Monday, July 1, 2024

Chicago Bulls First Free Agent Splash Has Further Signaled Youth Movement


Nobody is under any illusion the Chicago Bulls would be big spenders in free agency this year. That said, Arturas Karnisovas knew he’d have to make changes to the roster to set the team up for the future. With the status of center Nikola Vucevic very much in doubt, the Bulls appear to have secured a critical piece at that position by signing 24-year-old Jalen Smith. The 6’10 kid from Maryland was the 10th overall pick of the Phoenix Suns in the 2020 draft. He was eventually traded to the Indiana Pacers, where he developed into a quality bench player, averaging 9.9 points and 5.5 rebounds at 17.2 minutes per game. Smith was a big part of helping that team reach the Eastern Conference Finals.

This move is the latest that appears to signal the Bulls are positioning themselves for a youth movement. It already started when they traded Alex Caruso to the Oklahoma City Thunder for 21-year-old guard Josh Giddey. Now they add Smith, who is nine years younger than Vucevic. The former All-Star is surrounded by trade rumors. If that comes to pass, Smith would get his first opportunity to start. It’s worth mentioning he averaged 20.7 points and 11.6 rebounds per 36 minutes played. The potential is there for him to become a quality starting center.

The Chicago Bulls are piecing together something interesting.

Many believe Giddey was held back by playing on a loaded Oklahoma City roster, never able to fully explore his ability as a floor general. He averaged 17.7 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 6.9 assists per 36 minutes played. It is easy to understand why the Bulls felt there was untapped potential there. He won’t have to worry about steep competition in Chicago. The same could soon be true of Smith. While not a suffocating defender, he can rebound and also has impressive shooting range. He made 61 three-pointers last season.

Then you have 11th overall pick Matas Buzelis. While not a finished product, many feel his excellent athleticism, size, and aggressiveness. He attacks the basket at every opportunity and is an underrated on-ball defender. Many feel if he can improve his consistency as a shooter, he has All-Star potential. Nobody will expect much from this young core the Chicago Bulls are piecing together. Still, the intrigue is hard to ignore. It may not yield results right away, but there is something there.

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