June 25, 2007
- Mock Drafts: May 4 | May 23 | June 5 | June 19
- Features: Top Ten Seniors | Freshmen Decisions | Should I Stay Or Should I Go? | The Bust Ratio
- Player Profiles: Arron Afflalo | The Florida Four | Glen Davis | Rodney Stuckey
- Position Breakdown: Point Guards | Shooting Guards | Small Fowards | Power Forwards | Centers
- Questions for the Analysts: Week 1 - Oden or Durant | Green and Hibbert | Nick Young
Week 2 - Brady Quinn Scenario | Second Round Stars | Hurt By Staying
Week 3 - Top Sleepers | Most Overrated | Picks Three Through Five
- Look Back: 2006 NBA Draft | 2002 NBA Draft | 1997 NBA Draft | 1992 NBA Draft | 1987 NBA Draft
- Look Ahead: Making a Mockery of the 2008 NBA Draft
- Draft Night: NBA Draft Superlatives
By Steve Aschburner
Special to CSTV.com from The Sports Xchange
It was three years earlier, in the 1984 NBA Draft, that the
But it was in the 1987 draft that the seeds of what would become six Bulls' NBA championships were sown.
The players who would become
Forget about the moves Jerry Krause made later in his tenure as
Gone were the days of players such as Gene Banks, Orlando Woolridge, David Greenwood, Sidney Green and, eventually, Brad Sellers. Pippen served as a bookend yip dog for Jordan defensively as well as an athletic, versatile, open-court player to thrive in what, a few years later, would become Phil Jackson's and Tex Winter's triangle offense.
Grant quickly showed he was able to handle rebounding and defense well enough that Charles Oakley, the man who initially had
Pippen, cast not always happily as Jordan's sidekick or younger brother figure, stuck around long enough to win three more rings from 1996-98. After
The 1987 draft was notable for several other reasons, including the depth of quality, looking back at the careers of players such as Pippen, Kenny Smith, Kevin Johnson, Derrick McKey, Reggie Miller and Mark Jackson.
Also, in the drop-off from David Robinson to Armon Gilliam, the step down from No. 1 to No. 2 probably as big as any in the previous decade, including 1985 (Patrick Ewing-Wayman Tisdale), 1984 (Hakeem Olajuwon-Bowie) or 1979 (Magic Johnson-Greenwood). (The biggest ever? The vote here gets cast for 1969, when the Phoenix Suns called heads, the coin flip came up tails and the Milwaukee Bucks grabbed a fellow named Lew Alcindor. The Suns' consolation prize? Neal Walk.)
Finally, it's worth noting that the 1987 draft was the NBA's last with seven rounds. In new collective bargaining deals, the 1988 draft was chopped to three rounds and by 1989, the current two-round format was in place.
These days, that means 60 players get selected. But in 1987, the league's 23 teams stuck with it through 161 picks. Among the names popping up late: almost-not-but-still Florida head coach Billy Donovan, the
Here are the 1987 draft's "hits" and "misses":
1987 DRAFT HITS
David Robinson, C (No. 1,
Scottie Pippen, F/G (No. 5,
With second bananas like this guy, most teams wouldn't need a first. Pippen was named eight times to the all-NBA first, second or third teams and 10 times to the league's first or second all-defensive teams. He never grabbed control of the talented but troubled
Kenny Smith, G (No. 6,
Smith sometimes seems like the poor relation among TNT's studio analysts when he's wedged in between Hall of Fame talents Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller. But Smith was an outstanding NBA point guard, first with the Kings and then with the Houston Rockets. He also holds a 2-0 edge over Barkley and Miller, combined, in NBA rings won, helping
Kevin Johnson, G (No. 7,
One reason you don't hear more about Smith is that this guy was picked immediately after him. Traded halfway through his rookie season to
Horace Grant, F (No. 10,
Grant, after the Bulls' first three titles, sought his fortunes elsewhere. In a career that far surpassed his twin brother Harvey's, Horace helped Orlando to the Finals in 1995 as a key piece alongside Shaquille O'Neal and Penny Hardaway, then won a fourth ring with the Lakers (and O'Neal and Phil Jackson) in 2001.
Reggie Miller, G (No. 11,
Miller made it to the Finals only once (2000), his club losing to the Lakers. But he was a playoff hero all the same, making 15 postseason appearances and turning the Pacers-Knicks' rivalry in the Eastern Conference into a clash as memorable as many Celtics-Lakers championship rounds. The NBA's all-time leader in three-pointers made and taken, Miller was the guy rival coaches least wanted to see with the ball in his hands,
Mark Jackson, G (No. 18,
The playmaker who ranks second on the NBA's all-time assists board (10,334, 193 more than Magic Johnson) still was on the 1987 draft board after such big names as Tellis Frank, Jose Ortiz and Ronnie Murphy. Fresh out of
Reggie Lewis, F (No. 22,
The year before,
Sarunas Marciulionis, G (No. 127,
In 1986, the Portland Trail Blazers selected Arvydas Sabonis at the end of the first round, then waited years for the big man to join them. With this pick, 13 deep into the sixth round, the Warriors got a powerfully built Lithuanian guard who joined them by 1989. Marciulionis shot better than 50 percent in each of his first four seasons, averaging 18.9 points in 1991-92 and 17.4 the following year. He played with
1987 DRAFT MISSES
Armon Gilliam, F (No. 2,
Through his first five seasons, Gilliam posted respectable numbers: 16.3 points and 7.3 rebounds. But he kept moving, or being moved, to teams that had duplication or better players on their front lines, and he slipped into a reserve role over the second half of his career. An NBA blue-collar guy who shouldn't have been taken so high.
Dennis Hopson, F/G (No. 3,
This Ohio State product may be best remembered for being reduced to tears in practice by Michael Jordan once Hopson joined the Bulls. He averaged more than 15 points in his third season with the Nets but was done with the NBA after 1991-92, finishing up with teams overseas in
Olden Polynice, C (No. 8,
It's hard to say what people remember most about Polynice: his trade on draft day for Scottie Pippen, his stops with five teams over 15 seasons (7.8 ppg, 6.7 rpg) or his inspired decision to impersonate a police officer after a traffic accident in 2000. Yep, just your average 6-foot-11, Haitian plainclothes cop.
Joe Wolf, F (No. 13,
Wolf's NBA achievements never measured up to his amateur ones, including his status as the best high school player ever from the state of
Christian Welp (No. 16,
A 7-footer from
Greg Anderson. F/C, (No. 23,
Steve Aschburner is a senior NBA reporter and columnist, covering the Minnesota Timberwolves for the Minneapolis Star Tribune for 13 seasons and serving as president of the Professional Basketball Writers Association from 2005-07.