The ping pong balls at the NBA Draft Lottery in 2008 were stacked heavily against Steve Schanwald (Bulls Executive Vice President of Business Operations) and the Chicago Bulls. Coming off a disappointing 33 win season in which the Bulls fired both Scott Skiles and interim coach Jim Boylan, John Paxson was desperately looking for answers. The Chicago Bulls, who many had tagged as a potential sleeper team in the Eastern Conference just a year prior, were without a head coach and devoid of a difference maker on their roster. That all changed when the Chicago Bulls won the lottery (pun intended). Going into the night, the Bulls had a 1.7% chance of landing the top overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft. To be exact, the Bulls had 17 of the 1,000 ping pong ball combinations. The 1993 Orlando Magic, who won the NBA Draft Lottery with only a 1.5% chance, were statistically the only longer shot to end up with the top pick in the NBA draft.
Winning that lottery changed the future and fortunes of the Chicago Bulls. 1.7% represents the odds for ping pong ball combinations, however the connection of events that led Derrick Rose to the Chicago Bulls are much grander than just 17 out of 1,000 ping pong balls.
The path that led the Chicago Bulls to Derrick Rose truly began in 1998, and fortuitously ended on May 19th, 2008.
Following the retirement of Michael Jordan, Phil Jackson, and the Sign-Trade of Scottie Pippen after the 1998 championship season, the Chicago Bulls signed and drafted their way into ineptitude. Listed below are several of the incidents that led the Chicago Bulls to have the possibility to land Derrick Rose in 2008.
1st round Draft Picks from 1998 to 2008
1998: Corey Benjiman (28th overall)
1999: Elton Brand (1st overall)
1999: Ron Artest (16th overall)
2000: Marcus Fizer (4th pick)
2000: Chris Mihm (7th pick) *traded to the Cavs for Jamal Crawford
2000: Dalibor Bagaric (24th pick)
2001: Tyson Chandler (2nd pick)
2001: Eddy Curry (4th pick)
2002: Jay Williams (2nd pick)
2003: Kirk Hinrich (7th pick)
2004: Ben Gordon (3rd pick)
2004: *Jackson Vroman and a future 1st round pick traded for Luol Deng (7th pick)
2005: No draft picks
2006: LaMarcus Aldridge *traded for Tyrus Thomas
2006: Rodney Carney *traded for Thabo Sefolosha
2007: Joakim Noah
1999-2000 NBA Free Agent Class Snubs Chicago Bulls Advances
The star studded free agent class of 2000, which included Tim Duncan, Tracy McGrady, and Grant Hill, all passed on the opportunity to join the Chicago Bulls. Instead, the Chicago Bulls ended up signing Brad Miller and Ron Mercer who led the Bulls to an NBA worst 15-67 record.
The 2001 NBA Draft
Trading co-rookie of the year Elton Brand for the 2nd overall pick, and drafting Tyson Chandler. Using the 4th pick to draft perpetually overweight, and lazy Eddy Curry. However, the most significant of moves may have been to draft Trenton Hassell a pick after Tony Parker, and a one pick before Gilbert Arenas was drafted. If the Bulls would have had the option to pick Tony Parker, or had picked up Gilbert Arenas with the 2nd pick in the 2nd round, we are watching Derrick Rose drop 44 points as a member of a different team. Without a doubt, with either of those players the Bulls would have not been in the 2008 NBA Lottery. In addition, the drafting of Trenton Hassell provided the Bulls with their worst player of all-time, according to Tom Haberstroh of Hoopdata (worst players who played a minimum of 100 games and 10 minutes per game.) As of 2010, Trenton Hassell’s 2002-2003 season ranks as the all time worst PER for a player who played all 82 games (6.0 PER). Even more amazing, Trenton Hassell ranks on this list as the worst Bull, the worst Net, and the 4th worst Minnesota Timberwolves player of all time. Needless to say, the drafting of Trenton Hassell in 2001 directly impacted the success of the bulls in the mid 2000’s, and allowed the Bulls to be just bad enough to fall where they did in the 2008 NBA Draft. More directly, Trenton Hassell’s play certainly had ramifications on the 2001-2002 Chicago Bulls, who finished 21-61, who landed the 2nd overall pick in the 2002 NBA draft which allowed for our next incident to pave the way to Derrick Rose.
Jay Williams Motorcycle Accident
The Chicago Bulls used the 2nd overall pick in 2002 on Jason "Jay" Williams out of Duke. Jay Williams had an up and down rookie season in which he averaged 9.5 PPG and 4.7 APG in the 2002-2003 season. Although he struggled, and was eventually benched for Jamal Crawford, Williams was still looked at as the Bulls future PG and potential star. That all changed after a motorcycle accident cut the young PG's career short.
On the night of June 19, 2003, Williams crashed his motorcycle into a streetlight at the intersection of Fletcher and Honore streets on Chicago's North Side. Williams was not wearing a helmet, was not licensed to drive a motorcycle in Illinois, and was also violating the terms of his Bulls contract by riding a motorcycle. Williams severed a main nerve in his leg, fractured his pelvis and tore three ligaments in his left knee including the ACL, and required physical therapy to regain the use of his leg. A week later the Bulls drafted point guard Kirk Hinrich. Many months later, after it was clear Williams would not be returning to the Bulls for some time (if at all) due to his injuries, he was waived. The Bulls legally did not have to pay him any salary because he violated the contract by riding a motorcycle and injuring himself; but instead the Bulls gave the young player $3 million in a buyout, which Williams could therefore use toward his rehabilitation. Williams stated he would continue to train and return to the Bulls. In the interim, he appeared in college and high school basketball broadcasts on ESPN as a commentator.
Other notable events:
- Trading Eddy Curry for Michael Sweetney, Tim Thomas, and Jermaine Jackson (October 4th , 2005)
- Trading LaMarcus Aldridge for Tyrus Thomas in 2006
- Signing Ben Wallace on July 13th, 2006 and Trading Tyson Chandler on July 14th, 2006
- Ben Gordon turning down a contract extension in 2007.
- John Paxson failing to come to a trade agreement for Paul Gasol, Kevin Garnett, and/or Kobe Bryant in 2007.
The Chicago Bulls, with a little bit of luck, used the first overall pick in 2008 to draft the reigning MVP Derrick Rose. Countless events had to occur for the Bulls to even be in contention of winning the 2008 NBA draft lottery. The events above may or may not have contributed, however it goes to show just how far the Chicago Bulls have come.
Merry Christmas all.