The Bulls need help on the wing. They seemingly struck gold in Otto Porter, who the Wizards dumped at last year’s trade deadline in the wake of John Wall’s season-ending Achilles tear. And they have draft capital invested in first-round pick Chandler Hutchison, who after breaking his toe 44 games into his rookie season suffered a hamstring strain last month that cut his offseason workouts short.
Past those two, the wing situation is murky. “Position-less basketball” is the league’s favorite new buzzword, but Adam Mokoka, Denzel Valentine, Zach LaVine and Shaq Harrison are more on the shooting guard side of things and would make for a rather small defensive lineup if two of them shared the floor.
Significant help isn’t on the way. The Bulls couldn’t have addressed all their needs this offseason, and they valued point guard (Coby White, Tomas Satoransky) and frontcourt (Daniel Gafford, Thaddeus Young, Luke Kornet) depth over improvement and/or numbers on the wing. It’s September 18, and any difference makers have found teams as training camp nears.
But maybe the Bulls can find a smidgen of help on the free-agency wire. According to Stadium’s Shams Charania, Iman Shumpert couldn’t come to an agreement with the Houston Rockets after “months of discussion” between the two sides.
So Shumpert needs a new home. He’s still just 29 years old but has carved out a role as a veteran presence, having played for four different teams in eight seasons. He has appeared in 79 playoff games, including playing a key role off the bench for the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers. Last season he spent 42 games with the Sacramento Kings before being shipped to the Houston Rockets in February. He played 20 games in Houston, averaging 19.1 minutes, and played in eight of the Rockets’ 11 postseason games. He took on an increased role in Round 2 against the Warriors, averaging 15.4 minutes.
But the Rockets, for whatever reason, are moving on. Shumpert wasn’t all that impressive in Houston, averaging 4.6 points on 34.6% shooting (and, more importantly, 29.6% from beyond the arc) in 19.1 minutes. He was a fourth or fifth option on the iso-heavy Rockets, so his per-game numbers were never going to flourish, but the Rockets are clearly looking for better 3-point shooting off the bench.
Shumpert isn’t a perfect fit, but perhaps the Bulls will consider adding the Oak Park, Ill., native.
Shumpert didn’t give the Rockets much, but he was solid in Sacramento’s uptempo offense, something the Bulls are attempting to partially recreate this season. Shumpert averaged 8.9 points on 38.2% shooting and 36.6% from beyond the arc with the Kings, and added 3.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.1 steals in 26.2 minutes. More importantly, Shumpert was a key veteran presence for a young Kings team that made a significant jump from 27 to 39 wins last season. At the time of the Kings-Rockets trade, the Kings were 28-25 and in the hunt for the No. 8 seed in the West.
His experience would play well in the Bulls locker room. The Bulls roster has three players with playoff experience (Porter, Young, Satoransky) totaling 98 games. Shumpert alone has 79 playoff games under his belt – more than any of those three – and reached the mountaintop in 2016 with LeBron James and the Cavs. It’s tough to replicate three NBA Finals appearances and a ring.
Though he stands just 6-foot-5, Shumpert has always played bigger. In fact, he played 75% of his minutes at small forward between the Kings and Rockets last season. If nothing else than a stabilizing locker room presence and experienced teacher, Shumpert could push Hutchison for minutes. Again, the Bulls wouldn’t be bringing in Shumpert as a significant difference maker who moves the needle at the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff race. But the Bulls also have the NBA’s second youngest roster. A group like that can never have enough veterans, and Shumpert having a track record of helping in Sacramento - as well as filling a need on the wing - would make him an excellent fit in Chicago.
He also played in Houston under assistant Roy Rogers, who joined Jim Boylen’s staff this summer, so there’s familiarity. Chicago homecomings haven’t exactly gone well the last handful of seasons, but Shumpert would be a low-risk option that could help push the rebuild forward.