Bulls Insider

Karnišovas Bulls makeover continues with active free agency

/ by K.C. Johnson
Presented By Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
Bulls Insider

In just shy of 16 months and one night of free agency, the Chicago Bulls' management team led by executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas has transformed the franchise.

The moves must now lead to victories and playoff berths, of course. But it’s similar to when the previous regime of John Paxson and Gar Forman took over for Jerry Krause and flipped the entire roster save for Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler within two seasons.

Only Zach LaVine, Coby White and Thad Young — and, for now, the cap hold on Lauri Markkanen — remain from the group Karnišovas, general manager Marc Eversley and their staff inherited.

Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso are the latest additions, both verbally agreeing to deals shortly after free agency opened on Monday. They’re also the latest examples of Karnišovas targeting what he values and acquiring it.

The Ball acquisition, which can’t be official until the league moratorium lifts on Friday, is no small thing. It’s a big-name move, struck as soon as free agency opened, for a player that Karnišovas first tried to acquire at the March trade deadline.

 

Listen back to what Karnišovas said from his April 2020 introductory news conference about valuing ball movement, passing ability, multi-positional players and high basketball IQ. Ball checks those boxes.

Turning 24 in October, Ball also aligns with the timelines of Patrick Williams and Zach LaVine as Karnišovas tries to build for long-term success that could stretch beyond the 30-year-old Vučević.

As for Caruso, Karnišovas just last week talked about how much he valued toughness after he drafted University of Illinois All-American guard Ayo Dosunmu in the second round. Caruso is a known pest, a versatile defender who shot 40.1 percent from 3-point range last season, albeit on low volume.

Sources said the Bulls were engaged in talks to return Derrick Rose to the franchise for whom he once won most valuable player. But Rose ultimately re-signed with Tom Thibodeau and the Knicks.

And just as he said after he acquired Vučević at the trade deadline, Karnišovas isn’t done.

2020 second-round pick Marko Simonović, while unproven, is expected to sign and add shooting. The Bulls also hope to turn Markkanen into an asset via a sign-and-trade, and they also still possess cap exceptions to round out the roster. Wing and big-man depth are critical.

Like LaVine, Ball, after four seasons, has yet to appear in a playoff game. Obviously, the Bulls believe the meshing of these skill sets will produce a sum greater than the individual parts.

Those 2004-05 Bulls under Paxson produced a 47-35 mark and the first playoff appearance since the dynasty ended. The Bulls haven’t tasted postseason play since 2017.

No pressure, 2021-2022 Bulls.

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