Looking at past drafts is always a fun exercise, and after taking the time to look at the past five drafts of all 30 NBA teams a year ago, I thought ranking the top picks since 2000 would make for an interesting series here at Today’s Fastbreak. For this series, I will be looking at each pick in the last 15 drafts (excluding 2016), and ranking the top picks based on career success, where each pick was taken, and any other notable details.
To start the series, the Chicago Bulls will be put under the draft microscope. Chicago has had more success in the latter half of this decade, with their top picks during this period helping them make the playoffs for seven straight years from 2008-09 to 2014-15. Who are the Bulls’ top draft picks from this century?
Honorable mention: Taj Gibson (Rd 1, pick 26 in 2009), Ben Gordon (Rd 1, pick 3 in 2004), Tyson Chandler (Rd 1, pick 2 in 2001), Jamal Crawford (Rd 1, pick 8 in 2000)
5. Kirk Hinrich (Rd 1, pick 7 in 2003)
Career stats: 10.9 ppg, 4.8 apg, 1.1 spg, 37.5 3p%
Hinrich belongs on this list due to his longevity with the franchise, rather than overall ability. When you consider that Hinrich played 10.5 of his 13 NBA seasons with the franchise, and started 583 games over that span, he was a successful pick in a loaded 2003 draft.
Looking at Chicago’s other options in that draft, taking someone like David West (drafted 18th overall to New Orleans), Boris Diaw (21st to Atlanta) or Steve Blake (38th to Washington) might’ve been decent options in hindsight. But Hinrich certainly made the most of his career, despite lacking the star quality and highlight reel most lottery talents have.
Hinrich is currently a free agent, and who knows, maybe the Bulls give him a call if they have injury issues at point guard this season.
4. Luol Deng (Rd 1, pick 7 in 2004)
Career stats: 15.5 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.4 apg, 1.0 spg
The Bulls took a slight leap of faith in trading for Deng in 2004, who spent his first nine-plus seasons with the franchise before being traded to Cleveland in January 2014. Deng made the All-Star team twice during his time in Chicago, and earned NBA All-Defensive Second Team honors in 2013.
Chicago traded its 2004 first-round pick (31st overall) and 2005 first-rounder (which turned into Nate Robinson) to the Suns to acquire Deng in the mid-lottery. Andre Iguodala (9th overall to Philadelphia), Al Jefferson (15th overall to Boston) or J.R. Smith (18th to New Orleans) would’ve been solid picks as well, but Deng was an excellent two-way player for the Bulls for nearly a decade, so it’s hard to give an argument for anyone else.
Deng, at age 31, is currently in the hunt to earn a starting job for the Lakers over 2016 No. 2 overall pick Brandon Ingram. I’d bet on him to have a solid year for an up-and-coming team while providing plenty of veteran leadership.
3. Joakim Noah (Rd 1, pick 9 in 2007)
Career stats: 9.3 ppg, 9.4 rpg, 3.0 apg, 1.4 bpg
Noah was dominant during his best days with this franchise, earning two All-Star appearances and All-NBA First Team in 2014, as well as Defensive Player of the Year that year. Noah spent his first nine seasons with the franchise before signing a four-year, $72 million deal with New York this offseason. He was versatile at both ends of the court and helped lead the Bulls to their playoff success during his time in Chicago.
Noah likely would’ve been the top overall pick in the 2006 draft, but he came back to win another title at Florida (which he successfully accomplished), although that hurt his draft stock in 2007. The Bulls were smart in drafting him so late, as there weren’t many prospects after Noah who had much success (except Marc Gasol, who inexplicably fell to 48th overall to the Lakers).
If Noah were able to stay healthy and embrace Jimmy Butler’s increased role on the team, he might still be in Chicago. Noah is still having injury issues and must get healthy in order to have a successful run in New York.
2. Jimmy Butler (Rd 1, pick 30 in 2011)
Career stats: 13.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 1.4 spg
Butler and Noah are very close for the second spot on this list, but the fact that the talented swingman fell so far in 2011 gives him the slight edge over Noah in my book. Nobody really saw this coming from Jimmy early on (unless you read my blog in September 2013), and he’s developed into one of the top two-way swingman in the NBA. That’s why the Bulls rewarded him with a five-year, $90-million deal in the summer of 2015.
Butler was picked behind the likes of MarShon Brooks (25th to Boston), Nolan Smith (21st to Portland) and Jimmer Fredette (10th to Milwaukee), all of whom were busts. If he didn’t stand out at the Portsmouth Invitational prior to the draft, it’s unlikely he would’ve been drafted in the first round.
Butler has really improved his overall game since entering the league in 2011. That development allowed Chicago to trade Deng away in 2014. It took Butler awhile to get off Thibodeau’s bench, but once he got an opportunity, he ran away with it.
1. Derrick Rose (Rd 1, pick 1 in 2008)
Career stats: 19.7 ppg, 6.2 apg, 0.8 spg
It’s hard to argue against Rose at the top spot, considering he likely would’ve been a Hall of Famer if not for some terrible injury luck. Rose was incredibly dominant during his quick rise to stardom, becoming the youngest NBA MVP in league history in 2011 at just 22 years and six months old. The three-time All-Star was a homegrown talent and had to deal with all the pressure that comes with that as well.
At the time, the Bulls seriously considered Michael Beasley as the top overall selection after his record-setting season at Kansas State. But Rose ended up being the right choice, with Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love being reasonable options in hindsight. The Bulls did make the right choice, despite how his career has unfortunately turned out.
We’ll see if Rose can resurrect his career in New York, which has gotten off to a rough start thanks to his legal issues. (Rose is still in the middle of a civil trial for gang rape.) If he can return to even part of his old self in a contract year and make an All-Star team, perhaps the Hall of Fame isn’t out of the question in the long haul.