Bulls

Taking a trip down Bulls transaction memory lane

Taking a trip down Bulls transaction memory lane

The Bulls have had an incredible amount of roster turnover in their recent history, especially over the past the season-and-a-half of the post-Jimmy Butler Bulls. Heading into the 2018-19 season, the Bulls most clear goal was to see improvement from their young core.

So far, mostly, so good. 

Zach LaVine is being given more opportunity to create than at any other point in his career, and he is performing solidly so far. His defensive warts are still there, but he has taken legitimate steps to becoming an All-Star as soon as the 2019-20 season. He is averaging 23.0 PPG on a 56.4 true shooting percentage, both easily the highest marks of his career.

Lauri Markkanen’s start to the year was slowed by an elbow injury, but he has looked great as of late. Only time will tell if he can maintain something close to it, but over the last six games, Markkanen is averaging a 24-point, 14-rebound double double. Kris Dunn is the lone member of the Bulls young core to not show any clear signs of improvement. His defensive intensity is still there, but he still fouls too much (3.7 fouls per game). Dunn has improved his 3-point percentage, but while taking even less 3-pointers per game than last season.

Dunn has shown flashes throughout the year of the two-way talent he can be should his offensive game catch up to his good--yet not great, not always technically sound--defense. But President of Basketball Operations John Paxson has all but made it very clear that the Bulls are very much still evaluating the point guard position.

So with Bulls GM Gar Forman and Paxson likely viewing PG as the only clear area of immense need on the roster--even with all of the turmoil surrounding the team this season--the Bulls seem to be, for the first time in quite time, undoubtedly heading in a positive direction.

Not including this season, Otto Porter has two more years left on his deal before hitting unrestricted free agency in the 2021 offseason. As he showed in his Bulls debut, he will be an excellent fit on this team. And because of that fit, Bulls fans will really  get to see what LaVine, Markkanen and Dunn are made of. Bulls fans are finally starting to get a vague look at what the next great Bulls playoff team could look like.

But, instead of diving into the roster makeup of the Bulls dynasty of the 2020s, we will take a trip down transaction memory lane, seeing just how the Bulls got here.

(And don’t forget, in our initial trade tracker, we had Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis ranked as the Bulls top two assets, along with the note that Portis’s impending RFA would make a trade a strong possibility, despite things mostly being quiet in terms of Portis-linked trade rumors.)

TRANSACTIONS:

Bulls waive Tyler Ulis and sign Brandon Sampson to a two-way contract

Justin Holiday traded to the Memphis Grizzlies for MarShon Brooks (cut) and Wayne Selden Jr., Grizzlies’ 2019 and 2020 second-round picks

Bulls waive guard Cameron Payne to free roster spot needed after trade with Grizzlies

Bulls trade the draft rights to Tadija Dragicevic to Houston for Carmelo Anthony and cash considerations

Bulls trade a heavily protected 2nd round pick for Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and waive Carmelo Anthony

Bulls acquire Otto Porter for Bobby Portis, Jabari Parker and a future 2nd round pick

Other updates:

Wendell Carter Jr. expected to miss 8-to-12 weeks with left thumb injury that will most likely require surgery

Cameron Payne signs with Cleveland Cavaliers fresh off being released by Bulls

Bulls call up Rawle Alkins (2-way contract player)

Bulls will sign player to 2-way contract, but NBA roster is set for now

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USA Today

Bulls will sign player to 2-way contract, but NBA roster is set for now

The Bulls waived Milton Doyle, Justin Simon and Simisola Shittu Saturday, which is minor news since they were mostly camp bodies competing for possibly a two-way contract.

The bigger development is that the Bulls’ roster is basically set, pending the signing of one player to the second two-way contract still available. No Iman Shumpert. No Alfonzo McKinnie. And that’s just naming two hometown products recently linked to the Bulls via the rumor mill.

The Bulls still want to see what they have in Chandler Hutchison, who did some individual shooting Saturday but missed all training camp with a hamstring injury. Denzel Valentine, currently out of the rotation, is staying ready.

And Shaq Harrison, who missed all five preseason games with his own hamstring injury but now is fully practicing, remains a Jim Boylen favorite.

And that’s what the roster staying set for now is about as much as anything. The buy-in Boylen has received from players dating to voluntary September workouts and bonds that have formed could be disrupted by the waiving of someone like Harrison, whose contract isn’t fully guaranteed but his commitment is.

While the Bulls recognize proven wing depth is a question mark, they value Harrison’s toughness and defensive ability. If Hutchison or Harrison or Valentine---if he gets an opportunity---don’t produce, perhaps a move could be made at a later date.

But expect only the signing of a second player to a two-way contract to join Adam Mokoka for now.

“We’ve been talking about that,” Boylen said. “We’re working on that. We’ve got our list and have reached out to some people. We’re actively in process.”

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Lauri Markkanen is focused on team, not individual, goals for Bulls

Lauri Markkanen is focused on team, not individual, goals for Bulls

You can’t put Lauri Markkanen in a box.

Just as you can’t pigeonhole one of the faces of the Bulls’ franchise offensively, you won’t get him to bite on any statistical goals for himself. As the outside world clamors for him and Zach LaVine to represent the Bulls at All-Star weekend in Chicago, Markkanen is focused on team goals.

“We haven’t made it to the playoffs and haven’t won many games since we’ve been here,” Markkanen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago following Saturday’s practice, alluding to himself, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn. “That really bothers us. So we want to win first.”

In fact, as Markkanen fielded questions about a preseason that featured him playing more as a spot-up shooter than the dynamic, double-double machine that defined his February 2019, he shifted the focus to defense and rebounding.

Ho and hum, indeed.

“You’re trying to get me to say 22 (points) and 12 (rebounds) and 3 assists,” Markkanen said, smiling. “I don’t have those kinds of goals. I want to get our wins from 22 to whatever. And I want to get our home wins from nine to whatever. I’m not putting a number on those either. But I think guys are doing a good job of making unselfish plays and making the extra pass. We’re coming together as a team.”

In fact, Markkanen said, at least for now, his only individual goals are to “stay healthy and be consistent.” He reiterated his stance from media day that his goal is to play all 82 games after averaging 60 games his first two seasons.

“I wanted to focus on defense more this preseason and I was a little disappointed in myself in that regard early in preseason. But I watched a lot of film and I think I had my learning moments and I think I got better as preseason moved on,” Markkanen said. “I’ve talked to Coach. We both expect rebounding from me. I think we’re going to be really good offensively. It’s at a high level now, and we’re deeper. If we rebound and can limit their possessions, we have a chance to be really good.”

Don’t mistake Markkanen’s aversion to setting statistical goals for submissiveness. Early in the interview, he called his preseason “maybe not as great as I wanted to play” and acknowledged he needs to increase his free-throw attempts by getting to the rim more.

Of Markkanen’s 42 shots, 24 came from beyond the arc and he attempted just seven free throws in close to 91 preseason minutes. That average of 1.8 free-throw attempts in his four preseason games pales in comparison to the 3.8 he averaged last season.

“I haven’t got to the rim as much. I’m conscious of that. Those are easy points for us,” Markkanen said. “(Driving) is still available to me. But defenses are loading up on me more and trying not to let me get downhill. And we’re not in the post as much (offensively) as we used to be. We’re shooting a lot of 3s.”

Markkanen smiled again as he said this, so it’s clear he likes the Bulls’ approach. He also remains confident his varied offensive game will be on display at some point.

“I don’t always talk to him about his offense to be honest with you,” coach Jim Boylen said. “I talk to him about defending and rebounding and handling the ball. I’ve shown him some of his decisions in transition where he’s handled the ball.

“I want him to compete at the defensive end, rebound, handle the ball and everything else to me takes care of itself. I know he’s going to make shots. Historically, he’s been better when the lights come on.”

Those lights get flipped on for real Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C. You can’t put Markkanen in a box. But he can put pressure on himself to help the Bulls make the playoffs.

“I have really high expectations of myself,” he said. “That’s what keeps me going. I want to win."