Chicago Bulls' Lucky Bounce—How the Draft Lottery Rescued the Franchise

SuperfanCorrespondent IMay 22, 2008

Two days ago, I wrote an epic two-part column on how poor draft management since the dynasty days had left the Bulls in dire straits.

I guess the draft lottery gods must have been touched by my story, because in a miraculous turn of events, the Chicago Bulls ended up with the No. 1 pick in this year’s NBA Draft.


The only person happier than me on the planet right now is John Paxson, because a ping-pong ball just saved his job.


Paxson had just spent five years rebuilding Jerry Krause’s mess and assembling a young nucleus that had advanced to the playoffs three years in a row, culminating with a first-round sweep of the then-defending champion Miami Heat.


After being picked by many to win the Eastern Conference, the Bulls, for no discernable reason, played uninspired basketball this year and didn’t even make the playoffs, unraveling Paxson’s carefully constructed plan.


It caused him to fire his head-coach on Christmas, and trade the major free-agent acquisition of his tenure, Ben Wallace, less than two years after signing him.


The Bulls were facing an uncertain future and Paxson was being heavily criticized for many of his decisions, like signing Wallace instead of opting to keep a younger Tyson Chandler.


Paxson also failed to acquire Pau Gasol two years ago, and this year Gasol was traded for two cents on the dollar to the Lakers.

The move I disliked the most, trading LaMarcus Aldridge for Tyrus Thomas, looked disastrous as Aldridge flourished in Portland and Thomas floundered in Chicago.


Finally, Paxson couldn’t even land a coach, Mike D’Antoni, who explicitly stated that he wanted to coach in Chicago (That might not be Paxson’s fault, but he still gets blamed for it).


Pax faced the prospect of blowing up his entire design or risk losing his job, because the team’s once-bright future had dimmed so drastically.


The Bulls had a lottery pick, but he never even entertained the thought of landing a top-five pick, because they had a 81% chance of staying at the ninth pick, and no team had ever made the jump from ninth to first in the current system.


That’s why Paxson wasn’t even there to attend the lottery, and sent Steve Schanwald, who, until yesterday, no Bulls fan had ever heard of.


Here are Schanwald’s thoughts prior to the trip: "I thought it was a waste of time," said the Bulls executive vice president of business operations. "I was just hoping to have a good meal." Sorry, but I have to digress after hearing this comment.


First of all, who in the world does Steve Schanwald think he is to be complaining about a free trip and receiving prime time TV airtime?


I know he has a fancy title, but that was probably made up just to make it seem like the Bulls actually cared about the lottery. You know what Pax, send me to the next lottery as the Bulls representative; I will certainly not consider it a waste of time.


My title, the grand executive associate president of draft lotteries and head recruiter of the Luv-A-Bulls.


I guarantee you that Schanwald is asking for a giant raise right now, as a “waste of time” turned out to be the night that altered the direction of the franchise.


But, before everyone starts planning Grant Park celebrations, lets not forget that the Bulls have been here before. This is the seventh time in the last 10 years that the Bulls have had the No. 4 pick or higher.


The fact that they’ve had that many selections clearly indicates that their draft strategy hasn’t been working.


But this is the first pick, the Bulls can’t mess this up right? (Sighing) Yes, they can, and there will be a fiery debate in Chicago during the next couple of months over whether they should draft Michael Beasley, Derek Rose, or even trade the pick.


But before Bulls fans split our hairs over what Paxson should do (in a future column), lets all just revel in the fact that an offseason that looked so bleak just came out smelling like a…great off-season.