The NBA Finals are ongoing, USA Basketball is gearing up for the Tokyo Olympics, and the NBA Draft, free agency and Summer League are right around the corner. No wonder there are so many questions.
Are the Bulls signing Marko Simonović? — Trevor H.
All signs point to that transaction occurring once the NBA’s new fiscal year begins in August. His agent posted to Instagram a picture of his client with the words: “One way ticket to Chicago!”
Artūras Karnišovas made pretty clear in his end-of-season media availability that Simonović, the team’s 2020 second-round pick, was in the team’s near-future plans. At that time back in May, Karnišovas said a determination on whether that meant the 2021-22 season would be made “in the next couple months.”
Signing Simonović now makes sense, particularly if he plays Summer League. It gives the Bulls an opportunity to try to develop some frontcourt depth with the futures of Lauri Markkanen, Daniel Theis and even Thad Young (to a lesser degree) uncertain. Given Karnišovas’ emphasis on shooting, starting the clock on Simonović's NBA career sooner rather than later makes sense.
What’s a reasonable expectation for Marko Simonović next year? The Nikola Jokić comparisons are obviously wildly unrealistic, but could he be a rotation player? A backup for Nikola Vučević? Just curious what he might bring to the team. — Ben G.
Considering I’ve watched him play live exactly zero minutes, I’m not the expert on this one. People I’ve talked to about him, both inside and outside the organization, suggest he can be a rotation player at least. But they’re just speculating — hopefully in an educated fashion — too. He has to get over here and start the process of acclimating himself to this level.
Your question is a good opportunity to remind that this is a second-round pick we’re talking about here. Obviously, given Karnišovas’ history with the Denver Nuggets organization and Jokić coming from the second round, there’s excitement surrounding Simonović. But there was around Paul Zipser too.
Do you think that the Bulls will try to re-sign Daniel Theis? — Rudy K.
I mentioned in a previous mailbag that he’s expected to draw significant interest, with the Charlotte Hornets one of several teams expected to make a run at him. If the Bulls have Simonović and Thad Young, not to mention Patrick Williams, I don’t see a return.
What point guard do you think is most likely to sign with the Bulls this offseason, Lonzo Ball or Dejounte Murray? And do you think Artūras Karnišovas will trade players like Thad Young, Tomáš Satoranský, Lauri Markkanen or Coby White to make a bigger splash that we don’t see coming? — Don V.
Murray would have to be acquired via trade. And while Ball can be signed to an offer sheet, the Bulls would have to jettison multiple players to create enough salary cap space to acquire him. I still think if Ball winds up on the Bulls, it will be via a sign-and-trade.
In general, I think that’s the most likely path to a point guard acquisition. I’ve tossed out another name that makes sense who would have to be traded for in Jalen Brunson. As for your trade bait names, I’d rank their availability thusly: 1) Markkanen; 2) Satoranský; 3) Young; 4) White.
A lot of fans are hoping to sign Lonzo Ball in restricted free agency. But logistically, it seems like a giant risk. In order to sign him to a contract the Bulls would have to free up lots of cap space by renouncing free agents and exercising their buyouts on the contracts of Tomáš Satoranský and/or Thad Young. If the Pelicans were to match after the end of the waiting period, the free-agent market would likely have already dried up and the Bulls would even be without their current free agents. What am I missing? — Eric S.
That little thing where teams have a general idea of where things stand entering free agency. How else do you explain verbal commitments for massive dollar amounts one minute into free agency? (We won’t mention the “t” word. Call it due diligence and relationships with agencies.)
That said, not all situations are known or guaranteed. And some do take twists and turns or go through legit decision-making processes. For instance, the Bulls traded Kirk Hinrich for nothing but cap space in 2010 just to take a swing at landing at least two of Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and LeBron James. They came close, but it didn’t work out.
But as an executive, you have to at least have an idea if you’re in the mix before making such decisions. That’s the job. And it comes down to relationships.
When is the due date for Thad and Sato contract decisions? — William B.
Following up on above, these decisions are due August 1. Free agency begins August 2.
What’s the likelihood the Bulls sign Lonzo Ball over the Clippers or any other team? Is there a realistic chance the Bulls trade for Ben Simmons? Which is a better option for the Bulls? — Matthew B.
In any potential Ben Simmons trade, the 76ers will ask for Zach LaVine, if they haven’t already. So with that in mind, acquiring Ball is the potential better option to me. Because he can be added without losing LaVine.
Do you see there being more benefit to an older point guard like Goran Dragić or Mike Conley Jr. to help Zach LaVine continue growing or a younger lead guard like Dejounte Murray or Lonzo Ball to grow alongside LaVine? — Trevor B.
LaVine can play with anyone and, quite frankly, is entering the prime of his career where he needs to be — and will be — the alpha dog in the equation. So while fit alongside LaVine is important, it’s less about who they add and more about adding talent. I think signing one of the big-name, expensive guards like Conley or Lowry would take too many cap gymnastics.
Should Bulls fans take anything away from Zach LaVine’s minutes and/or performance for Team USA after two games, both of which were losses? Seniority likely plays a role, but it’s been discouraging so far. — Austin M.
Just wait until Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday arrive. LaVine has taken the right approach to this experience — play whatever role he is asked, soak up as much as he can from being around so many great coaches and players and focus on defense. To me, focusing on his role on this team as compared to his role on the Bulls overlooks all the benefits that can come from the overall experience. His performance against Argentina in the third exhibition, which came after your question, reminded all about his ability.