called "heads" in 1979?
During the 1978-79 season, the Bulls and New Orleans Jazz had the worst records in the NBA. Three years prior, the Los Angeles Lakers had obtained the rights to the the Jazz's top pick in the 1979 Draft in a trade involving Gail Goodrich. This was back in the day, so there was no draft lottery as there is today; so, with two teams tied for the worst in the league, there was a coin toss between the Bulls and Lakers to decide which team made the first selection.
Then-Bulls GM Rod Thorn called his "lucky" tails, and lost the coin flip.
Chicago wound up with the second overall selection: David Greenwood.
Los Angeles was thrilled with that year's top overall pick: Magic Johnson.