The 2019 Chicago Bulls never finished their season due to the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19, which halted the season for everyone in the NBA. Eventually, the season would start back up but in a “bubble,” which is another way of saying that all eligible teams would play in the same arena in Orlando, Florida. It would only include teams that had good enough records to be considered for the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Bulls, they did not win enough games to be asked to compete in the bubble, which effectively ended their season.
With such a disappointing season behind them and have failed to rebuild a true championship contender since the Derrick Rose era, team owner Jerry Reinsdorf finally heeded the fans’ call and fired longtime General Manager Gar Forman on April 13, 2020. Forman had been the GM since 2009 and had faced a ton of scrutiny over his years running the team. John Paxson, who is the second part of the infamous “GarPax” slogan, was retained by the organization but diminished. He was formally the executive vice president of basketball operations but was demoted to senior adviser.
With their departure comes the new dawn of Chicago basketball and a new president of basketball operations. Arturas Karnisovas takes the reigns of a team that has really been in flux over the past decade. Formally the general manager of the Denver Nuggets, he built a true contender down in Colorado and was tapped to come in and turn the Bulls franchise around on the same day GarPax was dissolved.
Karnišovas started his tenure by quickly firing head coach Jim Boylen, who was much maligned and wasn’t impacting the players on the roster. He then hired Marc Eversley as the new general manager of the team, who came from the Philadelphia 76ers with plenty of experience around the NBA. The two then decided to hire former Oklahoma City Thunder Head Coach Billy Donovan to the same role with the bulls.
Karnisovas takes over a Bulls roster that really isn’t quite as bad as some may think it is. There are some young pieces on the roster that have potential but haven’t been able to live up to it yet. There is a nice mix of younger players and veterans on the team that bodes well for any new general manager to work with. Karnisovas’ first notable signing as a general manager in Denver was for veteran forward Paul Millsap, a key contributor in Denver for several years while the Nuggets rebuilt into a contender.
There was a real sense around the team that Karnišovas would do the same thing he did in Denver to start his tenure with Chicago. However, from what we have seen so far, that’s not the case. The plan right now seems to be to let Donovan and his staff work with the current roster to see if they can unlock some of these young players’ potential that the former staff could not.
Chicago Bulls Veteran Players
As mentioned before, the Bulls are a team that is full of players of different experience levels that make for a pretty well-rounded roster. The tools that Karnišovas will have to work with here are numerous, with some veterans being key contributors for next season and others who will move on.
Having veteran players on the roster of any NBA team is extremely important for numerous reasons. When used properly, veterans can be a huge help in rebuilding a franchise. They serve as integral parts of every team that has ever looked to claw its way out of the bottom of the NBA barrel. You won’t find a successful turnaround of a franchise without seeing a good mix of veterans on the roster that can help tutor and grow the team’s young talent.
The Sixers are a great example of a team that embraced an extreme youth movement but didn’t get to be a good basketball club until they signed some veteran players in free agency to help their young stars get better on the hardwood. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons didn’t develop into the stars they are today without the veteran leadership of guys like Robert Covington and Jerryd Bayless. Young players always need guidance, or else they find it hard to get accustomed to NBA life.
Cristiano Felicio has been on the Bulls for several years now and has always been a guy that provided depth off the bench at the center. While not the best player on the floor, he has been a great example of how to act professionally. He has been a voice in the ear of young players such as Wendell Carter Jr.
Otto Porter Jr. is a player that is really a topic of debate right now. He was recently seen in a video at a party during a pandemic with no mask on and seemingly taking no precautions at all. Obviously, this is an example of what you should not do as a veteran leader on an NBA team. He lacked the discipline and demeanor a leader should have and lacked awareness of the situation that he was in. The Bulls have put Porter Jr. on the trade block after news of the video broke on social media, showing that the new front office will not put up with such irresponsible acts within their organization.
The best player on the Bulls roster is Shooting Guard Zach LaVine. LaVine has been in the NBA for six seasons and has really come into his own as a scorer in this league. He has shown restraint during certain frustrating situations he has been in over the last several years he has been in Chicago. LaVine is the perfect example of a veteran player who is a star on the court for his team and a role model off the court for the younger players coming into the franchise.
New Players On The Chicago Bulls
Bull’s training camp will begin next Tuesday, December 8, and the Bulls roster really hasn’t seen much movement. There has been very little activity this offseason for new president Karnišovas, which many think is because he wants Donovan and his staff to see what they have in the team’s young prospects before moving forward. The Bulls bring 13 out of their 15 players from the main roster last season to camp, except Point Guard Kris Dunn and SG Shaquille Harrison, who departed in free agency. Plus, Adam Mokoka is back with the team on another two-way contract.
Before starting the 2020 NBA draft, the Bulls selection was being held stuck at the #7 position before the league suspended play on March 23 and ended the Bulls season on June 5. The Bulls had the second-best record of all teams that were eliminated from bubble contention. When the draft lottery began, the Bulls moved up from their projected 7th selection to the 4th overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft. With that 4th overall selection, the Bulls decided to draft Small Forward Patrick Williams out of Florida State University.
According to ESPN, Williams entered his freshman year at Florida State ranked as the 21st-best prospect in the NBA draft. He was the sixth-man on the Seminoles to start the season and become ACC Sixth-Man of the Year. He was also named to the conference’s all-freshman team, averaging 9.2 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 block per game. Many questioned his selection at 4th overall with sub-optimal stats in his only year of college, but Karnišovas said that Williams is the perfect prospect for today’s NBA.
Undrafted free-agent Devon Dotson signed a two-way deal with the team and is an interesting new addition. He was a 5-star recruit out of high school and was a very highly regarded prospect. He averaged 18 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists during his final season playing with the Kansas Jayhawks. He was assigned to the Windy City Bulls of the NBA G-League to develop as a player and get accustomed to pro-life.
Karnišovas also signed veteran Garrett Temple to provide depth on the roster. Temple has played on numerous teams over his long career and isn’t known as any scoring threat. However, he has always been a good defender, and the Bulls have needed help defensively for a very long time. They have ranked among the bottom of the league on defense since the departure of head coach Tom Thibodeau, who was a starch proponent of playing hard defense. Since his firing, the Bulls have tried their best to get players and coaches more offensively minded, but they have produced very little and have given up points in bunches.
The Bulls also brought back Noah Vonleh on a two-way contract, but will likely be cut after training camp and will not make the active roster for the 2020 season.
Chicago Bulls Prospects
Over the past 5 years or so, the Bulls have begun a true youth movement on their team. Veteran players and longtime household names like Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, and Jimmy Butler were let go to pave the way for a new generation. Unfortunately for the Bulls, the past five years have also proved to be excruciating ones full of growing pains. When the Bulls traded Butler, they received back PG Kris Dunn, SG Zach LaVine, and eventually turned into Power Forward Lauri Markkanen. This was supposed to be the core of the future for Chicago under GarPax.
Coach Fred Hoiberg never was able to get the best out of these players and was eventually fired in favor of assistant coach Jim Boylen. Boylen was an audacious coach that was ancient school and was often in the media for various reasons. Many players didn’t like his coaching style, and they’re even a reported mutiny in the locker room. Boylen failed as a head coach and a mentor for these players as well and was swept out under the newest front office.
Williams was brought in as Karnišovas first prospect under his watch and will be a meter to how successful his regime is in Chicago. He also brought Marko Simonovic from Serbia with his second pick in the draft, a young center with high-upside potential. These new additions to the team will be looked at as the seeds that started the new Chicago Bulls.
The most interesting prospect on the roster is clearly Williams and how Donovan and his new staff use the 19-year-old rookie that every Bulls fan should keep an eye on this season. With a condensed off-season and no summer league to get first impressions, Williams isn’t getting the normal offseason that all new prospects would normally endure.
Williams will likely slide-in as the backup behind Porter Jr. and Markkanen, but where he is in terms of rotation is still seen. Temple, Chandler Hutchison, and Thaddeus Young are all there as backup forwards, and Temple also should get some minutes at backup SG with Denzel Valentine. Coby White and Tomas Satoransky are set to be the primary point guards after the Bulls let Dunn go and didn’t sign anyone else to the active roster at the position. Both could also see minutes at SG.
Dotson is also a player to watch further along in the season. As a two-way player, he’s eligible to be active for up to 50 games this season, which is a big change from the previous 45-day rule. Ryan Arcidiacono is set to be the third point guard and is adequate at his job, but he’s nothing special. If Dotson impresses in the G-League, expect him to get a shot and steal some minutes away from Arcidiacono. This unique season during the COVID-19 Pandemic could also allow Dotson to get minutes this season.
Bulls Roster FAQ
- Who is the best fit for the Bulls in the 2021-2022 Draft?
- Will the Bulls be able to develop the young talent on the roster with new staff?
- Why do so many dislike Zach LaVine and want him traded?
- Why didn’t the Bulls try to lure Anthony Davis away from the Lakers?
Many draft experts are very high on Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham, who is Ben Simmons with a jump shot. That sort of player is exactly what the Bulls need and is far superior to anyone in this previous draft class.
The Bulls development staff really got a bad rap, but players actually did develop. Coby White improved dramatically during the course of last season. Zach LaVine has turned into a star after being barely a starter in Minnesota with a torn ACL.
Many people see how the Bulls have performed over the years LaVine has been here and think that he is part of the reason that they have been unsuccessful. His defense needs to improve, but there’s no doubt he’s great at racking up points.
First of all, the Bulls have literally zero free agent money once they use their exception. Davis recently signed a long-term deal with the Lakers to stay in LA, and we don’t think Karnišovas was actively recruiting him to come back home.