5 Biggest Draft Busts: Chicago Bulls Edition
The list of Chicago Bulls draft busts can go on… and on… and on. What people don’t seem to realize is that, although they won six championships from 1991-1998 (third most all-time), the Bulls have won zero titles in their other 38 years of existence. Before Jordan came to town and forever changed basketball in Chicago and around the world, this was a franchise that never truly threatened for a championship. A lot of that has to do with the Bulls front office making bad personnel decisions (outside of the Jordan era) and drafting the wrong players (especially during the first 10 years of the post-Jordan era). Some of it has to do with the players making bad decisions on their own or deciding to stop playing hard after receiving big contracts. But regardless, the Bulls have drafted a lot of busts throughout their 46-year history, so here are my five biggest ones:
5) Tyson Chandler, 2nd overall pick in 2001, Center, Dominguez High School: Look, you can make a case for many other guys in this spot. Tim Floyd really didn’t give Chandler a fair shake during his first couple years in the NBA, and he battled injuries his third season. It wasn’t until the end of his tenure in Chicago that Chandler started to improve, both offensively and defensively. He even became a fourth-quarter defensive specialist during the Bulls first playoff run (2004-05) since 1998. However, I’m basing this opinion on one thing: Jerry Krause traded Elton Brand straight up for Chandler.
I don’t know how many of you actually remember Elton Brand’s short career with the Bulls, but he was great. He averaged a 20-10 and 1.6 blocks during his only two seasons in Chicago and won Rookie of the Year in 1999-00. When David Stern announced during the 2001 draft that the Bulls were trading their rights to Elton Brand to the Clippers for Tyson Chandler, I threw a complete fit. I had become emotionally attached to Brand at that point, so it really hit me hard. He had shown incredible promise with the Bulls – it was so unbelievably shocking to see Krause trade him just like that for some raw 18-year-old kid. I didn’t understand it and to this day, I still don’t.
After that trade, Tyson Chandler came to Chicago with the highest of expectations (understandably so). And live up to those expectations he did not. During his five years with the Bulls, Chandler averaged 7.0 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game and shot 49.7% from the field (which is absolutely horrendous for a center). He was so bad that the Bulls opted to pick up a washed up Ben Wallace from free agency during the 2006 summer and traded Chandler for 37-year-old P.J. Brown. If you’ve been living under a rock the past six years, then you’d obviously fail to realize how great Chandler has been since he left Chicago. He has averaged 9.9 points per game, 10.0 rebounds per game and shot 62.3% from the field. And oh, by the way, he has made two all-defensive second teams and an all-NBA third team, won the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award this past season and an NBA championship with Dallas (he was considered the anchor of their defense) last season, and he is now a finalist for the 2012 Olympic team. I will now go bang my head against the wall. Really hard.
4) Tyrus Thomas, 4th overall pick in 2006, SF/PF, Louisiana State University: Another player whom the Bulls chose to trade for on draft day, Tyrus Thomas wasn’t anything special in college. He only played one year and had his ups and downs. But, like many other college basketball players, it was his phenomenal performance in the NCAA tournament (he helped lead LSU to the Final Four, along with Glen Davis) and freakish athleticism that raised his draft stock significantly. The Bulls drafted Lamarcus Aldridge (who was considered to be the top big man prospect in the country) second overall, and I was ecstatic. He was a great player at Texas and was exactly what the Bulls were missing: a legitimate post presence who can step in and make an immediate impact. We hadn’t had a player like that since Elton Brand.
Then, it all went downhill. Of course, the Bulls fell in love with Thomas even though he was very immature, had a terrible work ethic and needed to put on a good 20-25 pounds of muscle in order to really become a force. So, they traded Aldridge for him and Viktor Khryapa (ended up averaging 9 minutes and 2.9 points per game in 42 games with the Bulls), and it was like deja vu 2001. I’ve always been a huge college basketball fan, so I knew what Thomas was all about and was furious when the Bulls made that trade. I watched him play, read his scouting report and convinced myself that he was definitely not the guy I wanted on our team. Obviously, what I think means nothing. I decided to take it with a grain of salt and give Thomas a chance. Here’s how his career with the Bulls ended up (on a per game basis) in 308 games (only 98 games started):
20.7 minutes, 8.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 0.9 steals, 1.4 blocks, 45.9% FG.
Here’s how Lamarcus Aldridge has fared with Portland:
35.0 minutes, 17.8 points (21.8 over past two seasons), 7.5 rebounds (8.5 over past two seasons), 0.8 steals, 1.0 blocks, 49.5% FG (50.6% over past two seasons) and an All-Star appearance.
That’s brutal. After Thomas fractured his forearm during the 2009-10 season, Taj Gibson replaced him in the lineup, thus ending Thomas’ career as a Bull. He was traded to the Bobcats for two bums (Flip Murray and Acie Law) and, most importantly, a future first round draft pick. Although the pick is top-12 protected in the 2013, top-10 protected in 2014, top-8 protected in 2015 and unprotected in the 2016, I’m sure whoever we get, whether it’s via the draft or a trade, will more than compensate for Tyrus Thomas’ worthlessness.
3) Eddy Curry, 4th overall pick in 2001, Center, Thornwood High School: Unlike with Chandler, fans (including myself) were genuinely excited about the Eddy Curry pick. A hometown kid out of South Holland, Illnois, Curry was nicknamed “Baby Shaq,” drawing comparisons to one of the greatest centers ever to play the game. He was named Mr. Basketball of Illinois in 2001, so every basketball fan in Chicago knew who he was. Tim Floyd didn’t seem to get the memo, though, because like Chandler, Curry also struggled to get minutes his rookie season and ended up averaging only 6.7 points and 3.8 rebounds. Naturally, Floyd was fired after that season, so everyone decided to stay patient with Curry.
The next season, Curry improved and became the first Bull to lead the league in a major statistical category since Michael Jordan in 1998 (58.5% FG). However, he still managed to play only 19 minutes a game. Curry didn’t top the 20 minutes per game mark until his third season, when he averaged 29.5 minutes per game but was widely considered a disappointment, as he regressed to under 50% shooting from the field. His scoring went up his fourth season to 16.1 points, but his rebounding and defense were still horrendous to say the least. 5.4 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game as a 7’0″ center? Are you kidding me? Shaq averaged 28 points, 11 rebounds and over 2 blocks during his third and fourth seasons. So much for those outrageous comparisons.
Even though Curry had proven to be a one-dimensional player at best, he still helped lead the Bulls during the 2004-05 season (his fourth) to their first playoff appearance since 1998. Bulls fans were happy again, and things were starting to look up. All was well… until Curry was hospitalized with a mysterious irregular heart beat problem, forcing him to miss the end of the season and the entire playoffs. The Bulls were bounced by Gilbert Arenas’ Washington Bullets (I mean Wizards, my bad) in the first round, and that was all she wrote for Eddy Curry’s tenure as a Chicago Bull. He refused to submit to a DNA test, as requested by Bulls management, to assess whether he had a congenial heart condition, so the Bulls completed a sign-and-trade, sending Curry (along with Antonio Davis) to the Knicks for three bums, two future second-round draft picks and their 2006 first round draft pick. Not bad at the time. Not bad at all.
Curry had one good season with the Knicks but continued to show up to camp completely out of shape, causing him to lose his job as the starting center. Eventually, Curry got himself caught up in a sexual harassment case, as he allegedly tried to solicit gay sex to his former chauffeur. His ex-girlfriend and nine-month-old daughter were found murdered a month later, and his house in Chicago foreclosed a few months after that. He is now married with seven children and warms the bench for the Miami Superfriends. A very normal, healthy life Eddy Curry has managed to live.
2) Jay Williams, 2nd overall pick in 2002, Point Guard, Duke University: I loved Jay Williams at Duke, I loved him in a Bulls uniform, and I even love him as a college basketball analyst. In 2002, he was exactly what the Bulls needed and what many other teams were dying to have: a franchise point guard. No one in their right mind would have predicted the travesty that became Jay Williams’ basketball career. And that’s what makes putting him on this list so difficult.
Jay Williams was everything you could ask for out of a basketball player; he was a great ambassador for the game. He helped lead Duke to the National Championship in 2001, won the Naismith College Player of the Year during his junior year, graduated with nearly a 4.0 GPA in three years and had his jersey retired at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Bulls took Williams right after Yao Ming in the 2002 draft, so everything was looking good for both parties.
During his rookie seasons, Williams’ play was a bit inconsistent as he competed for playing time with Jamal Crawford, but he still showed flashes of brilliance at times, including posting a triple-double against the Nets. After another rough but improved season, the Bulls were expected to get Dwyane Wade with the 7th overall pick in the 2003 draft to go along with Williams and Crawford in the backcourt, plus Curry and Chandler in the front court. However, as we all know, our wishful thinking was exactly that: wishful.
A few days or so before the draft took place, it was reported that Jay Williams had crashed his motorcycle into a street light… and wasn’t wearing a helmet. He also was not licensed to drive a motorcycle in Illinois and was violating the terms of his Bulls contract by riding one. Sure enough, Williams severed a main nerve in his leg, fractured his pelvis and tore three ligaments in his left knee (including the ACL). Just like that, Jay Williams’ career as a professional basketball player was over.
On draft night, the Heat shocked the world by selecting Wade with the 5th overall pick, so the Bulls selected another point guard two picks later (Kirk Hinrich). Although Hinrich had a great career with the Bulls (I still miss him at times), he was no Jay Williams. There’s no guarantee that Williams would have ever became what he was expected to become, but given his track record of success and his incredible work ethic, I’m convinced otherwise. However, had Williams’ career not ended like that, Derrick Rose would probably not be a Bull. Everything happens for a reason, I guess.
1) Marcus Fizer, 4th overall pick in 2000, Power Forward, Iowa State University: As great as Marcus Fizer was in college (and he was unquestionably great), this pick will never, in a million years, make sense to me. Elton Brand was coming off his rookie of the year campaign. He was already becoming a star at the power forward position. But for some idiotic reason, the Bulls took Fizer, who played the same position, with the fourth pick anyways. Why they didn’t just draft someone else or trade him is beyond me. Something tells me that Tim Floyd had something to do with it (he was the one who recruited Fizer to Iowa State and coached him for a year), but who really knows?
Regardless of position, Fizer was supposed to be the next Charles Barkley. That’s what a lot of analysts and scouts said anyway. Below is a paraphrasing of what scouts had been saying about Fizer before the draft:
Marcus Fizer is the best player in this year’s NBA draft. When all is said and done, Fizer will be head and shoulders above Kenyon Martin. He is the complete package. I see him scoring 22 PPG and grabbing 12 rebounds a game in a few years.
And here is a piece of nbadraft.net’s scouting report on him :
A true warrior, Marcus Fizer has turned the Cyclones into a legit possible Final Four team. Combining great strength and athleticism with a nice shooting touch, Marcus looks as close to Charles Barkley as any player since. Exhibiting super leaping ability and body control, Fizer excels both on the break or in a half court set. Like Sir Charles, Marcus has a certain attitude that he brings to every game that he will not be denied. When a game is on the line Marcus wants the ball in his hands and has come up big late in games throughout his career.
So how did that work out? Let’s just say… it didn’t. At all. Fizer appeared in a grand total of 232 games in 4 seasons with the Bulls and never averaged more than 12.3 points per game. The number of tattoos he has (31) is almost equivalent to the number of games he started in a Bulls uniform (35). The Bulls eventually let him go after he tore his ACL during the 2004 season.
After leaving Chicago, Fizer was selected by the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2004 expansion draft. Sadly enough, he failed to make their final roster and signed a free agent deal with the Milwaukee Bucks. To no surprise, the experiment didn’t work out for the Bucks, so Fizer was unemployed once again. During the 2005-06 season, he signed with the Austin Toros of the NBA Development League, where he shockingly won the MVP award. The Hornets decided to give him one last chance to prove himself in the NBA, but he bombed once again. That’s when Fizer finally bid America farewell and went overseas. He ended his NBA career averaging 9.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 43.5% field goal and is widely regarded as one of the biggest busts in NBA history. Pretty sure Charles Barkley’s career ended up a little bit differently, amirite?
Dishonorable Mentions: Mark Randall, Power Forward; Stacey King, Power Forward; Will Perdue, Center; Scott May, SF/PF; Sidney Green, SF/PF; Quintin Dailey, Shooting Guard; Brad Sellers, PF/C; James Johnson, Small Forward
Stay tuned tomorrow for 5 Biggest Draft Steals: Chicago Bulls Edition