Last season for the Chicago Bulls was a bit… disappointing. Limping into the last play-in spot in the Eastern Conference at 40-42, the Bulls managed to nearly steal the final spot in the playoffs before falling to the eventual Eastern Conference champions, the Miami Heat. It was clear that moves had to be made this offseason to revitalize the roster in hopes of making a run at contention. After all, the main trio of Zach Lavine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vučević were not getting any younger, leading many to speculate that the Bulls would shop one of these stars in hopes of a large haul to build for the near future.
However, after Vučević was signed to a three-year, $60 million extension, team executive Arturas Karnisovas reiterated the organization’s desire to keep the 6-foot-10-inch center aboard the team. This move indicated the Bulls would plan to retool their squad rather than rebuild from the ground up, patching their weak points in playmaking and outside shooting with savvy moves in the free-agent market.
Let’s review some of the transactions the Bulls’ front office pulled off this summer to see if they correctly addressed their needs.
Bulls Early Moves
Nikola Vučević: three years, $60 million
As previously mentioned, the Bulls extended Vooch for three more years. This move is in line with the ‘continuity’ that has been preached from the front office throughout their tenure. Vučević was incredibly valuable last season, playing all 82 games and notching averages of 17.6 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 assists per game.
I think this is the correct move for the Bulls, even if I disagree with their undying pursuit of keeping this core together. Vučević can fetch a decent package in a trade, and he is still putting up solid numbers if he continues to be a cornerstone of this franchise. What the Bulls cannot do is continue the line of thinking that their current pieces (including Vooch) are all they need to be in contention. Re-signing Vučević helps them retain a piece of the puzzle, but the Bulls should still search for some glue to hold it all together.
Jevon Carter: three years, $19.5 million
One such player that could provide the metaphorical ‘glue’ for the Bulls is Jevon Carter. The former Milwaukee Bucks point guard is coming off his most productive season so far and will get the opportunity to play for his hometown team this year. Carter backed up Bucks’ star Jrue Holiday last and did not receive a major chunk of minutes, but that is likely to change with his arrival in Chicago.
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) August 10, 2023
Carter was almost certainly signed to try and salvage something from the loss of the injured Lonzo Ball. While the undersized guard doesn’t quite match the production of Ball, Carter’s excellent on-ball defense and impressive three-point efficiency are of great need to the Bulls, who were inconsistent guarding on the perimeter and made the fewest threes in the league last season. If he continues to make strides in his playmaking ability, this Bulls offense could be as potent as ever.
Coby White: three years, $36 million
Jevon Carter will be sharing some of his minutes with Coby White, who is returning on a three-year extension from his rookie contract. The 6-foot-5-inch guard from North Carolina is entering his fifth season, coming off a campaign that saw all of his numbers drop as he played the lowest average minutes per game of his career.
However, White managed to record the highest Win Share total and rate of Win Shares per 48 minutes of any season he’s had so far. He will likely take the backup role this season, but his impact will certainly increase. The Bulls recognized they could not let another budding young talent skip town before he developed into a rising star such as Lauri Markkanen. While White might not have the same ceiling as Markkanen, the deal the Bulls struck with White keeps enough cap space open to continue building up the future of the franchise. White’s ability to support the team’s successes this year will almost certainly decide whether he will be a centerpiece of the Bulls’ future or a valuable trade asset down the line.
Bulls Prioritizing Bench Depth
Torrey Craig: three years, $5 million
One of the more underrated pickups this offseason was the Bulls netting Torrey Craig to a veteran minimum deal, including a player option for the second year. Craig is a journeyman, playing for the Nuggets, playing for the Nuggets, Bucks, Pacers, and Suns before heading to Chicago. Entering his seventh season at age 32, Craig is certain to be a role player for the Bulls. But it’s likely he can patch some of the holes still present on both ends of the floor.
Craig posted career-highs in games played and a three-point percentage last season with the Suns. His reputation as a solid defender holds up as he posted a positive defensive box plus/minus on top of a huge boost to his win shares from a year prior. It’s unlikely he’ll take the starting role over Patrick Williams III, who the Bulls are still looking to develop into a quality starter. But as long as Craig sees a decent amount of time on the hardwood, he can also provide some of that “glue” the Bulls are looking for. This signing is by no means a league-changing one, but give credit to the Bulls where it’s due: Craig’s addition to the team on a minimum deal feels like a steal.
Ayo Dosunmu: three years, $21 million
The last major move for the Bulls this offseason was bringing back Ayo Dosunmu, their 2021 2nd-round draft pick. In similar minutes to his rookie season, the Chicago native’s averages slid in his sophomore season. Although inconsistent at times, Dosunmu started 51 out of the 80 games he played in, and this extension further indicates that the Bulls are pushing to make him a part of their backcourt of the future.
OFFICIAL: We have re-signed Chicago's own Ayo Dosunmu.
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) July 23, 2023
Similar to the White deal, the Bulls are betting on Dosunmu to make some strides in his development in hopes of potentially building around the versatile youngster. At his best, Dosunmu can develop into a consistent two-way player who can guard numerous positions and succeed in smaller and bigger lineups. At his worst, this will be yet another deal that the Bulls will end up regretting.
This season is sure to contain even more question marks than in previous years of this current era. Are the Bulls keeping the majority of their core? Are they having a fire sale to build for the future? The front office’s moves this offseason seem to indicate both. As I’ve written in the past, they are very much in a “win now” mindset with their aging superstars and the lack of a clear franchise player of the future. The Bulls may not have an explosive offseason. However, the small charges they’ve made this summer might get them back to seeing red.