Remember the 2006 NBA Draft? The Bulls held the No. 2 overall pick by virtue of a trade with the Knicks, and were trying to figure out which player to select among a trio of college stars, Texas Center LaMarcus Aldridge, LSU forward Tyrus Thomas and Washington shooting guard Brandon Roy.
Roy was the most accomplished collegiate player, but guard wasn’t considered a position of need since the Bulls already had Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon and Chris Duhon on the roster. That narrowed it down to Aldridge and Thomas, and at the time, scouts and executives around the league were intrigued by Thomas’ potential after a strong NCAA tournament showing. Aldridge was considered too thin and potentially too soft after playing out of position at Texas, and scouts feared he wouldn’t develop the face-up game needed to become a successful NBA power forward.
The Bulls selected Aldridge with the 2nd pick, and immediately traded him to Portland in a pre-arranged trade for Thomas and Russian prospect Viktor Khryapa. The front office was hoping Thomas would develop into a Shawn Marion type player with explosive leaping ability and the potential to score 15 to 18 points a game. At 6-foot-9, Thomas was also considered a potential force on the defensive end, with outstanding shot-blocking ability.
Unfortunately, Thomas totally frustrated Bulls’ coach Scott Skiles with his poor attitude and work ethic, and he was eventually traded to Charlotte. The Bobcats then made the mistake of signing Thomas to a big money contract extension, but he wore out his welcome with everyone there, and the front office eventually used the one-time amnesty clause to get him off the roster this past summer. In case you were wondering, Thomas is currently out of the league.
So, what if the Bulls had kept Aldridge, who has developed into an All-Star power forward in Portland? Would they have the inside scoring partner to team with Derrick Rose on a potential championship team? In a word, no.
If the Bulls had Aldridge on the roster, there’s a very good chance they would have made the playoffs in 2008, and never had the chance to win the draft lottery that resulted in selecting Rose with the No. 1 overall pick. It basically comes down to this, who would you rather have on the team right now, Rose or Aldridge? Sure, Derrick is off to a slow start after a lengthy rehab from ACL surgery, but I think most Bulls fans are confident he will reclaim his spot as one of the Top 5-10 players in the league. Rose is a three-time All-Star and former league MVP, and oh yes, he’s only 25, while Aldridge is 28. Aldridge has career averages of 18 points and 8 rebounds per game, but his team has never won a playoff series.
Aldridge is playing the best basketball of his career right now, averaging just over 22 points and 9 rebounds a game, and Portland is currently leading the Northwest Division. Ironically, the Bulls were linked again to Aldridge this past summer, when rumors surfaced that the All-Star was looking for a trade after missing out on the playoffs again. Aldridge denied the rumors, basically deciding to give the Portland front office one more season to put a winning roster around him, and the early returns are encouraging.
But when you watch tonight’s game on Comcast SportsNet, think about the one that got away, and decide which franchise has the brighter future. Will Perdue joins me for Bulls Pregame Live at 8:30, then Neil Funk and Stacey King have the play by play call at 9 p.m.