On June 19, 1984, the Chicago Bulls changed the course of the franchise forever by selecting Michael Jordan with the third overall pick in the NBA draft. Jordan led the Bulls to six NBA titles in the 1990s, winning NBA Finals MVP each time, won five NBA MVP awards, was a 10-time scoring champion, an 11-time All-NBA selection, and a nine-time All-Defensive selection. In short, the guy was pretty good.
But now imagine Jordan doing all of that in a different uniform. And, no, I’m not talking about a Washington Wizards uniform, which many people like to pretend he never wore. But what about the Philadelphia 76ers or the Dallas Mavericks? And why those two, you may ask? Well, it’s because both apparently made “strong” trade offers to the Bulls leading into the ’84 draft knowing Jordan would still be there at No. 3.
Former Bulls GM Rod Thorn says the 76ers and Mavericks made ‘strong’ offers to trade up to select Michael Jordan in the 1984 NBA draft
The Houston Rockets had the first pick in the 1984 NBA draft and everyone knew they’d be using the selection on University of Houston center, Hakeem Olajuwon. And it was obviously the right move as he became one of the greatest centers in NBA history and led the Rockets to two NBA titles.
The Blazers held the No.2 pick and as they were already set at shooting guard after drafting Clyde Drexler the year before, it was believed they would select Kentucky big man, Sam Bowie, which is exactly what happened. So one would think most teams knew Jordan would still be available at No. 3, the pick held by the Bulls. Jordan was coming off his second consecutive All-American season at North Carolina and had also won ACC Player of the Year.
He was a highly-coveted prospect and then-Bulls GM Rod Thorn says he fielded multiple offers from teams looking to trade up to draft the future Hall of Famer, two of which were stronger than the others.
“Philadelphia had made a strong offer for Michael. Dallas had made a strong offer for Michael.
“There were a couple of other teams that had inquired about the pick, their offers weren’t as good as those two but yeah, there were people who were certainly interested in Michael.”Former Bulls GM Rod Thorn on multiple teams looking to trade up for Michael Jordan ahead of the 1984 NBA draft
Thorn unfortunately didn’t reveal what the specific offers were. The Mavericks drafted Jordan’s UNC teammate, Sam Perkins, at No. 4, while the Sixers took MJ’s future Dream Team teammate, Charles Barkley, at No. 5.
But let’s pretend that Thorn had taken one of those “strong” offers.
Jordan could have helped the Mavericks get past the Lakers in the West
Coming into the ’84 draft, the Mavericks were coming off a 43-39 season and their first-ever appearance in the postseason. The reason they held such a high draft pick was due to a trade they’d made with the Cleveland Cavaliers ahead of their inaugural season in 1980. So Jordan would have been going into a decent situation in which he could have teamed with Mark Aguirre, who averaged 29.5 points per game in 1983-84.
The Mavs likely would have sent shooting guard Rolando Blackman to Chicago as part of the deal and it’s not as if Blackman was a slouch as he was coming off a season in which he put up 22.4 points per night. So the Bulls still would have gotten a solid scorer and likely either Perkins or Barkley in the draft. Blackman obviously isn’t Jordan but he was a four-time NBA All-Star who averaged 18 points over the course of his career.
In addition to Aguirre, Dallas also had the likes of Derek Harper, Jay Vincent, Brad Davis, and sharpshooter Dale Ellis at the time. The Mavs made four consecutive postseason appearances following the ’84 draft and took Magic Johnson and the Showtime Lakers to seven games in the 1987 Western Conference Finals. So there’s a strong chance Jordan could have put them over the top.
MJ could have potentially teamed up with three future Hall of Famers with the 76ers
Now let’s pretend the 76ers traded up to take Jordan at No. 3. Like the Mavericks, the Sixers had also made the playoffs ahead of the ’84 draft. And the reason they held such a high pick was due to a 1978 trade with the Clippers, who nearly pulled off a trade for Jordan a few years later.
Had Jordan gone to the Sixers at No. 3, he could have potentially teamed with three future Hall of Famers in Moses Malone, Maurice Cheeks, and, of course, Julius Erving. As MJ was seen as the second coming of Dr. J, it would have been very interesting to see them play together. Of course, there’s always the possibility that Erving, Cheeks, or Malone could have been shipped to Chicago.
Without Jordan, the 76ers went to the Eastern Conference Finals following the 1984-85 season and lost in five games to the Boston Celtics. So imagine if MJ, who averaged 28.2 points per game as a rookie, had been on that roster. Once again, it’s likely he appears in his first NBA Finals a lot earlier than he did with the Bulls.
Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference