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After parting ways with Wendell Carter Jr. and sacrificing two protected top-four first-round picks to acquire Nikola Vucevic at the trade deadline, the Chicago Bulls continued to go 12-17, failing to finish in the top. -10 of the Eastern Conference.
For his part, Vucevic played well. In 26 games with the Bulls, the two-time All-Star averaged 21.5 points, 11.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per fight. But fellow All-Star Zach LaVine missed 11 straight games due to health and safety protocols, and he also suffered from a sprained right ankle. Additionally, there were too many instances where it felt like Chicago was on the verge of winning but couldn’t finish the job.
Trading for Vucevic was born out of a desire to establish a winning culture that can help revive the franchise. The Bulls have made some big changes this past offseason. They have recruited former Denver Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas as the new executive vice president of basketball operations. Karnisovas has hired former senior vice president of player personnel from the Sixers, Marc Eversley, to be their general manager. And Billy Donovan has been named their new head coach.
After a disappointing end to the season, this triumvirate must now find the best way for the Bulls to move forward.
“At this time, I can’t tell you what the plan will look like. But I can tell you that we will be looking at all possible ways to improve the team, ”Karnisovas told the media a few days after the Chicago season ended.
Karnisovas went on to say, “When you have a base of, say, two All-Stars in one place, I think it’s easier to add extra elements that we need.”
Interestingly, one of these two All-Stars is eligible for an extension this summer. That would be LaVine, who just completed a season in which he produced career highs in points (27.4), rebounds (5) and assists (4.9). The same goes for his percentage of field goals (50.7%). Although he took more than three than ever (8.2), he converted them at a rate of 41.9%; this is the first time he has shot 40% or better beyond the arc. He also averaged 5.1 free throw attempts per game and increased his foul line shooting percentage to career-best 84.9%.
Due to the blossoming of a deadlier shooter and a top 10, LaVine’s effective field goal and live shot percentages also hit new highs, rising to 59.6% and 63.4%. , respectively. The latter is the fourth highest rating among players with a usage rate of at least 30%, behind only Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Joel Embiid, per NBA.com.
During his end-of-season press conference, LaVine made it clear that he wanted a maximum contract extension, saying, “I think that’s what everyone wants to be paid for, what it’s worth. When my time comes, I will definitely get that.
There are currently over two dozen players on maximum contracts; in other words, expect LaVine’s name to be added to this list.
When it comes to reviewing other players on Chicago’s roster, nothing matters more to the team’s future success than Patrick Williams. The former fourth overall pick has just emerged from a rookie campaign in which he demonstrated the potential to one day win a maximum contract.
Williams’ stat line won’t grab your attention. He averages 9.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game while taking 7.4 shots and making 48.3% of them. He also knocked down 39.1% of his attempts from beyond the arc, but he took just 1.9 threes per game. It’s the glimpses of three-tiered scores and defensive missions ranging from LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo to Zion Williamson and Donovan Mitchell that suggest Williams is capable of developing into a very hard-hitting two-way wing.
Then there’s Coby White, who had a second top-down campaign. The former seventh overall pick has averaged 15.1 points, 4.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game this season. These numbers reflect his growth as a facilitator and his ability to contribute on the boards, enjoying being a 6-foot-5 point guard who can end opposition possession when he crashes on the glass. But as the first scorer, shooting 41.6% from 13.1 field attempts and making just 35.9% of his 6.6 threes per game leaves a lot to be desired.
During the season, there was a stretch where Coby White lost his starting point in Chicago, but to his credit, when he got a second chance, he improved his performance. In the Bulls’ last 18 games, the Whites have averaged 17.6 points, 5.9 assists, shooting 43.3% from the field on 14 attempts and 40.3% from beyond the arc while hoisting eight three per game, per basketball-reference.com.
Now White needs to build on that momentum this offseason. LaVine and Vucevic are going to have the ball in their hands more than anyone on the team, reducing Chicago’s reliance on White to create points for his teammates. But if he can still do the correct reading while working with his All-Star teammates, generating points for himself and others as he operates out of the ball more than a typical playmaker, he can help take the Bulls offense to the next level. next season.
Lauri Markkanen’s future with the Bulls is more uncertain. On the plus side, he shot 48% from the field and 40.2% from beyond the arc while taking 5.8 three per game – both of those shooting percentages are career highs for him. However, four seasons have passed, and it has yet to evolve into more than a point shooter. In April, Markkanen was demoted to the Second Unit, staying there until Chicago’s regular season finale. In those 24 games, with his minutes and hits dwindling, his production plummeted. Markannen averaged 9.7 points while taking 7.3 shots per fight.
Markkanen’s contract is now at a point where it will take a qualifying offer of just over $ 9 million for the Bulls to make him a restricted free agent. When speaking to the media after the season, Karnisovas said the following about it.
“I think Lauri is a vital part of our team, and we hope he’s a part of what we’re building here, so I look forward to free will and speaking to his representation.
It’s one thing to speak positively about a player to the media, but it’s another to get involved financially. In terms of average annual value, how far are the Bulls willing to expand beyond this qualifying bid if Markkanen signs an offer slip elsewhere?
Speaking of free agents on the front lines, Daniel Theis, who came from the Boston Celtics on the trade deadline, has made his way into the starting lineup. In 23 games with the Bulls, Theis averaged 10 points and 5.9 rebounds per fight. For his career, Theis is a 33.5% three-point shooter. Ideally, Chicago find a player who can start at four while providing more power at long distance and is a more athletic addition to Vucevic. That said, Theis made $ 5 million last season, and if at 29 his market isn’t moving favorably, there’s obvious value in bringing him back.
Thaddeus Young is not a free agent, but only $ 6 million of his $ 14.2 million contract is guaranteed next season. The 14-year-old veteran has just finished a productive campaign in which he generated 12.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.1 steals per game. 9.1 of Young’s 9.7 field goal attempts came inside the arc and he converted them to 58%. There’s also the immeasurable value that Young adds as a team leader. Better bring it back.
As the Bulls’ new regime attempts to establish a winning culture and guide the Bulls to the playoffs for the first time since 2017, they must overcome the odds of their protected top-four first-round pick going to the Orlando Magic. due to the Vucevic. Trade. This deal also sent Al-Farouq Aminu to Chicago. Aminu is on the books for $ 10.2 million next season, further reducing the amount of ceiling space the Bulls need to work with this offseason.
It helps that the Bulls have an All-Star duo to build around, but in order for them to advance not only to the postseason play-in tournament but also to the playoffs, they’ll need to improve their support distribution.