Bulls The 1998 NBA Champs have the 28th pick.  They are represented by: Dean Carrano.  The Bulls select:

Toby Bailey, SG, 6-6, UCLA

I. Team History/Needs

"History" is certainly the word to describe what the Chicago Bulls have accomplished in the last eight seasons. Led by Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and coach Phil Jackson, the Bulls have won six championships in that span and must be ranked with the great dynasties of basketball history. The plan was that this was to be the last year of the dynasty. 11 Bulls are currently free agents, including Jordan, Pippen, and Dennis Rodman. Jackson’s contract is up as well. But recently, owner Jerry Reinsdorf "invited everyone back" for the 1998-99 season. The question is, are Jackson and Pippen, who seem to have developed irreconcilable differences with Reinsdorf and GM Jerry Krause, willing to take him up on the invitation? Jackson and Pippen have stated repeatedly that they plan not to return to Chicago. Pippen has sometimes also expressed a willingness to consider returning, but Jackson is definitely not coming back. For his part, Jordan has made it quite clear that he would seriously consider retirement if either Jackson or Pippen was not with the team.

II. Player Analysis


Luc Longley has made major strides with his game the last couple of years. He has made himself into a good center for the triangle offense. He’s a great passer, with a knack for the backdoor pass, and he’s got a nice outside shot. He posted career highs in ‘97-‘98 in points (11.4 ppg) and rebounds (5.9 rpg). Unfortunately for him, Jackson and the triangle offense are leaving. That could decrease Luc’s value very significantly. On defense, Longley’s 7’2", 295 pound frame makes him hard for opposing centers to toss around. But he has a knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and his inability to get off the floor is a real problem. He won’t give you more than 1 blocked shot per game. Longley also missed a month and a half last season due to problems with his left knee. He continually struggles to stay out of foul trouble and to contribute consistently throughout the game. He doesn’t usually provide much offense late in the game. Bill Wennington gives the team a 7 foot tall body and the ability to make the outside shot. Useful, but that’s all he can do. Joe Kleine was left off the playoff roster, and his NBA career is no doubt over. Dennis Rodman (see Power Forward) played a heckuva lot at the center position for the Bulls this year. It worked very well, as many NBA teams have undersized centers, and Rodman is strong enough to guard most of the bigger guys. (At this stage in his career, Rodman has a lot more defensive problems with players who play away from the basket.)

Power Forward:

Dennis Rodman has been the perfect player at this position for the Bulls for the last three years, and it’s impossible to imagine the Bulls winning those last three rings without him. He’s an excellent passer in the triangle offense. He’s won six straight rebounding titles. When he sets his mind to it, he can guard anybody. Rodman’s hustle and energy is tremendous, which is how he can lead the league in rebounds and guard opposing centers on defense despite being an "undersized" 6’8". He routinely makes spectacular saves of loose balls. He has no desire to score, so he doesn’t get in Jordan and Pippen’s way. He even played 80 games last year, the most he’d played since ‘91-‘92, as he avoided injury and suspensions. But Rodman’s contract is up. He’s 37 years old now, and he respects Phil Jackson almost exclusively among the fraternity of coaches. So there’s no reason to think that he would want to play for a rebuilding Bulls team with a different coach. Rodman’s heir apparent, Jason Caffey, was dealt away late in the season to Golden State for David Vaughn, who was immediately released, and two second round picks. The deal angered Jordan and most Bulls fans. Krause’s explanation - "We needed to play Toni Kukoc more" - made no sense to anybody. True, Caffey’s contract is up at the end of ’98, but I’d feel a lot better about having the opportunity to go over the cap to resign him than about having two second round picks. Well, what’s done is done, so right now Chicago has only one other true PF on its roster, Dickie Simpkins. Simpkins finally managed to make the playoff roster for the first time in four years in ‘97-’98. To call him "marginal" is charitable. The Bulls will no doubt go all out to try to entice 1994 draft pick Dragan Tarlac, who is still playing in Greece, to come to the NBA.

Small Forward:

Scottie Pippen missed the first 35 games of the season with a foot injury. When he came back, he wasn’t quite himself: 19.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 5.8 apg, 1.8 spg, 44.7% FG%. However, those numbers are obviously still mighty good, and Pip is still a perennial first-team All-Defense player: despite the injury, he won that honor for the seventh straight year in ‘97-‘98. The Bulls’ early season struggles pretty much ended when Pippen came off the IR. In the playoffs, Pippen’s defense was truly stellar. Former Sixth Man of the Year Toni Kukoc was disappointing when Pippen was out. The Bulls have to hope that was because Kukoc was struggling with his own foot injury at that time. If Pippen and Jordan both leave, Kukoc will be the team’s top offensive threat. He loves to take the big shot, and he had some of the best games of his career in last season’s playoffs. As you can see by looking at his per-minute numbers, Kukoc is a tremendous offensive player. He can score inside and out, and he’s a phenomenal passer. Playing 35 minutes a game, his numbers would look a lot like Detlef Schrempf’s. On defense, Kukoc has good hands, but he lacks strength. Although he’s 6’10", he is not a power forward. We can only hope that the Bulls’ desperation at that position doesn’t force Kukoc into starting there. Questions also exist about Kukoc’s intensity. He often doesn’t show much effort on defense, and he seems to sulk sometimes. Consistency has been a problem for him. My two cents: Kukoc desperately wants to start, and once he is guaranteed that he’ll start every game, he’ll take his play to a higher level.

Jud Buechler is also still around. He’s the type of role player from whom Phil Jackson can get useful minutes, but another coach will probably want little to do with him. 1997 first round pick Keith Booth spent almost the entire year on the IR with back problems that may or may not have been imaginary, getting into only 6 games. At least he wasn’t immediately released, like the Bulls’ 1996 first rounder, Travis Knight. Booth is 6’6" and has no outside game, so I can’t imagine him being a factor in the NBA.

Shooting Guard:

It’ll be hard to envy the person who replaces Michael Jordan as Chicago’s shooting guard. Jordan earned his fifth MVP award in ‘97-’98. He led the league in scoring for the 10th time with 28.7 ppg and did everything else too, putting up 5.8 rpg, 3.5 apg, 1.7 spg, and a 46.5% FG%. His stats were actually a little worse than the numbers he put up in ‘96-‘97, and Karl Malone put up almost the same exact statline both years, so it seems like the only reason that Malone won the MVP in ‘96-‘97 was the desire to "pass it around." That desire has probably cost Jordan a couple more MVP awards throughout the years than the five he already has. Jordan also picked up the 1998 All-Star Game MVP award. Naturally, Jordan made the All-NBA first team for the 10th time, and was a unanimous selection. Perhaps most impressively, he made the All-Defensive team for a record ninth time. During the ‘97- ’98 playoffs, Jordan became the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer, moved into fourth place in all-time playoff assists, continued to increase his all-time lead in playoff steals, hit the shot that won the NBA Finals, and broke his own record when he was named Finals MVP for the sixth time. Jordan is (choose one): the best player in NBA history; the most important player in NBA history; both.

Jordan has said repeatedly that either he will play for Phil Jackson in Chicago, or he will retire. He swears that he will not play for another team or another coach. But after he swore he’d never return to the NBA, many people don’t trust his word anymore. Such people think (or hope) that Mike will either return to the Bulls if Pippen does, or will go to another team, most likely to rejoin Pippen and/or Jackson. You have to be at least a little imaginative to figure out how another team could pay him, as Jordan made $33.1 million last year, and the salary cap is $26.9 million. (The Bulls, of course, used the Larry Bird exemption to resign him.)

Okay, let’s say MJ isn’t around next year. Who will be the shooting guard? If the Bulls are devious, it’ll be Scott Burrell. Burrell is bald, about Jordan’s height, and wears a similar uniform number (#24). He wouldn’t fool people for long as Jordan’s replacement, though. Expecting lots of scoring from him would be unrealistic. Burrell’s value lies in his really excellent defense, athleticism, and fastbreak ability. Rookie Rusty LaRue, a woefully undersized (6’2") shooting guard, threw up threes for 14 games for Chicago last year. The rest of the time, he joined Booth as a member of the phantom injury brigade. I doubt he’s around next year.

Point Guard:

As we all know, the Bulls have never really had a true point guard. Pippen, Jordan, and Kukoc have shared the responsibility of ball distribution in the triangle offense. Ron Harper has been the nominal point guard for the last three years. Harper has become an excellent defensive player, utilizing his size and long arms. You really have to admire his willingness to transform himself from an offensive focal point to a role player. He scored 9.3 ppg last year, his best average since ‘93-‘94, and he could likely score more if he were asked to do so. But at the age of 34, he’s not going to score 20 a game anymore like he did with the Clippers. If Jordan and Jackson leave, Harper would probably be the shooting guard. He’s only the point guard now because the Bulls play the triangle offense and have Jordan at SG.

Steve Kerr isn’t the defensive player Harper is, although his defensive effort is second to none. Kerr’s job description is simple: Shoot open three-pointers. And since he may be the best standstill shooter in the NBA (he’s the NBA’s all-time leader in three-point percentage), he’s exceptionally good at it. Without Pippen and Jordan to draw double teams, Kerr’s game could collapse. Randy Brown’s job is to guard the quick point guards that the aging Harper and Jordan can’t handle. He has filled his role well. His steals per minute numbers are outstanding, and his offensive game has improved a bit in his time with the Bulls.

Despite the fact that Harper, Kerr, and Brown are all contributors, this may be the Bulls’ weakest position if Jackson and the triangle offense leave. The Bulls don’t have anyone on the roster who could be an effective point guard in a "normal" offense.

III. My Selection

In the worst case scenario, the Bulls need help everywhere. They finished 62-20 this year. If Pippen, Jordan, and Rodman leave, and the Bulls resign the rest of their free agents, the best lineup they could put out there is:

  • C Longley
  • PF Tarlac
  • SF Kukoc
  • SG Burrell
  • PG Harper
  • Bench: Kerr, Wennington, Simpkins, R. Brown, Buechler, Booth, LaRue

That team would be lucky to finish 20-62.

A slightly better scenario is that Pippen and Rodman leave, but Jordan decides to return. Then you’re looking at a lineup of Longley, Tarlac, Kukoc, Jordan, and Harper. Why Jordan would want to toil with this team, I have no idea, but let’s pretend that he does. Even so, the team would still need help everywhere. Tarlac is unproven, Jordan won’t be around forever, and there’s still not an adequate backup at any position. Both these scenarios assume that the Bulls will get Tarlac over to the USA, which is not too likely to happen. If they can’t, the teams look even worse.

The best case scenario, of course, is that Pippen is lured back to Chicago by a huge salary offer, and that Jordan and Rodman agree to come back for a different coach, because there’s no way Phil Jackson is coaching this team next year. This scenario assumes that: 1) Jordan will pass up the opportunity to retire at the top of his game and after hitting an NBA Finals winning shot; 2) Pippen’s feelings that the organization betrayed him can be solved by throwing money at him; and 3) Jordan and Rodman will back down on their pledges of loyalty to Jackson. Personally, I don’t think these assumptions are likely to be true, so I don’t think it’s gonna happen.

We don’t know right now what will happen. What we do know is that either the Bulls will need tons of help this year, or they’ll need tons of help real soon after that. So I’m basically just looking to take the best player available, with a couple of biases. I don’t want a SF only guy, because we have Pippen to play there if the championship team stays together and Kukoc if it doesn’t. And a PF would be kind of nice, because thanks to the boneheaded trade of Caffey, we need one even if the team stays together. I’m not going to insist on a PF, though; it’s just a slight preference.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the Bulls do have the Warriors’ 2nd round pick, #34 overall (acquired in the Caffey trade). That will play a factor in my strategy, since there’s no point in reaching down for someone at this pick who is likely to be there a few picks later at #34. It probably makes more sense to take someone with this pick who is in demand.

Taking all of this into account, my pick is:

SG Toby Bailey, from UCLA

Physically and mentally, this guy is an NBA player. The question is how good he’ll be. I think you gotta like a guy who does as much across the board as Bailey does: scoring, rebounding, playmaking, defense. He’s not awesome at any one thing (except dunking), but although specialists sometimes get glory, all-around players win games. Ballhandling is his one big weakness that is likely here to stay. His outside shot is shaky, but it’s more a question of inconsistency than inability. I think that problem can be addressed. Of course, if he had no weaknesses, he wouldn’t be here at #28. Another factor arguing for Bailey is that there’s a good chance he would be gone by #34 if not taken here.

IV. Others Considered

This year’s foreign prospects look very unimpressive. Anyway, the Bulls will need plenty of bodies next year if the championship team breaks up, and it’s often difficult to get a foreign player to come to the US to play. So I’m only considering domestic products.

In order of preference:

Torraye Braggs, Xavier - A typical Xavier PF, Braggs is maybe a tad undersized, but he works hard, has skills, and should succeed in the NBA. I wish he blocked shots.

DeMarco Johnson, UNC-Charlotte - This guy looked really good in the NCAA tournament. I think he’s a notch below Braggs across the board. He should be productive.

J.R. Henderson, UCLA - His NBA position is SF, which I’m not really looking for. Maybe his ballhandling is sufficient to move to SG, but his speed and outside shooting aren’t, and forget about PF.

Jeff Sheppard, Kentucky - In the tournament, he looked like he could be Jeff Hornacek with tremendous jumping ability, which obviously would be one hell of a player. If he were two inches taller (which would make him 6’5", like Bailey, rather than 6’3"), everything would be great. As it is, he’s a tweener guard, best suited to come off the bench, and I’d like to draft someone who I think is at least a potential starter.

Brad Miller, Purdue - I like Miller for a lot of teams. He can put the ball on the floor, score from outside, and do a little of everything. I don’t like him for the Bulls because if the team breaks up, we have a frontcourt of Longley, Simpkins, and Kukoc. That is not exactly a physically imposing group, so if we take a big guy, I’d want it to be an inside, physical player like Braggs or DeMarco Johnson. If the team stays together, Wennington does many of the same things as Miller, and Wennington didn’t get off the bench much last year.

Tyronn Lue, Nebraska - A PG is tempting, since as I said, the Bulls won’t have anyone who can really play point if the team breaks up. But I’m not sure that Lue is much better than other PGs (eg Rafer Alston, Earl Boykins, Anthony Carter, Tyson Wheeler) who could be drafted with the #34 pick or even with the Bulls’ other 2nd round pick, #58.

Ruben Patterson, Cincinnati - Moved into the 1st round with a great performance at the Chicago camps. But I couldn’t see taking a guy who has a PF type game but SG size (6’6"). That works a lot better in camps than it does in the NBA.

Charles Jones, LIU - I think he’ll succeed in the NBA as a combo guard, but I’d rather try to draft him in the second round because of questions about his size (at 6’2", can he cut it at PG, or is he a too-small SG?), his stats (were they padded by LIU’s run-and-gun style of play?), and his checkered past.

Jelani McCoy, UCLA - I have no idea why he’s ranked in the 20s by most draftniks. I wouldn’t want him anywhere near my team, not because he smokes reefer - in the NBA, that would only help him fit in, and anyway you can’t blame a UCLA guy for idolizing Bill Walton - but because he got worse every year in college. The Usenet GMs apparently agree that McCoy is not too desirable a property.

V. Who the team will probably take

As I mentioned earlier, this team was designed to break up after this year, so 11 players are free agents. Only Harper, Booth, Brown, and Kukoc are signed beyond this year. Jordan, Pippen, Rodman, Longley, Burrell, Kerr, Wennington, Simpkins, Buechler, Kleine, and LaRue are all free agents.

Everything depends on whether Jordan, Pippen, and Rodman want to stay or not. If they do, then the Bulls will no doubt just try to re- sign everyone else and come back with the same team. It’s not a total given that they would be able to do so. A lot of teams could use players like Longley, Kerr, and Burrell. But most of the role players have been Bulls for a while, and no other team could promise them a better chance at a championship, so they would likely be willing to re-sign.

Let’s say none of the three superstars are here next year. Then, even if they re-sign all of their other free agents, the Bulls would still, at a minimum, need to fill the power forward and point guard positions immediately, as well as attempting to add depth everywhere. (It’s generally accepted that the Bulls at least have a coach lined up: Tim Floyd of Iowa State.) They might as well look for young guys, since the team couldn’t expect to be competitive for years. Since they would have so few tradeable properties, free agency would probably be their best bet. At least without those three guys, they’d have plenty of money to spend.

The first thing the "rebuilding Bulls" would look to do is sign one of the members of the rookie class of 1995, and it is a decent crop: Damon Stoudamire, Antonio McDyess, Joe Smith, Jerry Stackhouse, Alan Henderson, Brent Barry, Gary Trent, Corliss Williamson, and of course Jason Caffey. A lot of these guys either would want more than their worth (Smith, Stackhouse) or are likely to re-sign with their current team (Stoudamire, McDyess). I suspect that Krause would really like Barry, and I suspect he wants out of Miami. There are plenty of other free agents who could help a team with as many needs as the "rebuilding Bulls" would have. It would be a matter of who would listen to Krause’s advances and how much money it would take to get them to sign up with a rebuilding situation.

The "rebuilding Bulls" would have to resign Longley, unless they could somehow get a better center. Burrell would also help them, whether it be off the bench or as a starter. Kerr and Wennington would be resigned if they were willing to play cheap. The other guys could walk without much being lost.


Craig Simpson - Usenet Draft Commissioner

Visit My Home Page