Point Pleasant, meet Tyson Chandler!
WAIL OF SORROW: I AM TOO INFATUATED WITH THE MECHANICS OF THE NBA DRAFT AND I FREELY CONFESS THIS. HOWEVER, MY OVERWHELMING URGE TO LOOK OVER PAST DRAFTS AND WRITE DOWN SOME NUMBERS WAS MY EVENTUAL DOWNFALL, AS I MEANT TO SIMPLY POINT OUT THAT I DON'T REALLY THINK THE BULLS HAVE MADE PARTICULARLY GOOD DRAFT PICKS. BRINGING UP OTHER PLAYERS IN THOSE DRAFTS WAS IMMATERIAL, A DISTRACTION BEYOND BELIEF, WHICH TURNED MY ATTACK ON OTHERS INTO A REFLEXIVE ATTACK ON MYSELF! HOWEVER, IN THE SPIRIT OF BLOGGETRY (AS DISTINCT FROM BLOGGERY), I WILL LEAVE UP THE ORIGINAL POST, SO MY SHORTCOMINGS MAY ONE DAY SERVE AS A REMINDER OF MY EVENTUAL GLANDULAR UPHEAVAL!!!!!!
CLARIFICATION: THIS IS NOT MEANT TO SUGGEST THAT GM'S SHOULD BE PERFECT. I UNDERSTAND HUMANS. RATHER, TO BUILD A TEAM OUT OF A SERIES OF SEMI-BOTCHED DRAFT PICKS SHOULD NOT MAKE ANYONE HAPPY, AS THOSE SELFSAME DRAFT PICKS COULD, IN A SLIGHTLY SANER WORLD, HAVE GENERATED A FAR SUPERIOR, YOUTH-INFUSED CLUB
Last time I produced enough of me to post, I made mention of what will forever be known as the “Bucher Postulate,” which had something to do with the underachieving Baby Bulls finally living up to their potential not necessarily being worthy of praise. That was then; this is now. I am here to create a thing called “draft not living up to its numerical potential,” wherein a team built from the lottery must always be humiliated by the wide, frowning forehead of what could have been.
I do not believe in veterans. Partly of jitters, mostly of accident, my interest in the league mostly extends to prospects, potential, and the unsightly shudder of basketball genius coming into this world. So when I say that you can’t use the draft alone to anchor a franchise, it’s not because I want to. It only really says that free agents are usually known quantities, draft picks infinitely fallible, and, for all future hours, prone to scrutiny. Take perhaps my favorite team of the last decade, the 2001-2002 Los Angeles Clippers. Perfect in every way, a festival to behold, but faded down the stretch and ended up back in the sweet thirteen. The next year they acquired Andre Miller and spoiled the soup (why the league’s assists leader messed up the chemistry while a then-gunner like McInnis kept it flowing is anyone’s guess, and indeed a large part of the enigmatic majesty), but the 2001-2002 Clips stand, pre-Baby Bulls, as the most convincing case for using the summer’s whispery ruins as the place where rosters hatch. It didn’t work, not because Odom, Maggette, Q, Miles, and lone known quantity Elton Brand weren’t good or experienced; it’s because they blew a #1 overall on the Kandiman, a modern-day NBA parable waiting to happen if ever there were one (note: Miles came in one of the worst drafts in history, and, for what that team was, fit better than a redundant pick like Jamal Crawford would have).
Although fleecing Chicago for fellow top pick Brand sort of made up for it, there is really no human way of excusing a team that picked Olowokandi when they could have had (deep breath): Mike Bibby, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, White Chocolate, Larry Hughes, Paul Pierce, or Bonzi Wells. And, of course, a certain tall, scraggly Deutsch sharpshooter, who would’ve partnered with Brand and Odom to form one of the most rapturous frontlines of this year’s new NBA (further note: Olowokandi did show something that year, so much so that ESPN ran a column claiming that he was the second best true center in the league. I bet Chad Ford wrote it.).
To return to the Bulls, let’s take a small, varied look at the picks that made this year’s feel-good ostrich what it is.
1999: Drafted Ron Artest 16th overall. They probably should have kept him around. Artest, the man he has become, is worth all the Luol Deng’s in the world.
2000: Drafted Chris Mihm, 7th overall, traded him for Jamal Crawford, 8th overall.
Crawford wasn’t a bad pick for the worst draft in history, more talented than Gordon.
2001: The crux of the matter. Here’s what it comes down to: they could have not traded Brand, which would probably have been the smartest move. But if they were absolutely convinced that he was nothing more than a talented piece, not the foundation, they could have at least used #2 overall to snag Pau Gasol instead of Chandler. Chandler comes off the bench and can’t score, Pau’s an All-Star caliber starter who gives you everything a skinny seven-footer could be expected to. Curry at #4 might not be so bad—most agree he’s constantly on the verge of beastliness—but would you really rather have him on the floor than Richard Jefferson? If you wanted a low-post presence, why not trade down and take the redoubtable Troy Murphy? Bonus: imagine if Chicago had taken Gilbert Arenas with the first pick in the second round, instead of Trenton Hassell (not bad for a second-rounder, though). Arenas went one pick later, and could have started his ascent to Eastern Conference All-Stardom two years earlier.
2002: Sad but true: Jay Williams might not have been a great match for our hypothetical Bulls even if he hadn’t crushed his body. More importantly, they could have snagged Nene, Drew Gooden, or, god forbid, Amare himself.
2003: The one thing they’ve done right. In one of the most ridiculously top-heavy drafts in all epic history, Kirk Hinrich is looking more and more like the cut-off point for that All-Star-littered upper echelon.
2004: I’ve been all over the place on Ben Gordon, and he’s pretty much rewarded me with inconclusive evidence. Iguodala might have been a more solid choice, but not if they’d kept Artest. Deng’s okay, but I still don’t understand what he’s good for.
So to recap, instead of this crop of one-day starters:
the Bulls could be looking at the modest fivesome of:
C: Nene (Amare, if you’re feeling crazy!)
. . . assuming that they only would have been good enough to make the playoffs (and escape the thoughtful clutches of the lottery) last year, when they finally got a point guard.
The Bulls could win the East this season and to me, their rebuilding will still have been a failure. Waste not, want not. Where will it end?