We’re only one season into the Derrick Rose Era, and I think it’s pretty safe to say he was the right pick. Unfortunately, not every draft has been sunshine and puppy dogs for the Bulls. In fact, there have been some downright painful draft day failures over the last decade. Here are the worst.
Jay Williams: This one hurt. I mean, it hurt a lot. It was the NBA-equivalent of feeding your right leg to an exploding grizzly bear. The Bulls, coming off a 21-win season, had the second pick in the 2002 Draft. They used that pick on Jay Williams, who had distinguished himself during a three-year college career at Duke: 19.3 PPG, 6.0 APG, 45% FGP, and 39.3% from downtown. He was considered by many to be the best player in the draft, particularly after winning the Naismith Award and Wooden Award as College Basketball’s Player of the Year in 2002. The Bulls were more than happy to snap him up after Houston took Yao Ming with the first pick.
Chicago already had some established players (Jalen Rose, Jamal Crawford, Eddy Curry), so then-coach Bill Cartwright didn’t exactly give his rookie the keys to the car. As a result, Jay’s rookie season was pretty tame (9.5 PPG, 4.7 APG, 1.1 SPG and 39% shooting). But he finished the season strong, averaging 13.1 points on 59% shooting (including 68% on threes) and 4.9 assists over the team’s final eight games. There was every reason to believe he’d come back and have a strong second season.
Only that season never happened. From Wikipedia: “Williams’ life almost ended on June 19, 2003 when he crashed his motorcycle into a pole at the intersection of Fletcher and Honore in Chicago, Illinois. Williams was not wearing a helmet, wasn’t licensed to drive a motorcycle in Illinois, and was violating terms of his contract by driving a new Yamaha YZF-R6. 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), he was waived.” Despite a few valiant efforts, the last of which was a stint with the Austin Toros of the NBA Developmental League back in 2006, Jay never appearing in another regular season NBA game.
Players Chicago could have taken instead of Williams: Amare Stoudemire (whom we’d like to get), Carlos Boozer (whom we’d also like to get), Drew Gooden (whom we acquired later), Fred Jones, John Salmons (whom we now have), Luis Scola, Nene, Tayshaun Prince.
Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler: Here’s another painful one. The Bulls won only 15 games during the 2000-01 campaign, which “earned” them the fourth pick in the 2001 Draft, which they used to select Eddy Curry. Sometimes referred to as “Baby Shaq,” Curry’s tenure in Chicago was considered a major failure. It wasn’t that Eddy didn’t show potential. He led the league in field goal percentage during his sophomore season (58.5%), his scoring output steadily increased (from 6.7 PPG as a rookie to 16.1 PPG during his fourth season), and he developed into a legitimate low post scorer. However, Curry was dogged by inconsistency, injuries, weight issues and attitude problems. Even worse, he seemed to care only about scoring…his rebounding and defense couldn’t even have been considered halfhearted unless you cut that amount in half. (When asked by a reporter in 2003 what Curry needed to do to become a better rebounder, then-coach Scott Skiles simply replied: “Jump.”)
Eddy actually led the Bulls in scoring during the 2004–05 season, during which the team improved by 28 wins and made the playoffs. However, Curry was hospitalized with an irregular heartbeat late in the season and missed the final 13 games of the regular season and the entire playoffs. Curry became a free agent, and the Bulls actually wanted to re-sign him…but John Paxson insisted that Curry take a DNA test to determine whether he was susceptible to a potentially fatal heart problem. Curry refused, saying that it violated his privacy. (The reality is, it would have violated his chance of earning a fat free agent paycheck.) “I would never put a player on the floor in a Chicago Bulls uniform if I didn’t do everything in my power to find out all the information that was available,” Paxson said. “You can debate genetic testing ’til you’re blue in the face. But from what I know, from what I’ve learned over the last six months, that test could have helped us determine the best course of action.”
Believe it or not, the Bulls offered curry $400,000 annually for the next 50 years if he failed the test. Curry said, “No, way.” Unable to reach an agreement, Pax pulled of a sign-and-trade with the Knicks, netting Tim Thomas, Michael Sweetney and Jermaine Jackson. In other words: A bunch of junk. Jackson was waived before the season started, Thomas never played and eventually was bought out, and Michael Sweetney — who showed flashes now and again — was too fat to stay out of Scott Skiles’ dog house.
As for Chandler, well, the Los Angeles Clippers took him with the second pick in the draft…and the Bulls traded Elton Brand to get him. Mind you, Brand was coming off his second consecutive 20/10 season with the Bulls and was already one of the top five post players in the league. Chandler was a high school phenom with a lot of potential, but Brand already was awesome. Tyson never got there. Never even came close, in fact. And he never worked hard enough or played with the consistency that Skiles demanded, so in the summer of 2006 — one year after re-signing him for $75 million — the Bulls traded him to the New Orleans Hornets for P.J. Brown and J.R. Smith. Six days later, Chicago traded Smith to the Denver Nuggets for Howard Eisley, whom they quickly waived. Brown provided veteran leadership and had a monster playoff game against the Pistons, but he was a one-and-done.
Now, if the Bulls had kept Brand, they could have used the fourth pick to take Tony Parker, Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson, Joe Johnson, Richard Jefferson, Gerald Wallace, Samuel Dalembert, Mehmet Okur or even Shane Battier (whom Skiles would have loved). Alas.
Marcus Fizer: Despite the fact that Elton Brand was coming off a rookie season in which he had averaged 20 PPG and 10 RPG, the Bulls used the fourth pick in the 2000 draft on Fizer, a power forward out of Iowa State. It was an odd choice, because with Brand entrenched at the four spot, there would only be backup minutes available for Fizer. But at the time, the Bulls were coached by Tim Floyd, who had recruited Fizer to Iowa State. Unfortunately, it was the presence of Fizer that paved the way for Brand’s exile to Clipperland.
Fizer spent four seasons with the Bulls but never really developed. In 2004, he was made available to the Charlotte Bobcats in their expansion draft. Sadly, he wasn’t even good enough for an expansion team. Unable to make Charlotte’s final roster, he signed as a free agent with the Milwaukee Bucks. After one blah season in Milwaukee — 6.2 PPG, 3.2 RPG — he failed to sign a free agent deal with another team. In November 2005, he signed with the Austin Toros of the NBA Development League. On March 8, 2006, Fizer signed a 10-day contract with the Seattle SuperSonics, but never appeared in a single game. On March 31, 2006, he was named the NBA Development League MVP for the 2005–2006 season. The same day, he was signed to a 10-day contract with the New Orleans Hornets. He played three games with the Hornets, averaging 6.7 points and 2.3 rebounds. He hasn’t been seen in the NBA since.
There wasn’t a lot of talent in the 2000 draft, but the Bulls could have taken Michael Redd, Hedo Turkoglu, Quentin Richardson, Jamaal Magloire or DeShawn Stevenson.