Any Bulls' transaction is now viewed through the prism of Artūras Karnišovas’ vision. Such is reality when management features shiny new toys for the first time since 2003.
Saturday morning’s expected news that Denzel Valentine signed his $4.7 million qualifying offer, first reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic, will bring the Bulls’ 2020-21 roster to 15 players after first-round pick Patrick Williams added the formality of inking his rookie-scale contract and when Garrett Temple’s agreement moves from verbal to written.
Karnišovas, of course, may not be done. Thad Young stood out as a potential trade candidate even before the selection of Williams. And the Bulls still don’t feature a proven, frontline starting point guard.
Although between Coby White, Tomas Satoransky, Ryan Arcidiacono, Zach LaVine and even Valentine, they certainly could tackle that position by committee.
Karnišovas certainly isn’t done moving forward. Young, Satoransky and the expiring deals of Otto Porter Jr. and Cristiano Felicio could have value at the still-to-be-determined trade deadline.
And next summer, poised with salary cap space and a season of evaluation, is an opportunity for Karnišovas, general manager Marc Eversley and their staff to truly make significant change.
But for now, the roster is up to 15 players, with one two-way contract poised to be signed by Devon Dotson and another likely earmarked for restricted free agent Adam Mokoka.
It’s been intriguing to analyze Karnišovas’ first personnel moves and see how closely they align with his initial declaration of his preferred style of play and overall philosophy.
One of my primary goals is to establish player development. We are the second-youngest team in the league, great young core. The Bulls drafted well. So players want to play but at the end of the day, they want to win. My job is going to be to facilitate that. It was a huge thing for us in Denver and it's going to be huge here in Chicago. Because we're going to have to improve our players. There's three ways of building teams – through your draft, through free-agency and through trades. I think building through the draft and developing your players is the key to get better every year.
I like high pace, moving the ball. We were able to be a very good passing team in Denver. It’s a very entertaining brand of basketball. I like multi-positional players. I like guys with high basketball IQ that play off each other. But that takes time. Obviously, you’ve got a read-and-react kind of offense, which I like.
Karnišovas said both these things at his introductory news conference back in April.
Some incredulousness followed Karnišovas’ decision this week to tender Valentine the qualifying offer that he now has signed while letting defensive stalwarts Kris Dunn and Shaquille Harrison become unrestricted free agents. But Valentine fits Karnišovas’ preferred style of play.
Valentine is a career 36.6 percent 3-point shooter, one of the better passers on the roster and moves well without the ball. He’s a solid team defender.
Dunn and Harrison, while possessing elite defensive skills, represent the type of one-way specialists that Karnišovas is trying to move away from with roster spots at a premium.
Similarly, the imminent free-agent signing of Temple fits. The well-respected veteran can shoot, defend and pass, all the while earning a reputation as one of the better locker room presences during a 10-year itinerant career.
Even the draft-and-stash decision for second-round pick Marko Simonovic features another mobile big man who can pass and shoot.
Karnišovas spelled out Williams’ attributes following Wednesday’s NBA draft. Starting from a willing and versatile defensive base, his physical skills and athleticism suggest his offense will develop. He’s a two-way player who’s here to stay.
So is Karnišovas’ vision. These first personnel moves are just the start of him implementing it.