Gone Fishing

I’ve been trying to collect my thoughts about this Bulls team for about a week. I really don’t know how to frame this miserable stretch of games. It’s been death by a thousand paper cuts since Zach LaVine left the line up with Health and Safety concerns. We’re in the all-to-familiar territory of a team that’s going through the motions, playing out the last week or two of the schedule without any incentive to finish strong.

Maybe that’s not a fair take. The Bulls are competing. There is still “try” left in the team. The defense has been better, but without LaVine in the line up, the offense has suffered tremendously. It’s been a very frustrating end of the season, and it’s led me to thoughts about the offseason.

Because of the trade for Nikola Vucevic, the Bulls may not have a 1st round draft pick in the upcoming 2021 draft. They only get to pick in round 1 if they have a little lottery luck and find themselves with another top 4 pick. The Bulls could also make a day-of trade to get back into the draft, but as it stands, I’m not holding my breath for anything other than their second rounder. Free agency is how the Bulls will improve the roster this offseason.

I haven’t really done a lot of free agency research other than making a couple of cursory glances at which point guards will be available this offseason. I put together that “way too early” list a couple weeks ago, but an honest to god point guard only solves one of the problems this Bulls team has. They need competence and depth at the wing, and they probably need a rim protector.

You might be asking, “Who is coming back next season? Who is still under contract?” Great question! I’m glad I thought you’d ask it:

LaVine, Vucevic, Patrick Williams, Coby White, Thaddeus Young, Tomas Satoransky, and Troy Brown Jr, are all under contract for next season. Al-Farouq Aminu has a player option in his contract for next season, and he’ll probably stick with the Bulls. That’s your returning team.

Lauri Markkanen, Javonte Green, Adam Mokoka, and Devon Dotson are restricted free agents, meaning the Bulls have the right to match any offer teams make these players so long as they extend a qualifying offers to each of these players at the beginning of free agency.

The Bulls have a team option on the contract of Ryan Arcidiacono, meaning they can waive him this offseason if they need/want to. Daniel Theis, Garrett Temple, Denzel Valentine, and Cristiano Felicio are all unrestricted free agents and can sign with whatever team they like.

A lot of debate will be had/is being had over whether or not the Bulls should retain Lauri Markkanen. I’m not going to weigh in on that debate right now. Out of all the other Bulls players entering some form of free agency, the only one I’d really like to keep is Daniel Theis. I hope the Bulls find a way of signing him this summer, but I’m anticipating he’ll have a lot of teams interested in him. He’s a 2-way, rim-protecting big, capable of guarding multiple positions (including most point guards). He is a smart, team first player, and an energy-and-effort guy. He’ll fit on any team he joins.

Looking at the number of shooting guards and small forwards that will be free agents this summer, I’m hopeful that the Bulls will be able to add a couple of wings to the roster. I’m not sure exactly what the salary cap situation looks like, especially if Aminu opts into his contract next season, but I think they have the room to bring in some mid-level contracts, I guess we’ll find out.

Some wings the Bulls might consider this summer:

Demar DeRozen

Victor Oladipo

Tim Hardaway Jr

Wesley Matthews

E’Twaun Moore

David Nwaba(!)

Malik Monk

Gary Trent Jr

Talen Horton-Tucker

Kendrick Nunn

Kelly Oubre

Reggie Bullock

Maurice Harkless

Nicolas Batum

Ben McLemore

Will Barton

Derrick Jones Jr

Justise Winslow

and Kawhi Leonard

…just to name a few.

Bigs (besides from Theis) that might help:

Robin Lopez

Nerlens Noel

Richaun Holmes

Boban Marjonovic

Gorgui Dieng

Dewayne Dedmon

and Mitchell Robinson

…among others.

Even though the big superstars may have re-signed with their current teams at the beginning of the season, there are plenty of solid contributors to be got this summer. A team featuring LaVine, Vucevic, and DeRozen could be pretty formidable in the Eastern Conference. But the effectiveness of any moves the Round Table make this summer will hinge on finding that lead guard to make it all work.

The Round Table love to remind all of us that it’s been a season of evaluation. And it’s true there has been a lot of evaluating going on, but not just for the roster, also for this new front office. We’ve seen how they draft. We’ve seen how they wheel-and-deal at the trade deadline. Now it’s time to see how they operate in free agency. So far, the Round Table have been very secretive and calculated in their approach to roster building. We also know they are not above making splashy moves. They want to make the Bulls better, and they’ve tried to do that with every transaction they’ve made. I’m pretty sure this means we can expect Kawhi Leonard on the Bulls next season.

Until that happens, and we can team The Claw with The Paw, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!