What if the Bulls had traded Scottie Pippen? Explore the three successful trades that never happened


It’s an absolute wonder that the Chicago Bulls didn’t end up prematurely killing their dynasty by trading in Scottie Pippen. General manager Jerry Krause sent him to other teams on several occasions. Pippen has publicly begged the Bulls for a trade on several occasions. Both sides bitterly feuded for years on all of Pippen horrible contract to his 1997 Decision to have elective surgery on his foot. All the ingredients for a regrettable trade existed.

And, to be fair, we almost came. On three occasions, the Bulls have moved closer to Pippen trading. On these three occasions, they ended up keeping it. What if it isn’t? What happened to the greatest dynasty in NBA history if it unnecessarily lost its second best player?

Let’s find out by going through each possible Pippen transaction one by one.

1994: Pippen is traded to the Seattle Supersonics

The exchange: The Chicago locker room nearly broke after Pippen’s notorious tantrum at the end of Game 3 of the conference semifinal against the New York Knicks. It was so bad that teammate Bill Cartwright struggled with tears to yell at him in the locker room. As a result, the Bulls considered a swap with the Seattle Supersonics, which would have allowed them to win Shawn Kemp, Ricky Pierce and the No. 11 pick in the 1994 NBA Draft in exchange for Pippen and their No. 21 pick, according to Chicago Tribune. Sonics coach George Karl got Jordan’s approval for the deal, but was eventually run over by Seattle owner Barry Ackerley at the last second after fan reaction. What if it isn’t?

What it would have meant for the Bulls: A first-round pick is in much better hands with Krause than with Sonics GM Wally Walker. While Seattle spent the No. 11 pick on role player Carlos Rogers, Krause, in this alternate universe, having already seen for himself how much a bigger ball keeper could be with Pippen, chooses Jalen Rose from Michigan. Given their high hopes for Rose, the Bulls choose not to sign Ron Harper as a free agency, and therefore to keep B.J. Armstrong in the 1995 expansion draft.

A core of Armstrong, Rose, Kukoc and Kemp is pretty decent. The Bulls make the playoffs steadily for a few years, but never make much noise during their time there. The elephant in the room is Jordan, who returned to Chicago in the 1994-95 season in real life. In 2010, he told JA Adande that he probably would not have returned to play with Kemp, so in this scenario, he is waiting for the 1994 Major League Baseball strike, continues to develop in the miners, and ends up going show as a member of Chicago White Sox, although primarily as a ploy to boost ticket sales.

What it would have meant for the Sonics: The Kemp version of the Sonics from 1994 to 1995 was excellent in attack (ranked # 2) and decent in defense (# 10). The Pippen version loses an offensive dimension, but remains quite good. Having another smuggler would have made life even easier for the multitude of Seattle shooters, and a team that was already ahead of its time would have become even more modern. Defensively, it would be arguably the best basketball team, as Pippen is among the greatest defensive players in NBA history, while Gary Payton was only voted defensive player of the year ‘one year later. The real version also did fairly well against the two star centers that reached the final: Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal. They kept the two below their season average scores with a big big rotation.

Add it all up and you get a foolproof champion team in this scenario. These Sonics bring back consecutive titles in 1995 and 1996. Pippen is best known for his tenure in Seattle, and the titles are generating enough lasting fan interest to prevent a move to 2008 in Oklahoma City. Jordan’s legacy is greatly complicated by Pippen’s success elsewhere. The occasional contrarian even uses the Pippen Jordanless Championships to claim he was the true leader of the Chicago hat-trick.

What it would have meant for everyone: In the 1996-1997 season, all of the base Sonics, except Payton, would be 30 years of age or older, and with two championships already in the bank, Seattle finally returned its crown to Utah Jazz in 1997, which at his turn fell to the Indiana Pacers in 1998 (one of only two teams to lead a Bulls championship team to seven games in real life, with the 1992 Knicks).

Without Jordan on his way, O’Neal led the Orlando Magic to the finals in 1995 and 1996. Untitled, however, the same problems that plagued the real Magic led to Shaq’s departure for Los Angeles. The Miami Heat took the Eastern Conference in 1997 before the rise of Indiana in 1998.

Phil Jackson really told the Bulls in 1995 that he planned to leave in 1996 unless all the players in the championship squads were moved. Given the poor list of this Bulls team, he sees no reason to stay and continues his dream job. In March 1996 the New York Knicks saw Don Nelson planning to sue Jackson during the offseason. He joined them shortly after the Bulls’ elimination from the playoffs, and while the union does not produce a championship, it provides the much-needed stability in the NBA’s largest market. Without Jackson on the market and in desperate need of a big name to replace Del Harris, the Los Angeles Lakers turn their attention to recently retired Chuck Daly. By leading them to three consecutive championships to accompany the two he won in Detroit, Daly has become one of the greatest coaches in NBA history in this mock scenario.

1995: Pippen is traded to the Phoenix Suns

The exchange: Things may have been bad after the 1993-1994 season in Chicago, but got a little worse when the 1994-1995 season started. The Bulls entered the All-Star break under .500 at 23-25, and, in a relic from a bygone era, Pippen gave Craig Sager a two-minute interview in which he publicly implored the Bulls of the ‘to exchange.

At the All-Star Game post-match press conference, Pippen named the Suns the perfect destination. “Phoenix is ​​a team that could be their last title race,” said Pippen. “I could see them really pushing to try to make things happen. Pippen continued to fan the Phoenix flames until the deadline, even saying at one point that it would be “paradise,” but then he admitted to Lee Shappell of The Republic that he had launched himself. the rumor. Imagine that both parties were interested enough to conclude the deal anyway. The basic framework of an agreement would have sent Pippen to Phoenix for Dan Majerle, Wesley Person and draft picks.

What it would have meant for the Bulls: This is perhaps the most complicated scenario to analyze for any trade involving Pippen mainly because of Jordan. In reality, he returned to the NBA on March 18, 1995. This deal would have arrived at the trade deadline, February 23. Jordan’s return was by no means guaranteed at the time, and if he didn’t want to play with Kemp, he would likely have had similar feelings about Majerle. But it would be naive to assume that Jordan was not already considering a comeback in late February, and with the baseball strike underway, basketball was still his best chance to get out of this uncomfortable situation in a way that ‘he might not have even considered the Bulls revised their roster during the offseason of 1994, while he was still playing in the minor leagues. And so, worried about his alignment but intrigued by the idea of ​​saving his capricious franchise, Jordan announces his return to the NBA in mid-March.

It is not going particularly well. Jordan brings the Bulls back to the playoffs, but without Pippen, he has little chance against the remaining powers of the Eastern Conference. The Bulls are decimated by magic in consecutive series. With Majerle in decline and no realistic way for the Bulls to come back to discord, Jordan entered free agency in 1996 with a more open mind and finally accepted the one-year offer of $ 25 million from the New York Knicks than he refused in reality. The Bulls are then forced to withdraw into a humiliating reconstruction.

What it would have meant for the Suns: Pippen would be so excited to leave Chicago that things would start off pretty well in Phoenix. With Pippen to defend Clyde Drexler, the Suns even overtook defending Houston Rockets champion on their way to the NBA finals in 1995. Once there, however, they meet the most recent potential dynasty in the NBA: Orlando . Phoenix just doesn’t have the size to hold Shaq, and Orlando won the championship in 1995.

Things quickly frayed from there. In reality, Pippen hated playing with Charles Barkley. The two only spent one season together in 1999, and Pippen hated it so much that he asked for an after-season trade and absolutely roasted Barkley to the press.

“I should probably have listened to Michael [Jordan] a year ago when he said that Charles will never win a championship because he has no dedication, “Pippen told ESPN. “He’s a very selfish guy. He does not show the desire to win. This is my reason for wanting to get away from playing with him – because he just doesn’t show dedication. “

In this scenario, Pippen and Barkley are arguing as they actually did, but rather than Pippen asking, the Suns decide to trade Barkley instead. Just like they did in the real world, Phoenix sends Barkley to Houston for a package built around Sam Cassell and Robert Horry. These two provide decent support for Pippen, but not enough to keep the Suns in contention for the championship. At the end of his contract in 1998, he decided to find a new candidate in free agency. Houston is away due to Barkley’s presence, but Sacramento, fresh out of the Chris Webber acquisition and the hiring of Rick Adelman, jumps with the ceiling space they originally saved for Vlade Divac. Pippen never wins a championship with the Sacramento Kings, but at least he gets the big deal he always wanted and has struggled significantly for several years.

What it would have meant for everyone: Tie everyone up, because this is where things get crazy. Feeling the need for a great coach for their eventual pursuit of Jordan, the Knicks retire Chuck Daly, his former Olympic coach, from retirement in March after firing Don Nelson. Daly vouches for another big name acquisition, Dennis Rodman, whom he knows of their time in Detroit. The Knicks trade Anthony Mason and Brad Lohaus for Rodman, still in San Antonio, rather than Larry Johnson as they did in reality. The Charged Knicks won consecutive championships in 1997 and 1998. Jordan played two more seasons, but New York’s aging list no longer allowed him to wrestle. Ewing retires as Knick, and eventually the team builds a statue in his honor outside of Madison Square Garden. Jordan is hailed as the Reggie Jackson of his day, a legend who may have won elsewhere, but who would forever be associated with New York.

Jordan may have changed teams during the wild summer of 1996 in this scenario, but Shaq stays put. Having won consecutive championships in Orlando, Shaq sees no reason to leave. The Lakers are suing Jordan, who prefers New York City because of his close friendships with Ewing and Charles Oakley, and Alonzo Mourning, who ultimately stays with the Heat. The Lakers are content with Dikembe Mutombo. After eight years looking for a title, Kobe Bryant leaves the Lakers to try to revive the Los Angeles Clippers.

In this alternate reality, Jackson leaves the Bulls a year after Jordan and lands with the Philadelphia 76ers. While Allen Iverson bristles with the constraints of the triangular offensive, the Eastern Conference simply has no other team capable of filling the power vacuum left by Jordan’s retirement and the aging of his competitors like the Heat and Pacers. Philidelphia reached the finals in 2001, but were defeated by Tim Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs, who won four of the five 1999-2003 titles without the Lakers getting in the way. Indiana claims the 2000 title, which many consider to be an asterisk due to Duncan’s meniscus injury. With additional championships in 2005, 2007 and 2014, Duncan retires with a total of seven and a legitimate case for the title of greatest player of all time.

1997: Pippen is traded to the Boston Celtics

The exchange: As Jerry Reinsdorf explained in “The Last Dance”, Krause was ready to rebuild the Bulls after their fifth championship in 1997. Tracy McGrady spoke openly that he almost went to Chicago the night of the Pippen draft but he wasn’t even the Bulls’ biggest hope. The rumored deal, according to the New york times, would have sent Pippen to the Boston Celtics for picks 3 and 6 of the draft. The two targets were reportedly McGrady and Keith Van Horn, whose future looked much brighter at the time. Jordan got wind of the deal and scrapped it at the eleventh hour, McGrady said.

Reinventing a world in which this business was completed is more complicated than the first two because Van Horn was selected No. 2 overall and was therefore not on the board with any of the choices that would have gone to Chicago. He was later traded to Philadelphia, however, in a deal that included No. 7 overall pick Tim Thomas and veteran striker Jimmy Jackson. Krause, being the experienced trader he was (with his acquisition of Pippen being ironically the crown jewel in his resume), is said to have worked with Philadelphia to facilitate a similar deal. He allegedly selected Thomas No. 3 in total and offered him Kukoc, a similar age striker who made a lot more sense alongside Allen Iverson than Jackson. He would then have chosen McGrady n ° 6.

What it would have meant for the Bulls: Placing Jordan would have been almost impossible given his loyalty to Pippen and Phil Jackson, who all knew it would not last in Chicago beyond the 1997-1998 season, but despite the controversy that is brewing behind the scenes, the Bulls to the new look do pretty well without Pippen. Chicago loses the conference final to potential Indiana champion and teen McGrady barely plays in the playoffs, but Jordan is sufficiently impressed with Van Horn’s potential to return for the shortened 1999 season. As forgotten as he is now, Van Horn scored 19.7 points per game as a freshman with the New Jersey Nets, and his shot would have worked just fine with Jordan. The Bulls retain veteran free agents Steve Kerr, Luc Longley and Jud Buechler to make a concerted effort for a championship, but Jackson is still replaced by Tim Floyd of Iowa State.

McGrady becomes an actor valuable enough in his second season to help push the Bulls ahead of Indiana in a rematch of the conference finals, and they ultimately knocked down the Spurs in the NBA Finals. Jordan still has a year to go to win the No. 7 Championship, and McGrady’s growth as a potential star makes it a separate possibility, but the Chicago front line has no chance against Shaq in the NBA Finals. Jackson takes revenge on his former team as Lakers coach and Jordan retires, but with McGrady and Van Horn in place as the long-term hard core, the Bulls try to replace Jordan in free agency with the former opponent of the Duncan final. He says no, and the Bulls land Grant Hill as a consolation prize. Injuries to him and Van Horn put Chicago out of action, but the mere presence of McGrady gives the Bulls long-term hope after Jordan.

What it would have meant for the Celtics: Lots of false hopes. Pippen is still one of the best players in the NBA by the time he reaches Boston, but Rick Pitino is too happy to trigger to put a consistent list around him. Pitino trades almost everyone except Pippen and Antoine Walker, and while this duo makes Boston a consistent playoff team, the Celtics never seriously compete for a championship under Pitino.

It is a bitter pill to swallow, because the real price of this trade for Boston is not the choices they would not have given up. It’s Paul Pierce. A Boston team with Pippen would have been too good to pick number 10 overall, where they picked up their future franchise player. After the brief Pippen-Walker era is over, the Celtics are forced into a large tank, desperate to land the superstar they accidentally gave up.

What it would have meant for everyone: The loss of Boston is the gain of Orlando. Detroit, the team which chose Boston in 1998, passes on Pierce in this scenario because they always have Hill and Jerry Stackhouse, but the Magic impatiently picks up the Kansas wing. They fail to sign a max free agent in 2000, but it turns out to be a blessing. When Hill joined The Magic in 2000, he entered a sign and trade system that cost Orlando Ben Wallace. No Hill means Orlando must keep Wallace, and one of the NBA’s top scorers is associated with a four-time defensive player of the year for the next decade.


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