The Bulls were one of the most active teams during the free agency period this offseason. The front office sees a window of opportunity now and decided it was time to make moves. They opened up free agency by adding point guard Lonzo Ball. That was followed up with the addition of point guard Alex Caruso. To top everything off the Bulls added forward DeMar DeRozan. The Bulls made a splash in free agency and spent quite a bit of money. Now that we are about a week removed from the beginning of free agency all of the acquisitions are becoming official. With that, we are getting a clearer picture of the Bull’s new roster. At this point most fans can agree, this roster looks good.
The Chicago Bulls glo’d up 😈 pic.twitter.com/Tto1DoTodM
— Artūras Karnišovas Fan Club 🥇 (@arturasfanclub) August 11, 2021
With all of these changes, the Bulls roster is still incomplete. We saw some good contributors leave the team and there’s still one whose future is uncertain. With that, we need to take a look at the additions, subtractions, and what’s still to come with this team.
I already mentioned the three biggest additions the Bulls had during this offseason. The Bulls added two new starters to the team in Ball and DeRozan. They retooled the starting lineup to surround shooting guard Zach LaVine with more talent. Those two additions alone were big for this team as it gives this team more than two options offensively. However, the Bulls didn’t stop there.
They added some key bench players for this team. One was mentioned before in Alex Caruso. Caruso is going to give the Bulls something they lacked off the bench last season, defense.
Look at the defense from Alex Caruso. pic.twitter.com/oRcmMb3oRK
— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) May 28, 2021
Caruso is a solid defender that plays defense as soon as the ball crosses half-court. With Caruso coming off the bench he can hold things down defensively which allows guard Coby White the freedom to focus on being an offensive weapon. The pairing of these two should be a great fit and the Bulls grabbed a solid bench point guard option. The Bulls will also keep guard Javonte Green. He’s another good piece the Bulls could utilize off the bench. If he can stay healthy the Bulls could have a very good bench unit.
Two other additions which will help the team’s frontcourt bench play are forward Marko Simonovic and Center Tony Bradley. There’s certainly more upside with Simonovic as he was the Bulls 2nd round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. He was just brought over from Serbia and will play his first NBA season this year. He has played in Europe since 2017 and has a lot of experience under his belt. We got to see Simonovic in his first game action this week as Summer League opened up. In his first two appearances, things look promising.
Marko Simonovic scored 13 points in 15 mins in his first game in the United States.
📰 | @SamSmithHoops game recap:
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) August 10, 2021
Simonovic again added 13 points in the team’s second game. Bringing Simonovic over now was the right move as he’s a cheaper option than what is out there in free agency and he is an experienced basketball player. He’s certainly going to take some time to grow but at 6’11” and 220 lb he’s ready to get on the court.
While less exciting than Simonovic the acquisition of Tony Bradley gives the Bulls a nice bench center. He’s not going to be a major presence in most games but he will be someone who can come in off the bench and hold his own. When given the opportunity Bradley did turn it on and put up some big numbers. Just this past season he put up 14 against the Bulls while shooting 100% and adding 3 blocks. He’s not going to be flashy but he’s a good center to bring off the bench and contribute.
The focus this offseason has been on who the Bulls added and rightfully so. However, we do need to factor in who the Bulls lost as well. The main people the Bulls lost that were pretty big contributors last season were guards Tomas Satoransky & Garrett Temple along with forward Thaddeus Young and center Daniel Theis. Those four guys accounted for 37.4 PPG which was roughly 34% of the team’s total scoring. Even more notable is these four guys contributed 13 assists per game which were 49% of the team’s total assists per game. The Bulls weren’t a great assisting team overall last season but losing a good portion of the team’s offense is hard to rebound from either way. Luckily for the Bulls, they added some great offensive weapons. While the Bulls certainly upgraded those positions these losses will still be felt as the team begins to mesh with one another. The biggest loss will likely be with Theis who was an incredible backup center.
We want to make sure we cover all the players who departed from the team, even if they didn’t contribute a whole lot. The main player I’m referring to is center Cristiano Felicio. A five-year member of the Bulls who played in only 40 games over the last two seasons. He cost the Bulls roughly $33 million over five years and never averaged more than 5.6 PPG. He robbed this city blind and is headed to Germany to continue his career.
Cristiano Felicio will not be returning to the Chicago Bulls.
Felicio has signed with Ratiopharm Ulm who are a professional basketball team in Germany.
— Daniel Greenberg (@ChiSportUpdates) August 9, 2021
On top of Felicio, the Bulls also lost guard Ryan Arcidiacano, forward Al-Farouq Aminu, and guard Denzel Valentine. While some of these guys appeared in over half of the team’s games they didn’t truly contribute a ton to the team. We wish these guys the best as they move forward in their careers. The Bulls are trying to become contenders in the East and we knew that would require losing some players.
What’s left to do?
Deal with Lauri Markkanen
Right now the Bulls have a few things left to do. The first thing is to figure out where forward Lauri Markkanen is headed. Markkanen is the classic case of betting on yourself and then failing. The Bulls offered him an extension ahead of last season and he turned it down. Markkanen felt he deserved more than what was offered and bet on himself to prove that. That didn’t work out so well for him. So now the Bulls are in a position of power with Markkanen. They have already extended a qualifying offer to him and while there are interests from other teams, those teams don’t have a ton of money to offer Lauri. This puts the Bulls in a position to try and acquire something in return for Lauri via a sign and trade.
Stein: "The Bulls are in a strong position here. The market for him has really dried up."
— Daniel Greenberg (@ChiSportUpdates) August 12, 2021
This allows the Bulls front office to be crafty. They may try to get back some draft picks or maybe even a bench player. The Bulls will do everything they can to get something in return for him. Markkanen has made it clear he wants out of Chicago but right now things are looking tough. If Markkanen isn’t willing to take less money he may need to look internationally. One thing is for sure if the Bulls can get a return on him they absolutely will.
Fill out the bench
The final thing left for the Bulls to do is fill out the team’s bench. The bench as it sits right now consists of Caruso, White, Brown Jr., Green, Bradley, Simonovic, Dosunmu & Markkanen. This leaves a couple of spots left to be filled after Markkanen leaves. The Bulls don’t have a ton of money left to spend so they will likely need to find some guys willing to take less or minimum contracts. We will have to wait for the Bull’s summer league to end to see who off that team could be a permanent fixture or two-way player.
This Bulls team is looking much better than it did a year ago. Filling out the bench will give a complete picture of what this team will be. We should know more about this roster over the coming weeks. One thing we can all agree on is Chicago basketball is back.