With 13 games left for the Bulls in the 2018-19 season, I thought it was about time the RokDeez Bulls Blog started looking at the 2019 off-season. Last season, I peppered the blog with thoughts on particular college prospects because that was the Bulls focus, tanking for a high draft pick. This season, I’ve intentionally shied away from the college prospects and focused on the team itself. This was supposed to be a development year for the Bulls, a season in which the young studs learned how to play together, found their roles on the team, and started to win ball games. Injuries and drama have hurt that development, but there have been enough signs of growth this season for Bulls fans to be encouraged about the future of the team.

So, what is the future of this team? What are the areas they need to improve in? What positions do the Bulls need to upgrade, and how should they do it? Let’s dive in…

The Bulls Biggest Needs:

1) A point guard…

…with enough talent to create shots for his teammates, the ability to consistently hit 3 pointers, and decent enough defensive skills so that opponents can’t take advantage of said point guard and Zach LaVine being on the floor together at the same time.

I would prefer this to be a veteran point guard. Someone who has been in the league for several seasons already, because it’s rare that a rookie can effectively run an offense at the NBA level right out of the gate. That being said, the Bulls are heavily scouting Murray State guard Ja Morant. He is a skilled scorer at the college level, with great athleticism, and a “very high ceiling,” as the draft aficionados might say. The biggest knock against Morant is the level of competition he’s faced while playing at Murray State.

Other college point guards that could be of interest to the Bulls include – Darius Garland…

… and Tre Jones:

If the Bulls decide to sign a veteran point guard this summer they will have a plethora of players to pick from. I counted upwards of 20 free agent guards that could help the Bulls backcourt. Here are just a few of the players that will be available this summer: Patrick Beverley (Unrestricted Free Agent), Jeremy Lin (UFA), Derrick Rose (UFA), TJ McConnell (UFA), Eric Bledsoe (UFA), Tomas Satoransky (Restricted Free Agent), Terry Rozier (RFA), etc.

Last week, I wrote about Kris Dunn and how important the game of basketball has been for him and his survival. While I think the Bulls need another point guard, I don’t think they should be giving up on Dunn just yet. He is just a consistent 3 point shot away from being exactly the guard the Bulls need to run this offense. And if there is one thing the NBA has taught us over the last couple seasons, anybody can become a consistent 3 point shooter if they spend an entire summer working on it…

2) A rim protector and/or back up center…

Rookie Wendell Carter Jr has certainly shown a strong affinity for contesting and blocking shots around the rim, but you can never have too many of these kinds of players. If the Bulls are going to become an elite team, they are going to have to find a player that can make life in the paint difficult for the Giannis Antetokounmpos, Steven Adams and Blake Griffins of the world; They need a big that can bang. Wendell Carter can certainly develop into that player, and he should absolutely try, but right now, while he is still developing his adult muscles, he is easily overpowered by the gigantic centers/power forwards of the NBA. The problem with finding an elite rim protector these days, is that they are few and far between.

In a perfect world, the Bulls would be able to poach Jarrett Allen away from the Brooklyn Nets, but that is never going to happen. Allen is a cornerstone of what Brooklyn is building, and any trade the Bulls could make for him would probably involve their own foundational players like Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, or Wendell Carter Jr. The most likely scenario for the Bulls is that they re-sign Robin Lopez and wait for Wendell to bulk up. I’m also hoping for the return of the greatest center in Bulls history: Joakim Noah!

Side note…

RokDeez Fanboy Hot Take of the Century: The Bulls wasted a shit-ton of time waiting on Derrick Rose to recover from injury. Instead of using Rose as an excuse for their failure, the Front Office should have built around the real reason the Bulls were such a good team, Joakim Noah. Noah was the heart of the Bulls for nearly a decade. He led the team in win share for 5 seasons, only three other Bulls have done that in the history of the franchise: Artis Gilmore (5x win share leader), Chet Walker (6x), and Michael Jordan (10x). The moment Noah retires, his jersey should be hanging from the rafters of the United Center. ‘Nuff said.

3) Depth on the wing…

One of the reasons this season has been so ugly for the Bulls is their lack of depth at all positions, but especially on the wing. They do not have adequate help at the small forward and shooting guard positions. The situation will improve some next season with the healthy return of Denzel Valentine and Chandler Hutchison, but the Bulls should use this draft to bolster their bench with another young prospect.

There will be a lot of talented wing players in this upcoming draft, perhaps not with as much upside as in previous years, but still talented enough to make an impact in the NBA. Should the Bulls luck fail and they miss out on Zion Williamson or Ja Morant, there are several wing players at the top of the talent pool that could strengthen the bench. Duke’s RJ Barrett and Cam Reddish are obvious options, as well as Jarrett Culver out of Texas Tech. Romeo Langford from Indiana, and De’Andre Hunter from Virginia are both solid prospects as well. These 5 players could all be taken in the top 10 of this years draft without anyone batting an eye.

Another option the Bulls have is using their 2nd round pick on a long shot. You’ve probably never heard the name Darius Bazley before. You won’t find him on a college roster, and you won’t find him on a team overseas. Bazley, a gifted high school player from Ohio, elected to sit out a year instead of playing in the highly exploitative NCAA. Before he made his controversial decision to skip a year of competition and development, most experts anticipated him being a top 10 pick in this upcoming draft. With his decision to forgo a year of college basketball in favor of a paid internship at New Balance while attending business school and working out with his own trainers, Bazley’s draft stock has significantly dropped. For now, he has faded from the public eye, but not NBA scouts minds. Bazley is relying on his pre-draft workouts to convince teams his talent is real and NBA worthy.

Bazley is not the only player to make the controversial decision to skip the “mandatory” year of college basketball in favor of working out with his own trainers. Mitchell Robinson, a 2nd round pick for the New York Knicks in last years draft, also sat out a full year after high school. The rookie center is currently averaging 18 minutes per game for New York, with 6.8 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game (I wonder what it would take to pry him away from the Knicks?). He seems to have cemented his place in the Knicks rotation for the foreseeable future.

As a 6’9” forward with silky smooth handles and the ability to finish at the rim, Darius Bazley hopes that he too can make a big impact for whichever team drafts him. His talent against other high school standouts was undeniable, but by missing a year in the crucible of collegiate competition, it’s unlikely that NBA teams will draft him in the first round. If he does fall to the Bulls in the 2nd round, they need to take a chance on this guy. He might look like a foul ball off the bat, but he might just hook round the foul pole for a grand slam further down the line.

There you have it, a blue print for the Bulls off-season. Get a point guard. Find a big that can protect the rim and bang with other bigs. Add depth to the wings. It seems fairly simple but there will be unexpected hurdles to clear along the way, this is still the Bulls we’re talking about after all. If you have any other players you would like to see in a Bulls uniform, veteran or rookie, let me know in the comments or on Facebook and Twitter, I love interacting with readers and Bulls fans. Feel free to let me know what I don’t know, I’m always up for a good argument. Until next time, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!