The Bulls will be participating in the NBA Draft Lottery for the 10th time in franchise history Tuesday night. The franchise has the sixth-best odds of winning the first overall pick and the chance to draft a prospect such as Deandre Ayton or Luka Doncic.
The annual drawing to determine the NBA’s draft lottery has been around since 1985. Before that, the league’s two worst teams used a coin flip to determine the No. 1 and No. 2 picks while everybody else was sorted by win-loss record. The lottery made every non-playoff team part of the process.
The Bulls have won the No. 1 overall pick in the lottery twice since the league flipped away those coins in favor of the lotto. The first time came in 1999 when Elton Brand became the top prize. The second time brought Derrick Rose back to Chicagoa decade ago.
We’ll soon know where the Bulls’ top pick will come in this year, but in the meantime, here’s a look at every draft lottery the team has ever been a part of.
Pre-Lottery Position: 5th
Pick: 6th – Stacey King, Oklahoma
The Bulls’ first trip to the lottery came after a season where they won 47 games and reached the Eastern Conference Finals. The reason? Back in 1986, the Nets signed free agent Orlando Woolridge to a five-year contract, and the Bulls gave up their 15-day window to match because New Jersey generously offered them a first-round pick and two second-round picks to do so.
The first-round pick came the Bulls’ way in 1989 after the Nets posted a 26-win season with Woolridge already moving on to a new team. The pick dropped one spot in the lottery to No. 6, where the Bulls landed King, who would play a bench role on three championship teams in Chicago. Players the Bulls passed on include Tim Hardaway and Shawn Kemp, although they hit on the No. 18 pick with guard B.J. Armstrong.
Pre-Lottery Position: 3rd
Pick: 1st – Elton Brand, Duke
The Bulls were a disaster in wake of the Michael Jordan era, and their reward for a 13-37 lockout-shortened season was the No. 1 pick in the 1999 NBA Draft. The team leapt over the Grizzlies (8-42) and Clippers (9-41) to get the top spot.
The big options at the top were Brand, Maryland guard Steve Francis, Rhode Island forward Lamar Odom and UCLA guard Baron Davis. The Bulls opted for Brand, who would win Rookie of the Year as a reliable 20-10 producer right out of the gate but found himself playing in Los Angeles three years after being drafted. More on that soon.
Pre-Lottery Position: 2nd; 6th
Odds: 20%; 6.4%
Pick: 4th – Marcus Fizer, Iowa State; 7th – Chris Mihm, Texas
Coming off the good fortune of the 1999 lottery, surely the Bulls would keep it up, right? Not so much. They entered with two picks, including the Wizards’ first thanks to the Toni Kukoc trade,but the Nets and Grizzlies leapfrogged into the top two picks. New Jersey in particular had good fortune in jumping from No. 7 to No. 1 with 4.4 percent odds.
If there’s any solace for the Bulls, the 2000 draft was terrible. The best players to come out of the top 10 picks were Kenyon Martin, Mike Miller and Jamal Crawford. The Bulls acquired Crawford immediately after the draft for Mihm, so at least they had that going for them.
Pre-Lottery Position: 1st
Pick: 4th – Eddy Curry, Thornwood HS
The 2001 NBA Draft was supposed to be transformative for the Bulls. The team had tried to sign Tracy McGrady and Eddie Jones in previous efforts to return to contention, but once the plan fell through, GM Jerry Krause decided to dig further into a rebuild by landing a pair of big-time high school prospects in Curry and Tyson Chandler with top-five picks.
The Bulls had the top odds entering the lottery, but fell to No. 4 with the Wizards, Clippers and Hawks jumping into the top three. They used that pick on Curry, and the same day traded Brand to the Clippers for the rights to Chandler. It was supposed to give the Bulls two shots at a potential franchise big man, but the team ended up with none.
Pre-Lottery Position: T-1st
Pick: 2nd – Jay Williams, Duke
The Bulls and Warriors entered the 2002 NBA Draft tied for the best odds at 22.5 percent after finishing the season with 21-61 records. The big prize of the year was Chinese center Yao Ming, who would go to the Rockets after they won the lottery with 8.9 percent odds. Houston had originally been fifth in the order.
Coming in at No. 2, the Bulls had the chance to draft the best college player in the nation, Duke guard Jay Williams, who showed flashes of becoming a quality starting guard as a rookie. However, he suffered major injuries in a 2003 motorcycle crash and never played in the NBA again.
Pre-Lottery Position: 7th
Pick: 7th – Kirk Hinrich, Kansas
If there was ever a year for the Bulls to have great lottery odds, it would’ve been 2003, when LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were top-five picks. Instead, the Bulls entered with the seventh-best odds, won the seventh pick and ended up with Hinrich, who would go on to have a solid 13-year career but nothing like what the aforementioned four accomplished.
In a hilarious twist, the big winner of the 2003 draft lottery – well, other than the Cavaliers, who won the top pick with top odds – happened to be the Pistons, who held the Grizzlies’ pick from the 1997 Otis Thorpe trade. The Pistons, coming off a trip to the conference finals, jumped from No. 6 to No. 2 and had their pick of Anthony, Wade, Bosh and … Darko Milicic. We all know who they went with. Hey, at least they won the 2004 championship.
Pre-Lottery Position: 2nd
Pick: 3rd – Ben Gordon, Connecticut
The top of the 2004 draft was largely a two-horse race between high school center Dwight Howard and Connecticut big man Emeka Okafor. The Bulls entered the lottery with the second-best odds of the top pick, but the Clippers jumped from fifth to second, knocking the Bulls down to third.
The consolation was Okafor’s sharpshooting UConn teammate, Ben Gordon, who would go on to lead the Bulls in points scored every season he was there (2004-09). Gordon also won Sixth Man of the Year as a rookie by averaging 15.1 points in 24.4 minutes per game while shooting over 40 percent from three.
Pre-Lottery Position: 9th
Pick: 1st – Derrick Rose, Memphis
The 2018 lottery is the first time the Bulls have had decent lottery odds in 14 years, but it was 10 years that they last won the whole dang thing. The team miraculously landed the No. 1 overall pick despite having just 1.7 percent odds.
There’s little point in rehashing Rose’s story here at this point. It was at one time one of the best things that had ever happened to Chicago basketball, until it wasn’t.
Pre-Lottery Position: 14th
Pick: 14th – Denzel Valentine, Michigan State
Hopefully you weren’t expecting much in 2016 when the Bulls returned to the lottery for the first time in eight years. The team had dismal odds of moving up in the draft and didn’t, staying at the 14th overall pick as expected.
Valentine wasn’t the flashiest pick, and he hasn’t blown away expectations during his first two seasons, but much of the 2016 class has been underwhelming so far.