What If Jerry Krause Traded Scottie Pippen?

The Last Dance documentary has taken the nation by storm. For 2 hours every Sunday night, it allows everyone to temporarily forget about the pandemic. The storylines run deep, but one theme remains constant throughout. Everyone hated GM Jerry Krause. Jordan hated Krause for implementing a minute restriction on him. Krause told Phil Jackson he would be let go even if he went 82-0.

But nobody was disrespected like Scottie Pippen. Between being stuck in a contract that paid him well under his value, and often on the trade block, Pippen’s relationship with Krause was always contentious.

The first couple of episodes revealed that Krause was openly taking offers on Pippen over the course of his tenure in Chicago.

“Anybody can be traded”- Jerry Krause

The first time Krause tried to trade Pippen was in late June 1994, just before the 1994 NBA draft. Jordan retired and was playing baseball, while Horace Grant was in Orlando with Shaq and Penny Hardaway. Even though the Bulls were still a top team in the East, Pippen was unsatisfied. So Krause saw this as an opportunity to break up the brand and rebuild around Toni Kukoč.

Scottie Pippen to Seattle

Krause had a deal on the table for Seattle SuperSonics all star forward Shawn Kemp. If Krause had his way, the deal would have gone through, forever changing the NBA landscape. But the Sonics owner Barry Ackery faced pressure from the local fans to keep their favorite player, resulting in Seattle backing out of the deal.

If the deal had gone through, we would have seen Pippen and Gary Payton locking down every team that made the long trip into Seattle. They would have combined for the league’s best defensive duo. With Pippen in Seattle, the Sonics, not the Bulls, likely win the championship in 1996.

As for the Bulls, they definitely don’t 3-peat again. There is no way of knowing how Shawn Kemp’s explosive play style would fit into the triangle system. Jordan would have to be more of a playmaker, and shift back to guarding the best offensive players, something he had not done since Pippen reached all-star level.

Of course this didn’t happen. Jordan came back, the Bulls got back to winning ways, and all was good for a little while.

Scottie Pippen for Tracy McGrady

After winning the title in 1997, Pippen was still at odds with Krause due to his contract. Pippen wanted a reworked contract or an extension that would equal his value on the court. Krause refused as he was looking to blow up the entire team as soon as possible.

Before the 1997 NBA draft, Bulls’ owner Jerry Reinsdorf and GM Jerry Krause reportedly brought Tracy McGrady to Chicago to show him around the facilities and city. McGrady at the time was one of the top talents in the draft.

Krause said McGrady reminded him of a young Pippen, and saw him as the perfect replacement. Krause had offers on the table with Boston for the 3rd and 6th picks of the draft. This would have given the Bulls two chances to take McGrady.

Ultimately it was Jordan who put his foot down and vetoed the draft night trade, keeping Pippen a member of the Bulls for a final season. McGrady recently confirmed this story.

“The Bulls tried to trade Pippen for me on draft night, but Jordan vetoed the deal.” – T-Mac on ESPN’s The Jump

Toronto ended up selecting McGrady with the 9th overall pick, so he would have been available for Krause to take if he went through with the trade.

Assuming Krause did pull the trigger, the Bulls would not have been at the elite level they were with Pippen. McGrady didn’t take off until his 3rd year in the league. As a result the Bulls wouldn’t have won with Jordan and McGrady as a duo.

However, Chicago would have been left in a better position than they were post Jordan-Pippen-Rodman-Jackson. They could have rebuilt around a 20-year-old T-Mac, rather than starting from scratch.

But no logical front office would trade another championship for a future with a talented but unproven 20-year-old.

We know how this played out. The Bulls won the 1998 NBA championship, in spite of Krause. Jordan-Pippen-Rodman and Jackson closed out “The Last Dance,” as NBA Champions. To this day the Bulls have not been back to a NBA Finals, despite Krause saying franchises win titles, not players.

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