After watching the Bulls get their tails handed to them by the Portland Trail Blazers at home Thursday night, I found myself wondering, “hmm…what if the Bulls had held onto their draft pick in 2006, 2nd overall, LaMarcus Aldridge, instead of trading him for the 4th pick, Tyrus Thomas?” And while hindsight is 20/20, I still think its fun to look back and wonder, “what if”…so…
Let’s say the Bulls keep their pick and draft Aldridge. Then lets say they pair him with their 1st round pick in 2007, Joakim Noah. Now you have a young, long, athletic front court to go along with a great young swing man from Duke in Luol Deng. Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon round out your starting line up this year. In his rookie season with Portland, LaMarcus Aldridge averaged 9 points and 5 rebounds a game. Tyrus Thomas? 5 points, 4 rebounds. So far, hard to tell who got the better of this deal. But, as the Bulls stuck with Thomas in real life, they will stick with Aldridge in my scenario, allowing the young man to blossom. The following year, Aldridge’s averages take a significant jump, to 17 points and almost 8 rebounds a game, while Tyrus Thomas is only averaging 7 points and 4 rebounds.
Jump to 2008. The Bulls landing the top pick had nothing to do with their record that year. It was a total fluke, and so I consider it not altered at all in this simulation. So, the Bulls draft Derrick Rose. At this point Tyrus Thomas has proven to be a bust, and is traded, leaving the Bulls with a still unproven rookie, Taj Gibson and a mediocre at best veteran, Hakim Warick, alongside Joakim Noah still coming into his own and Brad Miller in the final years of his career. But if you have Aldridge, you hang onto him, leaving the rest of the Bulls team virtually the same.
So, going into the 2010-2011. The year of the mega-star free agents. Lebron, Wade, Bosh. How much more attractive do the Bulls look, with Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and LaMarcus Aldridge to Lebron or Wade? Now the Bulls are not in the market for a big man, so Carlos Boozer never happens. If the Bulls were more enticing, would the Big 3 have ever happened? Dwayne Wade seriously considered the Bulls, being from Chicago himself. And only after Bosh and James decided to bring their talents to South Beach, did he decide to stick with Miami, a team he was ready to leave for a better opportunity.
Which leads me to ask the question – how does a team with a starting lineup of Rose, Wade, Deng, Aldridge, Noah do in 2010-2011? Here were their averages with their respective teams that year.
LaMarcus Aldridge – 21.8ppg, 8.8rbs
Joakim Noah – 11.7ppg, 10.4rbs
Luol Deng – 17.4ppg, 5.8rbs
Derrick Rose – 25ppg, 7.7asts
Dwayne Wade – 25.5ppg, 6rbs, 4asts
Oh, and who won MVP of the league that year? Derrick Rose. And without Miami to get in the Bulls way, this team would have no doubt been Champions that year and many years to come. Another dynasty in Chicago. And to add another layer to this – on a team where Derrick Rose doesn’t have to carry all of the weight of the team on his shoulders, does he overwork himself into an injury filled season which led to the eventual torn ACL that we all still sit here waiting for him to recover from?
Now, a lot of other little things would have had to happen and we’re assuming that these players performed as well with their actual teams as they would on my fictional Bulls team. But doesn’t it make you wonder, “what if the Bulls hadn’t traded that pick?” Makes you a little sick, huh?