A lot has happened since my last post: The Bulls agreed to a deal with a free agent Big, Zach LaVine won Gold at the Tokyo Olympics, the NBA started an official “tampering” investigation into the Bulls sign-and-trade deal with the New Orleans Pelicans for Lonzo Ball, and Summer League 2021 is in full swing. Let’s get into it!

Free Agent Limbo

The Bulls agreed to terms on a 1 year (with a player option for a 2nd year), minimum salary deal with free agent Big man, Tony Bradley. Bradley most recently played for the Oklahoma City Thunder, but spent some of last season on the Philadelphia ‘76ers as one of the backups to Joel Embiid. Fans will remember Bradley dropping some of his best games as an NBAer on the Bulls last season in the absence of Embiid. At 6’10” and just a shade under 250 lbs, Bradley will be a legit backup Big for Nikola Vucevic. Bradley is young (23 years old), hungry, and has displayed some serviceable skills. His “per 36” stats indicate he is a solid rebounder and rim protector. My one concern is that we may be facing another Luke Kornet situation. Remember, Kornet used to torch the Bulls, just like Bradley did, before turning into a pumpkin when he joined Chicago. I’m hoping that Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley are smart enough talent evaluators not to judge a player solely on their success against the Bulls. Bradley should be a better signing than Kornet, but I guess we’ll find out.

Javonte Green is once again a Chicago Bull. Green came over at the trade deadline last season from the Boston Celtics and contributed some solid defense, high energy, and amazing athletic talent. He agreed to a two year deal with the Bulls, and is another smart signing by the Round Table.

Lauri Markkanen continues to float in the free agency ether. Last week, he spoke to a reporter in Europe about the possibility of returning to the Bulls, Lauri indicated he was ready for a fresh start somewhere else. By all accounts it sounds like he has been expecting more money than teams are willing to give him. Now, with cap space drying up around the league, his hopes for a big pay day rest in a team willing to do a sign-and-trade deal with the Bulls. According to multiple sources, there are at least a handful of teams interested in trading for Markkanen, and the Round Table has been trying to leverage that interest into a 1st round draft pick. So far, there haven’t been any takers, but the Bulls have time on their side, and Markkanen’s restricted status gives them all the power.

Zach’s A Winner

One of the many criticisms of Zach LaVine, throughout his NBA career, has been the claim “he’s never won anything.” Well, you can kiss that criticism goodbye. Zach LaVine is an Olympic Gold Medalist. Team USA beat Team France, 87-82, last Friday, in the Gold Medal game at the Tokyo Olympics. LaVine was an important member of Team USA, both starting and coming off the bench for the national team as they made they’re run for gold. He averaged over 10 points per game, and stepped up his on-ball defense, snatching 3 steals per game. It was fun watching Zach play with the rest of the superstars on Team USA, he belonged along side Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Jayson Tatum. Congratulations, Zach LaVine!

Tampering

Within the first minute of Free Agency, news outlets were announcing the Chicago Bulls had come to terms with the New Orleans Pelicans on a sign-and-trade deal for Lonzo Ball. It was a complicated deal that seemed to come together very fast, even by NBA standards, and so NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, decided it needed to be investigated. Over the past couple seasons, the NBA has been stepping up their efforts to stop the pervasive culture of “tampering,” or teams speaking to free agent players before they are technically allowed to. Tampering has dominated the league for decades, but it has only been recently that the NBA decided to do something to stop it. Last year, it was the Milwaukee Bucks that faced an investigation into their failed sign-and-trade deal for Bogdan Bogdanovic. This year the Bulls and Miami Heat both face the leagues wrath, the Bulls for the Ball trade, and the Heat for their sign-and-trade deal for Kyle Lowry. A typical tampering investigation seems to take a month or so to complete, and could lead to such extreme punishments as the voiding of the deal, fines up to $10 Million for the franchise involved, suspension of that team’s executives, and the stripping of draft picks. It’s a steep price for any team to pay and it sucks that it’s the Bulls that are under the microscope when so many other teams seem to do it without repercussion (*ahem* Golden State, LA Lakers, Brooklyn Nets, etc.).

For now, the Bulls continue to operate as normal. They have officially completed the sign-and-trade deals for Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan, and have officially signed their deal with Alex Caruso. All the Round Table can do is conduct business as usual as they wait for the investigation to conclude. We’ll see if the league finds any evidence of tampering, and the Bulls will deal with the consequences if they do.

Vegas Vibes

Las Vegas Summer League 2021 is happening, and it’s the Patrick Williams show for the Chicago Bulls. Williams is the center piece and leader of the Bulls talented Summer League roster. Along side fellow 2020 draft pick, Marko Simonovic, Williams has been lighting it up for the Bulls in Vegas. Out of the 2 games the Bulls have played so far, Williams has dominated 6 quarters, only faltering in the 2nd half of the first game. The Bulls have been putting the ball in Williams’ hands and letting him facilitate the offense. There have been some definite growing pains, but he’s been better than I expected in that role, and he has been aggressively hunting his shot. Williams has been the Bulls number one option in Summer League, and he has stepped up to the challenge.

Marko Simonovic has shown some serious promise, too. He never seems to be out of position under the basket and it’s led to some solid rebounding. He runs the floor on the fast break and has gotten some easy buckets by beating the opposing team down the court. He is stronger than his slight frame leads you to believe, and he finishes through contact at the rim. Simonovic is very vocal on defense, I could hear him shouting to his teammates reads, positioning, and assignments, even over the noise of the TV broadcast. Another pleasant facet to Simonovic’s game, he looked like he was setting some solid picks on offense. I’ve been happy with what I’ve seen from Simonovic so far, and I have hope he’ll be able to contribute as a rotation player for the Bulls if not this season, then sometime in the near future.

Rookie guard Ayo Dosunmu has struggled a bit on offense in his first 2 Summer League games, only really looking impressive on the fast break. That being said, the reason the Bulls won their second Summer League game was because of Ayo’s defense in the 3rd quarter. The Bulls were down by as many as 22 points in the 1st half, but they came out in the 2nd half with intense energy and renewed effort on defense. Much of that was from Dosunmu who seemed to get a hand on every pass the opponents were trying to make. His steals and deflections led to fast-break points, and allowed the Bulls to not just catch up, but take the lead, a lead they would never surrender.

The last player I want to mention is Devon Dotson, the undrafted point guard the Bulls signed to a 2-way, G League contract last summer. While Dotson hasn’t been spectacular by any stretch of the imagination this Summer League, he has been competent, and it’s allowed his teammates to flourish on the court. Dotson has the ability to break down defenses off the dribble, and explode down the lane with his blazing speed, dragging defenders in his wake. This leads to easy buckets for his now wide open teammates. The Bulls used Dotson’s gravity to ice their win in game 2 of Summer League. In the closing seconds of the game, Dotson drove the lane forcing the weakside help defender to step up and stop his drive, this left Patrick Williams wide open under the basket on a baseline cut. One easy dump off pass from Dotson and one even easier dunk from Williams later, and the Bulls had their first victory of Summer League.

That does it for this weeks post. We’ve got at least 2 more Summer League games to enjoy, the Lauri Markkanen free agency drama to follow, and the NBA’s tampering investigation to dread. If anything happens on these fronts, I’ll jump in for a post. Until then, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!