Bulls Insider

Bulls mailbag: Billy Donovan's impact? Draft-night trades?

Bulls Insider

The Bulls bubble stayed intact — and then burst as players scattered to various locales. The next group gathering will be... um, we don’t yet know when? But we do know the answers to these questions.

With the NBA draft currently scheduled for Nov. 18, what do you think of these options? The Bulls keep the No. 4 pick and draft either Deni Avdija or Killian Hayes? The Bulls trade down for a lower top-10 pick and a second pick in the Nos. 10-14 range and draft two of these four players — R.J. Hampton, Isaac Okoro, Devin Vassell or Tyrese Haliburton? Which is better for the Bulls moving forward, especially with the free agent class of 2021? — Ryan G.

There are two reasons why I think the second scenario is unrealistic. First off, this draft isn’t star-laden enough to parlay the fourth pick into two lottery picks (it also would take a three-team trade). And, more importantly, the more we hear Artūras Karnišovas and Marc Eversley speak, it's becoming evident they think the Bulls' turnaround can happen sooner than later. They keep calling it a "retool," not a "rebuild." Adding two rookies from a largely unheralded draft wouldn’t seem to fit that philosophy.

I think adding either Avdija or Hayes at No. 4 makes sense for this team. Based on my vast experience scouting Hayes, I’m higher on him than some — and, yes, that first part about scouting him was meant to be sarcastic. But in all seriousness, the more people I talk to about Hayes, the more I like him. He may not be the most athletic prospect, but he seems to have an ability to get to where he wants to go on the court. One scout compared him to Malcolm Brogdon in that regard.


I was wondering what are the odds of the Bulls convincing the Pistons to trade us Derrick Rose? Maybe with a package involving Tomáš Satoranský, Thaddeus Young and Chandler Hutchison? Before the lottery, I was thinking they could possibly throw in a draft pick, but the No. 4 is way too high. — Joe C.

Why not throw Zach LaVine in the package as well? Again, I kid. But your trade proposal is way too high a price to pay for Rose. As I’ve written and opined on podcasts numerous times, the opportunity to sign Rose came during the 2019 offseason. He actually signed with the Pistons at a lower annual salary than Satoranský's deal with the Bulls. To me, that ship has sailed, particularly now that a new management team is in place. This regime doesn’t strike me as the type to make sentimental signings, a theory that will be tested by Joakim Noah’s potential free agency and his link to coach Billy Donovan.

But if Noah is signed — and roster spots will be an issue — he’d be for a veteran’s minimum deal as the 15th man. Rose and Satoranský still play crucial minutes. The Bulls’ old regime chose the latter.

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What kind of difference on the offensive end under Billy Donovan can we expect? — Matt R.

Generally speaking, you’ll see flexibility and a system that tries to cater to individual players’ strengths. Specifically, that could translate to, say, more midrange jumpers from Zach LaVine and an increased role for Wendell Carter Jr.

In his five seasons with the Thunder, Donovan’s teams posted two top-10 offenses and three middle-of-the-pack offenses. They didn’t rely on the 3-point shot an inordinate amount. They ranked in the top-10 in PACE three times.

Donovan’s teams typically made a stronger impact at the defensive end. He coached four top-10 defenses and his first season produced the 13th-ranked defense. At both ends, Donovan is known for his flexibility depending on personnel.

Which current Bulls player, in your opinion, is going to be benefit the most from Billy Donovan? — Matt A.

I think several will, but if I had to pick one, it’s Carter. Remember those Al Horford pre-draft comps for Carter? Guess who coached Horford at Florida?

Even in the NBA, look at how Donovan used Steven Adams, who wouldn’t be considered a strong offensive player. Donovan ran some offense through Adams, whose decision-making and passing ability proved great facilitators.


Through a combination of injuries, foul trouble and coaching, Carter’s offensive role has been limited to this point. Expect that to change.

Could you tell us the status of Kris Dunn? Was he in the Bulls bubble? Is he training? What does this mean for Dunn's future with the Bulls? — @enBulls, via Twitter

He was not in the Bulls’ bubble, the only player not to attend. During a media session, here’s what general manager Marc Eversley said about the pending free agent:

“I think Kris decided not to participate because he’s not healthy. He’s on the road rehabbing by himself, which we fully support. Whether he’s going to be with us going forward is a decision we’ll make when we get together post-bubble and start talking roster construction. Obviously, he had a great year. He’s a terrific defender. When he gets back to health, hopefully he’ll come back to being a full participant in the gym and workout right before free agency.”

I was told Dunn, who sprained the MCL in his right knee, has had no issues with rehabbing the injury. In a follow-up question, Eversley downplayed the angle that Dunn stayed away from camp because of his pending free agency.

Either way, Dunn is clearly trying to protect his future after enduring multiple injuries during his first four seasons in the league. I don’t see the Bulls being in position to let assets walk for nothing, particularly one who is elite at one end of the floor. But perhaps Dunn’s injury history and limitations on the offensive end will give this regime pause in extending a qualifying offer. Stay tuned.

I like Kris Dunn’s game, though limited in scope. But to sign him for a multiyear deal based on the qualifying offer just seems like too much to pay and may limit the Bulls’ ability to wheel and deal in free agency next season. So I believe it’s time to let him find greener pastures. I also don’t want to see Shaq Harrison sign a multiyear deal, even if it’s for a much lesser salary than Dunn would get. So does it make sense to let those two guys walk? Might they be better off re-signing Denzel Valentine as a much needed wing backup? — Richard L.

I don’t see it likely that both Dunn and Harrison are back. Here’s the other thing about this offseason’s free agency: Money could be tight. You may be able to bring back guys on very team-friendly contracts.

Assuming Otto Porter Jr. exercises his player option — duh — the Bulls have 12 guaranteed contracts. If they use their first-round pick, that’s 13. They own a second-round selection too, which we know Karnišovas values. So roster spots are at a premium. That will dictate some of these decisions as well.

Any word on which Bulls players have impressed in the bubble? — @tomnacher, via Twitter

Given that the focus was mostly on getting the rust out and merely playing 5-on-5 while doing some team bonding in a setting in which the new regime could get to know players personally, I’m not sure I’d put the level of competition even on the summer-league level. That said, I heard the names of Lauri Markkanen and Coby White the most of limited conversations.

With the signing of Billy Donovan, do you think more free agents will want to come to Chicago? — Hamza B.


It won’t hurt. He’s a proven name, has a great reputation as someone players like and respect and is a willing recruiter for the organization.

I am hoping the Bulls are monitoring the 76ers situation and keeping their eyes on a potential Ben Simmons trade this offseason. Personally, I would trade anybody on this roster plus picks in order to get Simmons from the 76ers. Have you heard anything about the 76ers potentially moving on from Simmons this offseason? If so, do you think the Bulls have the assets to make it happen? — George S.

Even before the Doc Rivers’ hiring, the 76ers sounded like they wanted to reload, not rebuild. Elton Brand talked about the need to get it right with two stars like Simmons and Joel Embiid, not to mention a solid third piece in Tobias Harris. The latter had his best season under Rivers with the Clippers.

I do think the Bulls have the assets to get into trade talks for players like that. And it certainly sounds like Karnišovas is going to be aggressive when he sees an opportunity. The Donovan hire would be an example of that. I don’t know how Karnišovas views Simmons.

I’m getting “Theo Epstein”-like vibes with AK. I don’t know if it will lead to a championship and a perennial playoff team. But the way he articulates his vision, values, and then executes major decisions in harmony with these reminds me a lot of Theo. It’s funny because I could have also compared him to Ryan Pace when he first arrived in Chicago. But the results have been vastly different between Theo and Pace. Do you think this next phase of Bulls history will be closer to the Theo Cubs or the Ryan Pace Bears? — Shannon R.

While I agree with the articulation point, let’s slow your roll there. Epstein arrived in Chicago with a World Series title on his resume and having done the lead job before with the Boston Red Sox. Karnišovas, while widely respected and a significant contributor to the vision that led to the Denver Nuggets making the Western Conference finals, is in a new role. Let’s just hope Karnišovas doesn’t trade up for LaMelo Ball only to have Ball start throwing post passes out of bounds...

Thanks for all the questions.