Bulls Insider

Bulls face slim options for depth after Millsap near-miss

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

Make a run at LaMarcus Aldridge or restricted free agent Jarred Vanderbilt? Keep trotting out small-ball lineups and sign James Ennis? Take a flier on DJ Wilson or some international prospect that Artūras Karnišovas knows? Work the trade market?

The Chicago Bulls' options to solidify their frontcourt depth took a hit with Thursday's news that Paul Millsap will sign with the Brooklyn Nets. Millsap, who spent close to three seasons working with Karnišovas in Denver, strongly considered the Bulls but instead will join a Nets team that will enter the 2021-22 season as one of the favorites to win an NBA championship.

The Bulls, who still own the biannual exception of roughly $3.7 million as well as a $5.1 million trade exception from the Daniel Theis transaction with the Rockets, had the opportunity to pay Millsap more than the Nets. But Millsap, who will turn 37 this season, also turned down interest from another team in the Warriors who could pay him more to possibly land a starting role with the Nets.

As of now, the Bulls' big-man rotation consists of second-year forward Patrick Williams, who played plenty of small forward last season, starting center Nikola Vucevic, free-agent signee Tony Bradley and rookie Marko Simonović.

Premier offseason acquisition DeMar DeRozan, the expected starter at small forward, played plenty of power forward for the Spurs over the last two seasons. And indeed, coach Billy Donovan owns plenty of rotational flexibility, particularly if he staggers the minutes of expected starters Lonzo Ball, Zach LaVine, DeRozan, Williams and Vucevic.

 

But Millsap slotted in ideally to a roster that is short on frontcourt depth. A willing defender, hard-working teammate and career 34.3 percent 3-point shooter could've provided strong reserve minutes or also started if needed. Millsap started 36 of 56 games for the Nuggets last season.

Instead, the Bulls will have to find another way to shore up the position. Ennis is primarily a small forward but can slide to power forward for stretches should the Bulls sign him. Derrick Jones Jr.'s wingspan and athleticism also affords an option for stretches.

But the Bulls need size and toughness. And though Millsap is listed at 6 feet, 7 inches, his rebounding and defensive toughness always have been on point.

The Athletic reported that Aldridge has been medically cleared to return to the NBA after a heart scare forced him to retire from the Nets in mid-April. He has been linked to the Bulls in the past, telling associates he has always wondered what it would be like to play for the franchise that traded his draft rights to the Trail Blazers in exchange for those of Tyrus Thomas in 2006.

But The Athletic reported that the Nets also are the leaders to sign Aldridge.

Millsap's decision, which also included interest from the Clippers, was first reported by The Athletic and later confirmed via sources by NBC Sports Chicago. The Bulls had worked hard trying to pitch Millsap to sign with them.

Now, it's back to work.

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