It’s June 28, 2006 and the Chicago Bulls are on the clock in the NBA Draft. NBA Commissioner David Stern walks to the podium and announces that University of Texas sophomore big man LaMarcus Aldridge is the Bulls’ draft pick. At the time, it seemed like a logical pick, pairing a versatile 4/5 man with Kirk Hinrich and Luol Deng along with sixth man Ben Gordon. The future looked bright…for a few minutes. The Bulls front office, who hasn’t been able to get out of their own way since his Airness left, decided to over think their selection, and traded Aldridge on draft night for, ummm, Tyrus Thomas.
TYRUS THOMAS. Yeah, that Tyrus Thomas. The one who hasn’t been seen since he took his college team, LSU, on a Final Four run. When this trade was first announced, I half expected commissioner Stern to laugh and say, ‘just kidding.’ Who trades a 6’11 guy with a silky smooth stroke and potential franchise centerpiece, for a guy that only landed on the national radar after the proverbial “NCAA tourney run” i.e. Derrick Williams (Who? Exactly).
Yes, you can make a point that Aldridge did have health concerns and he and Thomas both made 2007 All-Rookie teams, but that’s where the similarities ended. Year 2 was the turning point for Aldridge who improved on his game and averaged 17.8 ppg and 7.6 rpg, while Tyrus Thomas average a very pedestrian 6.8 ppg and 4.6 rpg. At the end of that 2007-08 season, the Bulls were an awful 33-49 and back in the NBA draft lottery.
Somehow, some way (wink, wink David Stern), the Bulls win the NBA draft lottery and land the #1 pick. This was their redemption moment following the trade of Aldridge. Or was it?
I could not get past the fact that this Bulls roster could have a stable foundation of Aldridge and now a number one pick, but we all knew that ship had sailed out to Portland. Some pundits believe the Bulls could have had a better record with Aldridge, but still lack the horsepower needed to get back in the mix for the playoffs. Well, until a local kid came home: enter Chicago native and top pick in the 2008 draft, Derrick Rose.
Personally, I wanted the Bulls to select Michael Beasley, which is why I’m not paid the big bucks from an NBA front office. The Bulls deciding to go with Rose has really been one of the few smart decisions to come out of that front office in years. BUT even with the success Derrick enjoyed in his rookie season and the epic run in the 2009 playoffs (he almost single-handedly upset the defending champion Celtics), I couldn’t shake the nagging thoughts about what could have been for the Bulls. They could have had a line up consisting of Rose, Hinrich, Deng, Aldridge, and Joakim Noah, who was drafted in 2007. I knew I had to try to move on and focus on the Bulls’ plans to lure a huge free agent in the summer of 2010.
I would have had much more confidence heading into the summer of 2010, had the Bulls front office not been comprised of a tandem (Gar Forman & John Paxson) who apparently received their doctorate degrees from the University of Clowns. This made me question if the Bulls had a legit shot at landing LeBron and Chris Bosh. At the very least I thought Chris Bosh could have filled the hole left by the LaMarcus Aldridge trade. I began to imagine a 1-4 combo of Rose and Bosh along with the other core pieces and the “Bench Mob.” Instead, the Bulls lived up to their nickname of the Clowns, struck out on both James and Bosh, and were left offering a free agent contract to Carlos Boozer. Sure, Boozer was a decent player, but come on, he was nowhere near the solution for a franchise looking to take down the East’s beasts in Miami consisting of DWade, The King, and CB.
The Bulls literally experienced one season of joy that was abruptly ended by the South Beach Superteam. During the playoffs of 2012, Derrick Rose tore his ACL and this franchise has been snowballing downhill ever since. They struck out on Carmelo Anthony, struck out on LeBron again. The Bulls pretty much struck out on every possible big name free agent they wanted to sign that was not an over the hill Pau Gasol or Dwyane Wade.
As a fan of this franchise, I can now only dream about what should have been for the Bulls. The way the NBA is constructed today, you need at least two superstars to compete for a championship. The Bulls coulda shoulda woulda had theirs in Rose and Aldridge. All that went out the window on that fateful draft night in 2006 when they gave up on Aldridge before they even let him try on a jersey. Sadly, in my eyes they will continue to be known as the Chicago Clowns, mired in mediocrity in a down Eastern Conference. In reality, what separates us from a franchise like the Dallas Mavericks over the last 15 years? Oh, yeah, one of those teams has a championship (Dallas), and the other is a three ring circus…you guessed it, run by the Clowns.
Written by Nyck Young