Bulls

The return: Could Derrick Rose be an option for the Bulls next season?

The return: Could Derrick Rose be an option for the Bulls next season?

Derrick Rose was his usual genuine and humble self on Wednesday morning after the Timberwolves’ shootaround inside the United Center. He answered questions, said all the right things about his 2018 resurgence and reiterated his love for Chicago.

He was also asked about the possibility of one day returning to the Bulls, and his honest response was anything but a non-answer.

“This is home for me. I’ll never leave Chicago,” Rose said. “I still have a place here, I’m always going to have a place here. My son is being raised here. This is home. You never know in the future, you never know."

Rose reiterated that he's fully committed to the success of his Timberwolves team, but the free agent-to-be also added that "this offseason, you never know what could happen.”

It was a heartfelt answer from Rose and, as is usually the case with him, revealed something. He didn't rule out the possibility of one day returning to the franchise that traded him for cents on the dollar three years earlier.

Could it happen as early as next season?

Let’s start with the obvious: The Bulls need help at point guard. Whether Kris Dunn becomes a legitimate starter or the next Marcus Smart, the depth chart has been an ugly revolving door. Cameron Payne is on his last legs, even with a front office that values him. And while Ryan Arcidiacono and Shaq Harrison have shown promise at times, they’re not exactly 82-game rotation players.

If the Bulls have a desire to win, moves need to be made.

Rose, an unrestricted free agent this July, fits, too. Jim Boylen has asked to slow down the pace and muddy up the game, and Rose has been at his best playing quicker – the Timberwolves are 11th in pace this season. But at some point Boylen is going to need to relax on his stance and play to his personnel, rather than his personnel playing to him. Getting a talent in Rose would force Boylen’s hand to an extent.

The Bulls weren’t exactly a juggernaut playing quicker under Fred Hoiberg, but the importance of adding players who can play with tempo can’t be understated. Rose would bring that and then some.

For what feels like the 127th consecutive season the Bulls will be searching for shooting in the offseason. And for the first time in Rose’s career, the soon-to-be free agent will fall under that category. He entered Wednesday’s action ranked fifth in the NBA in 3-point field goal percentage, best among point guards; Steph Curry’s 45.8 percent mark is second.

Rose’s otherworldly 3-point shooting certainly could be an aberration – he was a career 29.6 percent shooter before this season – but the Bulls could use him. Since they dealt Rose in 2016 their point guards have made a combined 33.3 percent of their triples; the NBA league average has been between 35 and 36 percent the past three seasons.

Rose has a relationship with Boylen, too. Boylen spent a week in California working out with Rose in the summer of 2015, and on Wednesday he lauded Rose’s professionalism and maturity as a teammate. It may have been coach-speak, but Boylen's comments feel like Rose would fit in with the new head coach's team culture, and it’s been made pretty clear the last month that the Bulls need all the veterans it can acquire, regardless of where they are in the rebuild.

The move wouldn’t come without its potential red flags – has a Bulls free agent signing ever? Rose is putting together this magical season under the guide of Thibodeau; though the head coach wouldn’t take credit for Rose’s resurgence in his comments Wednesdsay, the comfort Rose has playing under him can’t be overlooked. Also, if the Bulls are truly invested in Dunn as the point guard of the future, bringing in Rose as a sixth man could prove troublesome if the backup begins to outplay the starter. We know where fans would lean.

There’s also something about returns to the Windy City that haven’t gone all that well lately. Ask Dwyane Wade and Jabari Parker.

Then again, Rose’s return would be different for obvious reasons. Parker was a 23-year-old whose previous team showed no inclination of retaining him this past offseason. Wade was a 35-year-old with nearly 37,000 career minutes on his balky knees. Rose will be 31 next season, but he’ll also be coming off presumably his best year in a half decade.

And yet, this is a risk worth taking. Bulls fans are already attached to Rose. They have been since the day he was drafted. Parker and Wade were Chicago natives, but the fan base never really associated with them. It was nostalgic for the individual players and a small percentage of the fan base, but nothing like a return home for Rose would be.

Past the obvious great hometown return story, Rose has a chance to impact the Bulls. He fills a need, has the skill set the Bulls have lacked, ironically, since he left and, if nothing else, would add a valuable mentor to a backcourt the Bulls are banking on as a massive part of the rebuild. The Bulls will have the money to negotiate, and if the money's right should seriously consider a run at making #TheReturn to Chicago a reality.

 

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Markelle Fultz's contract option reminds Bulls fans of '17 draft night luck

laurimarkkanenbulls.png
USA TODAY

Markelle Fultz's contract option reminds Bulls fans of '17 draft night luck

The 2017 NBA Draft class has started to show their true colors three seasons into their respective careers and we have a good idea of where each player stands with their franchise. The Orlando Magic have made a decent-sized commitment to 2017 No.  1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, exercising their fourth-year team option on the 21-year old guard. This keeps him under contract for the 2020-21 season for $12.3 million.

Bulls star forward Lauri Markkanen, drafted No. 7 overall in 2017, will likely have a decision made soon on his fourth-year option ($6.7 million), but his position with the Bulls was never in doubt, however, what the move by Orlando did was again bring to the forefront how impressive Markkanen has been as compared to the rest of the 2017 NBA Draft class.

Among the top 10 picks in the 2017 NBA Draft, Markkanen is second in win shares (6.1) to only No. 3 overall pick Jayson Tatum (12.0).

Markkanen was not a household name coming off of his lone year at Arizona and had the reputation of a floor-spacer who brought little else to the floor in terms of value, he quickly dispelled those notions, going on a historic tear that resulted in one of the best rookie campaigns in Bulls history.

He was the first Bulls rookie since Elton Brand to score 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds in a season, and before Markkanen none of the 107 players to score 1,000 points and grab 500 rebounds had made 110 or more 3-pointers in their respective rookie seasons.

Unlike Fultz, who suffered to find his footing with a playoff-bound Sixers team and has yet to play for his latest team in Orlando, Markkanen's career was aided by the fact that the Bulls were thin on frontcourt depth right at the start of the 2017-18 season. Markkanen has not looked back since given an opportunity to be the Bulls starting power forward and has averaged 16.7 points and 8.2 rebounds for his career while shooting 36.2 percent from the 3-point line. 

Markkanen has become better in every aspect of his game and will need a similar sort of leap if the Bulls hope to turn things around in 2020. The Magic reaffirming their belief in Fultz is in no way shocking, but it should serve as a reminder to Bulls fans that the franchise made out quite well by selecting the Finnish big man back in 2017 amid the uncertainty surrounding the post-Jimmy Butler Bulls.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

Zach LaVine excited for Year 2 of Wendell Carter Jr. after injury limited his rookie season

carter-118.jpg
USA TODAY

Zach LaVine excited for Year 2 of Wendell Carter Jr. after injury limited his rookie season

Zach LaVine is one of the faces of the Bulls and also isn’t shy about sharing his opinion.

LaVine did the rounds for a number of interviews for a promotion with CarMax and dished on several things Bulls related. One of the eye-catching quotes in an interview with FanSided was about Wendell Carter Jr.

“He was starting to get into a groove when he got injured man, that’s one of the worst things in all of sports,” LaVine said of Carter. ”He’s been in the gym working all year. He has great defensive intangibles as a rookie, especially for a big guy as a rookie. I feel like it’s always tougher for them, but he’s shown different little flashes to where he’s seemed above his experience level, so I’m really excited for him.”

LaVine himself has gone through a solid year-by-year progression in his career, with the exception of his injury-limited first season with the Bulls in 2017-18. If he thinks Carter can make the same type of progress, the Bulls will have a solid player soon enough.

Carter averaged 10.3 points and 7 rebounds per game before missing the second half of the season due to injury in mid-January. LaVine noted Carter’s defense, which was what impressed people most about Carter as a rookie. The next step will be improving his offensive game.

Carter is fully expected to start at center, especially considering he started all 44 games he played in as a rookie. Robin Lopez is gone, but Luke Kornet and rookie Daniel Gafford have joined Cristiano Felicio on the big man depth chart for the Bulls.

For more on Carter, check out our player preview for him as we lead up to the start of the Bulls season.