I’m not going to lie, time is moving slower than a sloth drenched in molasses, trying to walk up an escalator that’s going down; The NBA Lottery Drawing and Draft can’t come soon enough for me. While half of the league celebrates the playoffs, the rest of us losers are left twiddling our thumbs as we pray for some dumb luck.
“Luck and hope are not a strategy or a plan.” John Paxson reminded us in his end of the season press conference, over a week ago.
The most innocent of Bulls fans might have responded to this quip with a simple question along the lines of, “then why have we been tanking the last two seasons?” But alas, no such innocent exists within ear shot of the emperor. For now, Paxson continues to gleefully parade through Chicago wearing his beautiful new suit of clothes that only other “geniuses” can see.
Self-delusion is not a strategy or plan either, merely a coping mechanism when reality gets too tough to accept.
But I digress.
What the hell was I talking about anyway? Oh yes, time is moving super slow as we all wait in enthusiastic anticipation for the Lottery and Draft.
While we have time to waste, it probably makes sense to go over the Bulls roster and see who will be back, who’s on the chopping block, and who might escape to greener pastures via free agency before next season. That’s right, it’s time for…
THE ROKDEEZ BULLS BLOG STATE OF THE ROSTER 2019!
Let’s start with the players who are, more than likely, going to be on the roster next season.
The “Safe” List:
-Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, and Otto Porter Jr.
I have a hard time seeing the Bulls parting ways with any of these three players. They are under contract next season, they are versatile ball handlers, and all three have All-Star potential. These are the players you hope become the foundation for the next great Bulls dynasty. This February, when LaVine, Markkanen, and Porter were cooking, was one of the best months of basketball the Bulls have had in two seasons. If these three can consistently execute like they did in February, this team could be in the playoff hunt next year, and for years to come.
The “Safe But Sorry” List:
Big Cris doesn’t become an unrestricted free agent until the summer of 2021. He has been a disappointment for the Bulls ever since he signed his multi-year, eight million dollars a year contract, two summers ago. Felicio will be on the Bulls roster next season and the season after that, unless Paxson proves his genius and finds a way to trade Cris or buy him out of the contract.
The “Likely to Return” List:
-Wendell Carter Jr., Chandler Hutchison, and Denzel Valentine
Like the three players in the “Safe” group, all three of my “Likely to Return” players are under contract at least through next season. The reason why I didn’t put Carter, Hutch, and Valentine on the “Safe” list is that I could see all three of these players being part of a draft night trade package. Both Carter and Hutch proved they have a decent amount of NBA potential, while Valentine is a proven 3 point threat who will become a restricted free agent at the end of the 2019-2020 season. These guys all have value and could help out a lot of teams next season (including the Bulls). I’m assuming all three will be on the roster next season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if any, or all of them, were traded before the season starts.
The “Tough Decisions” List:
-Ryan Arcidiacono, Shaquille Harrison, Wayne Selden Jr, and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot
It’s very likely Shaquille Harrison will start the 2019-20 season with the Chicago Bulls. He doesn’t become a restricted free agent until next summer, but I included him on this list because the Bulls are probably going to add two point guards this offseason; one in the draft, and one through free agency. If they can’t find a way to trade Kris Dunn, then Harrison might find himself the odd man out, and could be traded or waived before the end of the summer.
Arcidiacono is in a similar situation, only he is a restricted free agent THIS summer, an expiring contract, which makes him exponentially more vulnerable. It would be very simple for the Bulls to rescind his qualifying offer sheet, making Arch an unrestricted free agent and no longer a member of the team, but could they do that to the guy who most truly embodies the values of the winning “Culture” the Front Office has been trying to create?
Wayne Selden Jr. and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot find themselves in similar straights. Selden is a restricted free agent this summer, and TLC is an unrestricted free agent, and both were inconsistent contributors in the final months of the season. The Bulls should focus on finding a couple veteran free agent players that would upgrade the bench and second unit. I could see the Front Office bringing either one of Selden or TLC back next season, but I think it would be a mistake to re-sign both of them.
On the Chopping Block:
-Kris Dunn and Antonio Blakeney
Kris Dunn did not do enough last year to solidify his place on the Chicago Bulls. Dunn was justifiably under the microscope last season, and, with the exception of a couple brilliant games, could not get the job done. Injuries, injuries, and more injuries, plagued the 3rd year point guard. He didn’t improve. He may have regressed from his breakout sophomore season under Coach Fred Hoiberg. At the end of the season, Dunn said that he wasn’t prepared to play in a multi-ball handler offense, he wasn’t used to other players like LaVine and Markkanen bringing the ball up the court. He’s still under contract through next season, and he has another summer to get used to his role in the offense, but Dunn is out of chances with the Bulls. If they can land a competent point guard in the draft or free agency, this may have been the last we see of Kris Dunn in a Bulls jersey.
Antonio Blakeney, also under contract through next season, did nothing but gun last season. It wouldn’t have been so bad if he had hit his shots, but he didn’t hit his shots. He was a black hole. The ball would get passed to him and the only way it was leaving his hands was if it was headed for the hoop. I expect Blakeney to be waived, or traded, or “accidentally” given the wrong game schedule this summer.
Headed for Greener Pastures:
-Robin Lopez, Walter Lemon Jr, and JaKarr Sampson
RoLo has stated several times that he likes Chicago and wants to stay with the Bulls. I think the Front Office wants Lopez to re-sign with the Bulls. On a personal level, I want the unrestricted free agent center to re-sign with the Bulls. However, I have a sneaky suspicion that this is going to be one of those sad situations where the player and team will be unable to agree on the terms of the contract.
Whether it’s contract length or dollar amount, I just get the feeling RoLo has played his last game as a Bull. A number of high powered playoff teams showed interest in him this season, but couldn’t trade for him because of payroll constraints. I think Lopez will find he has serious suitors this offseason, besides the Bulls, and it will make the decision to walk away a little easier. I don’t see the Bulls jumping into a small scale bidding war with a team like the Golden State Warriors for Robin Lopez. It wouldn’t make sense. But then again, this is the same front office that paid Felicio a ton of money for a ton of years, based solely on one seasons worth of pick-and-roll play with Dwayne Wade and Jimmy Butler.
It’s certainly easy to imagine RoLo taking a discount to stay in Chicago, but should he? Especially if other, more competitive teams are willing to pay for his skills? Robin Lopez will have to make a tough decision this summer.
You might be asking “What about the G-League call ups, Walter Lemon Jr and JaKarr Sampson?” Well, Chicago native Lemon is signed through 2020 on a deal similar to the one Antonio Blakeney has, and Sampson was on a 10 day contract which ended a day before the final game of the season, which means he is currently an unrestricted free agent.
Will Lemon be back with the Bulls? I thought about putting him on the “Tough Decisions List,” but in all likelihood he’ll be waived this summer and find himself back in the G-League, or at the end of a tanking team’s roster. As for Sampson, he might have done enough in his short stint with the Bulls to garner some interest from the rest of the league. I think he starts the season with an NBA team (just not the Bulls), whether he sticks will be up to him.
It’s one thing to say “Luck and hope are not a strategy or a plan,” and it’s quite another to build a cohesive roster, capable of competing for the NBA playoffs. So far, it’s taken 2 years for GarPax to find 3 guys. This is another pivotal offseason for the Front Office, one in which they can’t afford to make many mistakes. They have to strengthen the bench. They need to fill out the roster with better than G-League talent. The goal for this Bulls team is to be in the playoff hunt next season.
The road back to relevance continues this summer with the steps GarPax make to improve this roster. The outcome of a game is completely in the hands of the players on the court. The outcome of a season is completely in the hands of the Front Office, the moves they make, the roster they construct, the players they put on the court. Let’s just hope the Bulls luck in the draft holds, and that they can convince some established players to buy into the rebuild.
There you go, several hundred words of pure speculation regarding the Bulls roster next season. In the weeks to come, you can expect more wild speculation on who the Bulls will draft, sign in free agency, and at least one post lamenting how far they drop in the draft order after the Lottery Drawing on May 14th. Until then, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!