When the clock strikes midnight on July 1, expect the Bulls to conduct meetings with Jimmy Butler on his restricted free agency, where all the conjecture and rumors will be met with action.
But despite Butler being the first priority, they do have other needs, most notably in the backcourt and perhaps they should give Pacers combo guard Rodney Stuckey a phone call.
According to league sources, Indiana wants him back while Houston and Sacramento are expected to be in the running for Stuckey’s services, while another source said Stuckey would be interested in hearing from the Bulls this summer. The 29-year old guard averaged around 13 points and three assists in 26 minutes last year, shooting a career high 39 percent from 3-point range.
Backup point guard Aaron Brooks was a godsend during Derrick Rose’s absences, scoring 14 points per game in 21 starts, albeit on 39 percent 3-point shooting (42 percent overall), but he’s a free agent and was largely minimized in the playoffs, playing just 11 minutes per game in 12 appearances.
While the Bulls have a habit of picking up backup point guards the last few years who’ve paid dividends like Brooks, D.J. Augustin and Nate Robinson, Stuckey represents a shift from that thinking.
A bigger guard, at 6-foot-5, he would be tougher to neutralize in the postseason than the more diminutive Augustin and Brooks while being able to play both guard spots.
Stuckey, who essentially played on a make-good veterans minimum deal in Indiana after seven up-and-down years in Detroit, was one of the more consistent Pacers as they dealt with playing the majority of the season without All-Star Paul George.
He played more shooting guard in the past three seasons but spent the majority of his early years growing into playing the point — making him an ideal option for the Bulls as someone capable of playing starter’s minutes at either guard spot.
Rose would probably welcome playing with Stuckey, considering Stuckey scored a career-high 40 on Rose during Rose’s rookie year, when Stuckey was viewed as one of the up-and-coming young guards in the league.
Times have changed since then, and Stuckey has battled inconsistency through his career but seems to have found it as a reserve the last two years. Aside from making the playoffs with the Pistons the first two years, he hasn’t played in the second season since 2009, which is why he would consider playing in Chicago. Staying in the Midwest after playing in Detroit and Indianapolis seems to appeal to the Seattle-area native, as much as money would.
The Bulls won’t have any cap room, but they’ll be able to use the mini-midlevel exception to try to improve their roster after dealing with Butler, where he’ll likely sign a maximum contract (length to be determined).
Veteran forward Mike Dunleavy is also a top priority, so the Bulls will have to come to the table with a fair offer while attending to other business. They need a perimeter shot creator aside from Butler and Rose, as evidenced to how the Bulls offense bogged down in the playoffs more than once — and at the worst possible time against Cleveland in Game 6 of their second-round series.
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Stuckey clashed with coaches in Detroit, most notably Lawrence Frank in 2011-12 and 12-13. It stained his reputation to where he had to sign for less than his talent dictated once he hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent last July.
But he was a model citizen under Frank Vogel in Indianapolis last season and would seemingly thrive in new Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg’s wide-open system. The question is, will the Bulls be interested?