The Chicago Bulls are facing what could be a tough offseason. Most likely, they will not have their first-round draft pick. They can keep it if it somehow becomes a top-four pick. However, it will probably be the 10th overall pick. Moreover, the Bulls are not flushed with cap space. If they renounce all of their impending free agents, they will still only have roughly $29 million in cap space. That is a solid amount, but they will only have six players under contract.
Most people agree that the top need for the Bulls is at point guard. Ideally, the Bulls want someone who can shoot the three consistently, play perimeter defense, and facilitate. Of course, that is the definition of a great point guard, and the pickings are slim this offseason for players who the Bulls can afford, and who would realistically come to Chicago. With that being said, take a look at some options the Bulls have in free agency.
This is the big name that has been tied to the Bulls seemingly all season long. The Bulls targeted Ball leading up to the trade deadline, but a deal never materialized. Now, as a restricted free agent, it seems likely the Bulls will have Ball high on their list.
Ball averaged 14.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 5.7 APG this season and shot 37.8 percent from deep on 8.3 attempts per game. His playmaking ability and defense make him a strong possible fit for the Bulls. While his numbers and shooting percentages are similar to Coby White’s, Ball’s experience running point and defensive abilities would constitute a significant improvement and allow for Coby to take on that 6th-man, scoring guard role for which he seems best suited.
Ball is a restricted free agent, so New Orleans would be able to match any offer Ball receives. Still, the Pelicans have even less cap space than the Bulls and a Zion Williamson max deal on the horizon, so they could be enticed with a sign-and-trade. It is hard to see the Bulls offering a deal that is so inflated that the Pelicans would not consider matching it, so the sign-and-trade route seems most likely if Ball is going to be the guy for Chicago. The difficulty will be the price tag. Ball is likely to command $20 million-plus per season for his next deal. That would suck up a huge portion of the Bulls’ cap space.
Dennis Schröder is rumored to be seeking over $20 million annually for his next deal. Many think that could be a non-starter for the Bulls and, if they are going to pay that much for a guard, it would have to be Lonzo Ball. Still, there are a lot of similarities between Schröder and Ball. Both guards excel defensively. Schröder had 2.7 Defensive Win Shares this season which was good for 20th among all players. Both have demonstrated the ability to play well within an offense where they are not the primary scoring option, and both distribute the ball reasonably well. Plus, Schröder is an unrestricted free agent, so the Lakers could not block them from signing him.
The downfalls mostly come from three-point shooting, age, and playmaking to an extent. Schröder is a 33.7% career three-point shooter on 3.4 attempts per game. Ball shoots 35.3% for his career on 6.3 attempts per game, and he has demonstrated a significant jump in his efficiency from deep in the past two seasons, sitting over 37% both years. Plus, Schröder is already 27 and in his prime whereas Ball is seemingly continuing to improve. Still, Schröder is an option if Ball is off the table.
Devonte’ Graham has been a good, yet not spectacular, option for the Charlotte Hornets at point guard. Graham had a phenomenal 2019-2020 season in which he scored 18.2 PPG and dished out 7.5 APG, all while shooting 37.3% from three on 9.3 attempts per game. This season, LaMelo Ball stepped into the spotlight in Charlotte. Graham actually complimented Ball well, but he may be looking for the opportunity to run an offense again, and the Hornets will have to weigh his potential cost versus their roster need.
As a restricted free agent, the Hornets can match anything the Bulls offer, and the question becomes what that price would be. It is not like the Hornets wouldn’t want a 37% three-point shooter who can play off the ball and run the offense. The downfall for Graham is his shooting inside the arc. The guard shot 38% from two this season, so he will primarily be a player who remains outside the arc.
This is not a sexy pick, but if Reggie Jackson wants to chase a solid pay day instead of signing a cheap deal for a current contender, the Bulls would be a good spot for him. He could fill a role Chicago thought Tomáš Satoranský would: playing well on and off the ball while shooting high percentages. Jackson was a stud in the mid-2010’s. In Detroit, he was putting up numbers like 18.8 PPG and 6.2 APG (2015-2016). As he has aged, Jackson has become more of a shooter, and he does it at a high level. Jackson shot 43.3% from three this season on 4.2 attempts per game.
Jackson is a veteran, but he is only 31 years old, so he can play more minutes than the 23 MPG he played this season on his way to putting up 10.7 PPG and 3.1 APG for the Los Angeles Clippers. Assumptions don’t mean anything, but it seems likely he would produce better numbers than that if he were playing 28-30 MPG. The good news is that Jackson would come at a significantly lower price point than Ball, Schröder, or Graham. The bad news is that, while Jackson makes the Bulls better, he is not the high-impact player many fans want. Still, the Bulls may want a cheaper option to save money for next offseason’s free agency. There will be tons of bigger names available and Zach LaVine will be getting a big payday, hopefully with the Bulls.
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