Ranking the Top 25 Players in Chicago Bulls History

Andres MonteroContributor IAugust 2, 2013

Ranking the Top 25 Players in Chicago Bulls History

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    Since their inaugural season in 1966, the Chicago Bulls have been fortunate enough to have a handful of All-Stars and Hall of Famers play for them.

    Making a top-25 list isn’t easy, especially when there are many players who have had similar roles and stats. That’s why these selections will be based on three things: stats, accomplishments and overall skill.

    Accomplishments will hold slightly more weight than the other two because winning should be rewarded.

    A player who has a career average of 25 points but no rings, awards or NBA team honors should be placed lower than one who has multiple accolades.

    Many great players have donned a Bulls uniform over the last 47 years. Who made the cut?

    Note: All stats gathered from basketball-reference.com.

25. Mickey Johnson (1974-79)

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    Bulls Career Averages: 45.5% FG, 15.2 PPG, 8.4 RPG

    Mickey Johnson is rarely mentioned as a Bulls great, but he was a proven scorer throughout his years in Chicago.

    Johnson was a rare player during his time. He wasn’t the typical post-up power forward. Instead, he excelled because of his ability to shoot and attack.

    He showed how special of a player he was during the 1977 playoffs, averaging 27 points and 13 rebounds in the Bulls’ three-game series against the Portland Trail Blazers.

    Johnson went on to have a solid career, playing for four more teams after his Bulls tenure.

24. Orlando Woolridge (1981-86)

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    Bulls Career Averages: 53.2% FG, 17.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG

    Orlando Woolridge was the No. 6 pick in the 1981 draft but got little playing time as a rookie. Once he became a full-time starter, he began to live up to expectations.

    For the rest of his Bulls career, Woolridge showed his scoring ability.

    During his sophomore season, Woolridge more than doubled his scoring average (16.5 PPG) and only kept improving in the following seasons, especially when Jordan arrived.

    Woolridge increased his scoring average to 22 during Jordan’s rookie season, making his scoring total that year the best of his career.

    Although Woolridge never won an award or made an All-Star team (even though he probably should have), his contributions to the team and his consistent improvement every year make him one of the great forwards in Bulls history.

23. Ben Gordon (2004-09)

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    Bulls Career Averages: 18.5 PPG, 41.5% 3PT

    All throughout his Bulls stint, Ben Gordon was a volume and streaky scorer. 

    As a rookie, Gordon averaged 15 points, shooting more than 40 percent from three. His performance led to him winning the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award, making him the only rookie in league history to do so.

    Gordon continued to have a prominent role in the team as a scoring guard and three-point specialist, averaging more than 20 points twice in his five years.

    One of Gordon’s biggest performances came during Game 2 of the 2009 playoffs. He scored 42 points, shooting 54 percent from downtown in what basically became a shootout between him and Ray Allen.

    Unfortunately for Chicago, that was Gordon’s last season with the team, leaving a void the Bulls would struggle to fill in the following years.

22. Elton Brand (1999-2001)

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    Bulls Career Averages: 20.1 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 1.6 BPG

    The former No. 1 overall pick was dominant in just about every way. He scored in bunches, crashed the boards and blocked shots at a solid rate.

    Elton Brand was selected to the All-Rookie First Team and won Rookie of the Year honors during the 1999-2000 season.

    The Bulls weren’t getting any better, though, winning fewer than 20 games during both of Brand’s years with the team. Management traded him in 2001 to the Los Angeles Clippers for Brian Skinner and Tyson Chandler.

    Brand played for only two years in Chicago, and we’ll never know what could have happened if he hadn’t been traded.

    Regardless, Brand’s two excellent years with the Bulls place him among the franchise's best.

21. Tom Boerwinkle (1968-78)

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    Bulls Career Averages: 7.2 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 3.2 APG

    Tom Boerwinkle wasn’t a flashy player, but he was as consistent as they came.

    Over his first four years, he averaged more than 11 rebounds, with a double-double in two of those years. His effort on the glass has made him the second-leading rebounder in Bulls history. He also holds the single-game franchise record for rebounds with 37.

    Boerwinkle’s greatest performances came in the 1970 playoffs, where he averaged 17.6 points and 14.4 rebounds in a five-game series against Atlanta.

    Passing was another of Boerwinkle’s strong points. He’s currently the eighth-leading assist man in franchise history.

    Boerwinkle was a versatile center, similar to Joakim Noah. His consistency, style of play and long tenure with Chicago puts him among the Bulls greats.

20. Charles Oakley (1985-88, 2001-02)

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    Bulls Career Averages: 47.4% FG, 12.2 PPG, 11.6 RPG

    Charles Oakley was the rim protector the Bulls were looking for. He had that toughness and grittiness that most teams are starting to look for once again.

    During his rookie season, Oakley averaged nine points and eight rebounds, earning him a selection to the All-Rookie First team.

    Oakley made his name as an elite rebounder the following two years, leading the league in rebounds in the 1986-87 and 1987-88 seasons.

    Even though Oakley was producing at a high level, the Bulls had Horace Grant, who was ready to take on a starting role. This led to Oakley being traded to New York for Bill Cartwright.

    Oakley’s another player whose Bulls career was cut short via trade, but his defensive presence and dominance on the glass make him a player to remember.

    Note: Oakley's 2000-01 season is excluded from his averages.

19. Dave Greenwood (1979-85)

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    Bulls Career Averages: 47.5% FG, 12.6 PPG, 9.1 RPG

    The Chicago Bulls lost a coin toss to the Los Angeles Lakers for the No. 1 overall pick in the 1979 draft. The Lakers selected Magic Johnson.

    The Bulls were left with Dave Greenwood, but he was no slouch.

    Greenwood averaged 16 points and nine rebounds during his rookie season, leading to an All-Rookie First Team selection. He also ranked in the top 10 in offensive rebounds that year.

    The following year, Greenwood suffered a severe sprain in his right wrist, which hurt his productivity. It didn’t stop him from playing, though. He played the second half of the season with the injury and helped lead the Bulls to the playoffs.

    During the playoffs, Greenwood increased his scoring to 17 points per game and shot an impressive 58 percent.

    Greenwood’s productivity continued to decline year after year, however. The Bulls traded him to the San Antonio Spurs for George Gervin prior to the 1985-86 season.

    His career wasn’t what it could have been, but his heart and effort shouldn’t go unnoticed.

18. Guy Rodgers (1966-67)

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    Bulls Career Averages: 17.1 PPG, 10.7 APG

    Guy Rodgers’ Bulls career was also cut short via trade. In fact, Rodgers played just one year in Chicago, but that was enough to put him on this list.

    Rodgers was a key player in the Bulls inaugural season, leading the league in assists and setting a then-record 908 assists.

    To this day, that remains the Bulls’ record for most assists in a season. He also holds the franchise record for assists in a game with 24.

    Rodgers was selected to his fourth All-Star team in 1967.

    Four games into the 1967-68 season, Rodgers was traded to the Cincinnati Royals, ending his short-lived career in Chicago. Had he played a few more years, he’d be higher on the list.

17. Kirk Hinrich (2003-10, 2012-Present)

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    Bulls Career Averages: 12.5 PPG, 5.6 APG, 38.4% 3PT

    After a motorcycle accident ended Jay Williams’ career, the Bulls were forced to draft a replacement. Kirk Hinrich would prove to be one of the Bulls’ best draft picks in recent memory.

    Hinrich wasn’t the explosive scorer Williams was supposed to be, but he was still a solid offensive weapon. More importantly, Hinrich quickly became one of the Bulls’ most versatile defenders.

    His ability to defend 2-guards and bigger wing players was—and continues to be—a big asset for Chicago.

    Hinrich has been a fan favorite as well as a great model player for the Bulls.

    Hinrich is currently the franchise leader in made three-point field goals, and will continue adding to that number next season.

16. Bob Boozer (1966-69)

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    Bulls Career Averages: 48.6% FG, 20.4 PPG, 8.7 RPG

    Bob Boozer (no relation to Carlos) was another key player during the Bulls’ inaugural season.

    He gave the Bulls the inside presence they needed to become a force in the league. Behind his 18 points and eight rebounds, Boozer led the Bulls to the playoffs, where they lost three consecutive games to the St. Louis Hawks.

    The following year, Boozer improved his numbers across the board, earning him the only All-Star selection of his career. He was just the third Bull to ever make an All-Star team.

    Boozer helped the Bulls' first year become a success and followed that year with two more great seasons before being shipped off to the Seattle SuperSonics.

    Boozer’s impact and high level of play make him one of the great forwards in Bulls history.

15. B.J. Armstrong (1989-95, 1999-2000)

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    Bulls Career Averages: 10.9 PPG, 3.4 APG, 43.7% 3PT

    Armstrong had a great outside shot. He led the league in three-point percentage during the 1992-93 season, helping the Bulls win their third consecutive NBA title.

    After Jordan’s retirement, Armstrong became more involved in the offense, increasing his scoring average to 12 points, while remaining an outstanding three-point shooter.

    Armstrong’s performance that year led to his only All-Star game appearance.

    Because of his role on the team and his three rings, Armstrong cracks the top 15.

    Note: Armstrong’s 1999-2000 season is excluded from his averages.

14. Toni Kukoc (1993-2000)

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    Bulls Career Averages: 14.7 PPG, 4.3 APG, 4.9 RPG

    After a three-year delay, Toni Kukoc made his Bulls debut in 1993, already playing like a veteran.

    Kukoc was a great addition to the Bulls bench as he gave them double-digit scoring every year. He won the Sixth Man of the Year Award in the Bulls’ 72-win season.

    Kukoc was a versatile player. He could attack the basket, knock down the occasional three and was a solid rebounder and passer.

    In the shortened 1998-99 season, Kukoc led the Bulls in scoring with nearly 19 points per game.

    The Bulls ended up trading Kukoc the following season to the Philadelphia 76ers.

    In his six-and-a-half years with Chicago, Kukoc helped the franchise on their way to a second three-peat. Add in his consistency and versatility, and he’s a lock for the top 25.

13. Joakim Noah (2007-Present)

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    Career Averages: 50.7% FG, 9.4 PPG, 9.1 RPG

    Joakim Noah is the heart and soul of the Chicago Bulls.

    No one on the team has the heart, desire and will to win that Noah does. His in-your-face personality that makes opposing crowds hate him is just the beginning, though.

    Noah has quickly become one of the best centers in the league. His defensive prowess, awkward tornado shot and passing ability make him a threat on both ends of the floor.

    Up to this day, Noah’s best game came in front of a national crowd, when he posted a triple-double consisting of 23 points, 21 rebounds and 11 blocks.

    Noah earned his first All-Star selection in the 2012-13 season.

    Noah played the 2013 playoffs with a nagging plantar fasciitis injury, but he (along with Nate Robinson) willed the team to a Game 7 victory over the Brooklyn Nets.

    The Bulls have yet to win a title—or make the finals—with Noah on the roster, but he’s a key player in the Bulls’ future. His on-court performance makes him one of the best Bulls centers ever, but it’s his leadership and desire to win that skyrockets him to the 13th spot.

12. Luol Deng (2004-Present)

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    Career Averages: 46% FG, 16.0 PPG, 6.4 RPG

    Luol Deng embodies what it is to be a Bull. His effort on a nightly basis is one of the many things fans have come to love about the two-time All-Star.

    For many years, Deng was an under-the-radar player. He came in every night, got the job done and that was it.

    It wasn’t until the 2011-12 season that everyone began to take notice of just how good he was and how much he meant to the Bulls.

    Deng is one of the league’s best perimeter defenders. His length, size and quick first step allow him to stay in front of just about anyone.

    His offense has also played a key part in the team’s success. Once he developed a solid outside shot, the Bulls were able to stretch defenses more and open up the driving lanes. He’s also starting to develop a solid post game that he can use against overmatched defenders.

    Deng has led the league in minutes the last two seasons and played the entire 2012-13 season with a fractured wrist—as well as a fractured thumb for a portion of it.

    Deng is a complete player. He gets it done on both ends and continues to prove his value every season. It still remains to be seen if he’ll win a ring with the Bulls, but that time may come sooner rather than later.

11. Horace Grant (1987-94)

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    Bulls Career Averages: 53% FG, 12.6 PPG, 8.6 RPG

    Horace Grant spent his rookie season behind Charles Oakley, but that’s all it took to convince the Bulls he was ready to start.

    The Bulls traded Oakley, and Grant succeeded in his new starting role. He averaged more than 12 points each season as a starter and shot more than 50 percent all seven years.

    He was one of the key role players in the Bulls’ first three-peat, averaging just less than 12 points per game while shooting 55 percent over those three playoff runs.

    He was a great interior defender, and his offense was a lot more versatile than Oakley’s since he could knock down open jump shots.

    Grant was selected to the All-Star Game in 1994 and also has four consecutive selections to the All-Defensive Second Team (1993-96).

    There’s no denying Grant is one of greatest Bulls in franchise history.

10. Reggie Theus (1978-84)

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    Bulls Career Averages: 17.6 PPG, 5.5 APG, 1.2 SPG

    Chicago drafted Reggie Theus with the ninth overall pick in the 1978 draft.

    Theus’ size and playing style allowed him to play multiple positions. He was a good distributor, and was listed as the Bulls’ point guard for two seasons. He was a natural 2-guard, and his scoring ability showed that, but he also had the size to play some small forward.

    After finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting, Theus followed his rookie campaign with an All-Star caliber season where he averaged 20 points and six assists, but failed to make the team.

    The following year, however, Theus made the All-Star team. He would make a second appearance in 1983.

    Theus had a sour end to his Bulls tenure. He was benched by new coach Kevin Loughery and traded prior to the NBA’s trade deadline. Theus tried to explain what happened in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, but everything still seems unclear:

    To this day, I still don't know what happened. [Loughery] and I never had a major run-in, argument, nothing. I am more mad about it today than I was then because now I realize how unfair it was.

    Theus will still be remembered as one of the great Bulls. He was loved and respected by fans. It’s just a shame it ended the way it did.

9. Dennis Rodman (1995-98)

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    Bulls Career Averages: 5.2 PPG, 15.3 RPG

    When Dennis Rodman brought his rainbow hair to Chicago, he was already an established force. He had two rings with the rival Detroit Pistons and two Defensive Player of the Year awards under his belt.

    Rodman may have played only three years in Chicago, but his impact on that team is undeniable.

    He was selected to his seventh All-Defensive First Team after the Bulls' historic 72-win season and was a top-three rebounder each season, leading the league in his third year.

    Rodman’s interior defense and out-of-this-world rebounding artistry is exactly what the Bulls needed for their second title spree.

8. Chet Walker (1969-75)

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    Bulls Career Averages: 48.3% FG, 20.5 PPG, 6.1 RPG

    Chet Walker was one of the Bulls’ first bona fide superstars.

    After being traded from Philadelphia, where he won a championship, he spent his final six years in Chicago and never averaged anything less than 19 points and five rebounds.

    Along with Jerry Sloan, Norm Van Lier and Bob Love, Walker helped make the Bulls a great team throughout the early and mid-‘70s. Chicago made the playoffs every year Walker was on the team.

    While he was never able to replicate his Philly success in Chicago, Walker cemented his place in the Hall of Fame due to his elite play on the Bulls.

    Walker is currently the sixth-leading scorer in franchise history.

7. Artis Gilmore (1976-82, 87-88)

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    Bulls Career Averages: 60.3% FG, 20.4 PPG, 11.2 RPG

    The Bulls were able to land one of the best centers in NBA history after the ABA-NBA merger.

    Gilmore still holds the NBA record for career field-goal percentage.

    He scored at an incredibly efficient rate, rebounded well and was an elite defender. He made the All-Defensive Second Team his first year in the NBA and was selected to four All-Star teams.

    Gilmore is currently the Bulls’ all-time leader in blocks and ranks fifth in rebounds and seventh in points.

    A 2011 Hall of Fame inductee, Gilmore is hands down the best center in Bulls’ history.

    Note: Gilmore's 1987 season is excluded from his averages.

6. Norm Van Lier (1971-78)

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    Bulls Career Averages: 12.2 PPG, 6.8 APG, 4.6 RPG

    Norm Van Lier is one of the greatest defenders in Bulls history.

    Van Lier was selected to the All-Defensive First Team three times and to the Second Team five times. He was also an All-NBA Second Team selection after the 1973-74 season.

    Along with Jerry Sloan, they made up one of the league’s best defensive backcourts at the time.

    Van Lier is currently the third all-time leader in steals and assists (with Hinrich set to surpass him in both this upcoming season).

    Five playoff appearances make Van Lier’s ‘70s Bulls one of the better teams in franchise history. Add three All-Star appearances, and Stomin' Norman's legacy is cemented.

5. Derrick Rose (2008-Present)

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    Career Averages: 21.0 PPG, 6.8 APG, 3.8 RPG

    Derrick Rose’s placement could be anywhere between three and 10. With only four seasons under his belt, he has the shortest tenure of anyone in the top five.

    However, Rose’s impact on the Bulls and the city of Chicago is matched only by Michael Jordan’s.

    Rose has accomplished more in his short time in the league than most ever did in their entire careers. He’s the youngest MVP in league history and even has a rule named after him so players who excel early in their careers can get bigger contracts.

    After an ACL tear cut short the Bulls’ 2012 playoff run, Rose missed the entire 2012-13 season rehabbing his knee and working on his game to come back full strength.

    This remains to be seen, but since being drafted No. 1 overall, Rose has given Bulls fans hope that a title will soon be theirs.

    There's not denying his impact on and off the the court.

    Barring any future setbacks, Rose is on his way to becoming a future Hall of Famer and perhaps the first retired jersey since Jordan and Pippen’s.

4. Bob Love (1968-76)

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    Bulls Career Averages: 19.4 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.6 APG

    Bob Love flourished once he was traded to the Bulls during the 1968-69 season.

    Love gave the Bulls the scoring they needed. He was one of the first scoring power forwards, possessing the size of a 4 and the quickness and speed of a 2-guard.

    He was a great all-around player, earning two selections to the All-Defensive Second Team in ’71 and ’72. He was also a three-time All-Star with Chicago.

    Love led the Bulls to consecutive Western Conference Finals appearances in 1974 and 1975, in which they were swept by the Milwaukee Bucks and lost in Game 7 to the Golden State Warriors, respectively.

    Still, Love remains one of the greatest Bulls of all time. He's third all time in scoring, second in free throws made and eighth in rebounds.

    He’s one of four players with his jersey hanging in the rafters, making him a clear choice for this list.

3. Jerry Sloan (1966-76)

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    Bulls Career Averages: 14.7 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.2 SPG

    In the 1966 expansion draft, Jerry Sloan was the Bulls’ first selection. What a great pick it was.

    Sloan was a solid scorer, but it was his rebounding and defense that set him apart from the rest.

    His rebounding averages were those of a power forward or center and his defense earned him four selections to the All-Defensive First Team and two to the Second Team.

    Sloan was also a two-time All-Star and led the Bulls to eight straight playoff appearances.

    “The Original Bull” was the first player to have his jersey retired by the team, and for that reason (among the others) Sloan is an undeniable top-three Bull.

2. Scottie Pippen (1987-98, 2003-04)

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    Bulls Career Averages: 18 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 2.1 SPG

    These last two choices should be pretty obvious.

    A lot of Scottie Pippen’s career was overshadowed by some guy named Michael Jordan, but there’s no denying the elite player Pip was.

    Not only is he one of the best perimeter defenders of all time, but he’s also one of the most versatile.

    Pippen is a member of one of the NBA’s most exclusive clubs. During the 1994-95 season, Pippen led the Bulls in scoring, assists, rebounds, blocks and steals. That made him (at the time) the second player in NBA history to accomplish that feat.

    Seven All-Star teams, eight All-Defensive First Team selections, three All-NBA First Teams and six NBA championships later, and there should be no conversation that Pippen is second to only one Bull.

    Note: Pippen’s 2003-04 season was excluded from his averages.

1. Michael Jordan (1984-93, 95-98)

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    Bulls Career Averages: 31.5 PPG, 5.4 APG, 6.3 RPG

    What can be said that hasn’t already been said about the greatest player in NBA history? His Airness takes the No. 1 spot by a landslide.

    Jordan is the most dynamic scorer the league has ever seen. Countless circus shots and game-winners only prove that.

    After taking the league by storm his rookie season—in which he won Rookie of the Year—Jordan dominated defenses every night, winning 10 scoring titles (seven consecutive).

    Aside from being an elite scorer, he was also an elite defender, earning him nine All-Defensive First Team selections and one Defensive Player of the Year award.

    MJ is currently the Bulls' all-time leader in points, rebounds, assists, steals and many other categories.

    Add in five MVP awards, six Finals MVPs, 14 All-Star selections and you get the best to ever step on the hardwood.

    There will always be one question looming over, and it’s whether or not the Bulls could have won eight straight titles if Jordan didn’t retire in 1993.

    That’s just nitpicking, though.