Our Bulls mailbag is back, and your questions are in offseason form. That's a compliment.
Are there any point guards not named Lonzo Ball or Kemba Walker who can fit in Chicago and who can be possibly traded away if we don’t have a first-round pick? --- Troy C.
My colleague, Rob Schaefer, does his typically thorough job breaking down myriad possibilities.
What I’d add is you raise a good point: The Bulls want to address the position but also do so in a manner that makes fiscal sense. They need to build up their asset base again after trading two first-round picks for Nikola Vučević.
Are they gonna pay Daniel Theis? I love the energy and toughness he brings. We can't let him get away for nothing. --- @dfpfromchicago, via Twitter
In conversations I’ve had with people around the league, Charlotte is one of several teams expected to show interest in Theis. The Bulls are interested. But you also have to guard against getting into a bidding war when you have more pressing needs. Free agency is unpredictable. If he doesn’t verbally agree on the first day of free agency, that helps the Bulls’ chances to re-sign him.
We know that point guard is the biggest glaring hole on this roster. But with about nine roster spaces to fill, who are some other free agents that you think make sense for this team to pursue? Does Kelly Oubre makes sense as a signing for this team and then moving the Paw over to the 4 spot? ---Thomas B.
Solid reference to Patrick Williams' nickname given to him by none other than Stacey King. And I think Williams ultimately plays power forward, although he obviously has the defensive versatility to guard multiple positions.
But you make a solid point: The Bulls have a ton of holes to address. Wing and big-man depth, particularly if Theis isn't re-signed, are needs.
It's unknown at this point how management plans to approach free agency, whether they choose to carve out cap space at the expense of some current players or operate as an over-the-cap team and use salary-cap exceptions. Oubre would be a decent fit, but he'd be expensive.
I've long valued Richaun Holmes' game. Could he be a Daniel Theis replacement if the Bulls don't re-sign Theis? Bobby Portis never wanted to leave the Bulls and is coming off a strong year with the Bucks. He could fit. As for perimeter players, Talen Horton-Tucker is restricted but could add some two-way intrigue and upside.
If the Bulls somehow keep their lottery pick and it lands at No. 2, what do they do? The No. 1 pick is obvious as you can’t pass on Cade Cunningham as a creator, shooter and versatile defender. But at No. 2 would AKME:
a) draft BPA and go Evan Mobley as Chris Bosh-type defensive 4-5?
b) draft Jalen Suggs as position of need at point guard for his great talent and scrappy all-around play but presumably will take his lumps learning as a rookie?
c) trade No. 2 in a package for a vet point guard like Malcolm Brogdon?
Let’s hear your best AKME hypothetical acquisition. --- Julian K.
AKME, of course, referring to Artūras Karnišovas and Marc Eversley, who may cry tears of joy if they exit next week's draft lottery with the second overall pick.
I'd guess they'd keep the pick and here's why: Doing so would pair whichever player they drafted to the Patrick Williams' timeline. This would allow the Bulls to try to develop Williams and said draft pick in important roles while trying to win with the Vučević-Zach LaVine core and position you for the next incarnation of the roster depending on how long Vučević plays at this level. He does turn 31 at the start of next season. That's not old, and he can play at a high level for several more seasons. But it's older than Williams, who finally turns 20 in August.
I obviously don't know management's draft board — and doubt it's finalized for them either — but Karnišovas and Eversley, like many executives, sound like "best player available" types. Look at the year the Denver Nuggets drafted Jusuf Nurkić and Nikola Jokić in the same draft and figured out the duplication later. If Mobley is rated higher on their board, you pick him and worry about his fit with Williams later. I do like Suggs, though. He's a winner.
Rank probability of below:
1) Three-way trade: Lauri Markkanen to Mavericks, Kristaps Porzingis to team No. 3, point guard from team No. 3 to Bulls
2) Sign Theis and trade to above-the-salary-cap team for point guard
3) Trade Tomas Satoransky to Thunder for signing rights to Vasilije Micić
4) Sign free agent T.J. McConnell for Satoransky-like three-year contract
5) Sign Garrett Temple to veterans minimum one-year deal
6) Sign Theis and trade Theis, Al-Farouq Aminu and Satoransky to Celtics for Kemba Walker and draft picks
7) Sign Theis & trade Theis and Satoransky for Marcus Smart
My head hurts. Let's go with: 3, 5, 6, 2, 4, 7 and 1.
Now, the qualifiers: I only think 3, 5 and maybe 6 are even remotely possible. And even Temple is likely to sign for more than the minimum. I think re-acquiring draft capital makes stomaching Walker's cumbersome deal less painful. I don't see Theis bringing back much, particularly when some team with cap space can sign him outright.
As for No. 1, never say never but that Porzingis contract is a "wow" one to move. And you'd have to make money match up in your scenario.
After hearing many of the Bulls' season recaps, most experts stated that Lauri Markkanen was the biggest disappointment of the team. For me, Markkanen was who we thought he was — inconsistent offense, no defense, no surprise here. Patrick Williams was my the biggest disappointment. He never developed from Day One on the offensive end and even his defense regressed as the season progressed. While we can fault Patrick for his lack of aggression on offense, I fault Billy Donovan and his staff for throwing him into the deep end of the pool to see if he can swim. He should have earned his minutes by his play and come off the bench. I think he should come off the bench next season. Your thoughts? --- Tom H.
Unless Williams forgets how to play basketball during the offseason, he should start next season. There are times I agree with the larger point you're trying to make about entitlement minutes. But Williams looked like he belonged from the start last season, particularly physically. And it was a season of evaluation, not championship contention. Throwing him into the deep end wasn't a coaching error. To me, it was a smart move.
Williams absolutely has to be more aggressive offensively. He knows it. The Bulls know it. Here's what Karnišovas said about his rookie season: "I don’t think there’s a player on the team that was asked to do more than Patrick." So Karnišovas disagrees with you as well.
Do you think the Bulls will shift to more foreign players in the future? Are there any European players currently on your radar that you believe the Bulls could be targeting? Also, do you think the Nikola Vucevic trade had anything to do with potentially acting as a mentor for future acquisitions? For example, Marko Simonovic. It seems that no one is talking about this angle to the trade. Many believe it was shortsighted and potentially a bad move for the long run of the Bulls. But if the goal is to make Chicago a destination for foreign talents, Vucevic is the ideal star to have on your team. He’s a European All-Star that has been in the league 12 years already. --- Anonymous
I think the points are mutually exclusive. I do think the Bulls will add more foreign players in the future. Already, they’ve been linked to Vasilije Micić. But I think the Vučević acquisition was strictly a talent grab, not a mentor to, say, Simonović.
Karnišovas’ international chops are well-documented. He worked for the NBA league office in roles all over the world, served as an international scout for the Rockets and also as camp director for adidas EuroCamp in Treviso, Italy for years. This is the reason I think you’ll see players like Simonović on the Bulls eventually.
Will Zach LaVine play in the Olympics? --- Rich L.
He has publicly and consistently said he wants to. And, quite frankly, given how challenging the last two seasons have been for All-Stars who have gone to the playoffs under atypical NBA calendars, that may be enough. Add his talent and I’m not going to be surprised to see LaVine land on the roster as names trickle out over the coming weeks.
This would be a boon for the Bulls. Sometimes, teams fret over international play because of injury risk. But LaVine is a notoriously hard worker in the offseason and landing on an international stage would be a better version of his offseason regimen, aiding the franchise’s desire to become relevant again.
Will the NBA's look at "unnatural shooting motion" help the Bulls end their comical streak of fouling 3-point shooters? How many of the Bulls’ fouls on 3-point shooters were actually fouls vs. how many were because the shooter leaned in or stuck their foot out or did some other cheap trick to dupe the refs? --- Soham G.
Are you saying you don’t like my (silly) Twitter tradition?
Speaking of silly, when Adrian Wojnarowski broke news broke of this development, I almost Tweeted: Will this retroactively apply to Reggie Miller? Asking for the dynasty-era Bulls.
But I digress.
I don’t care what ends the trend as long as it ends. Comical is right. Watching the Bulls do so time and again last season proved one of the most exasperating exercises of my career. I don’t know why it so badly offended my basketball sensibilities, but it did. As to your question: Whether some of the fouls occurred because of the unnatural shooting motion or not, those were the rules. And the Bulls knew them.
Are the Bulls going to retire Derrick Rose jersey after he retires? --- @CaucasianManYea, via Twitter
The only other player to win a most valuable player award in franchise history has his number retired. And, yes, Rose is six championships (and four MVP awards) behind Jordan. But Rose also should be honored for what he meant to the franchise — a hometown kid who embraced the challenge of playing for his hometown and helped lift it back, albeit briefly, into the NBA's elite. That he worked his way back from injury and didn't want to leave — he was emotional when traded — shouldn't be discounted either.
What better way to represent all that Rose meant to the franchise and to the city by hoisting No. 1 to the United Center rafters?
I hope the new management will succeed in building a positive environment, one in which every player can be the best version of himself and maximize his potential. Because right now players seem to maximize their potential when they leave Chicago.
- Cameron Payne: key contributor for the Suns bench - Bobby Portis: good role player for the Bucks - Nikola Mirotic: one of the best player in Europe - Wendell Carter Jr: started well in Orlando - Daniel Gafford: really really playing well in D.C. - Derrick Rose: clearly he's not maximizing his potential in NYC, but he's having a nice second part of his career, a sort of post-injuries Grant Hill - Lauri Markkanen: is he the next?
I know, that's not exactly a Hall of Fame list, but as a longtime fan it bothers me a lot. Do you think I'm overreacting? Bye and have a nice summer! --- Michele M., Italy
Part of being a fan is your right to overreact. I think this is less an indictment on the Bulls and more a reminder of how fit and opportunity or usage can mean so much in the NBA.
I don’t think even Payne would argue that he didn’t play well here. The Bulls tried to extend Portis, but he declined. Mirotić played well when he returned from injury in 2017 and helped the Bulls acquire a first-round pick when they traded him. Carter himself talked about the confidence crisis he’d experience in Chicago. Rose won an MVP here.
I do expect Markkanen to play better at his next stop. For whatever reason, it never happened with enough consistency here. And his case is a fair example of your point. Much like Gafford with the Wizards, I think Markkanen would have benefitted from playing alongside an elite point guard. Jim Boylen’s usage of him in 2019-20, particularly after Boylen placed him in position to success in February 2019, also limited him.
The Bulls had several players develop under the previous regime over the years. Luol Deng, Jimmy Butler and Joakim Noah are just three examples. I do think the current regime’s emphasis on player development is essential in today’s NBA.