Projecting Landing Spots for Bulls’ Top Free Agents
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The Chicago Bulls are halfway toward parlaying their play-in tournament invite into an NBA playoff appearance. Considering how disappointing this campaign was at large in the Windy City, that would be a decent accomplishment.
Would it be enough to buy back into this core, though?
That’s an answer the Bulls will need to find soon, as they’re sending several key contributors into free agency, including starting center Nikola Vučević. He is a good, skilled player, but at 32 years old, he’s not getting better and might soon be declining. That’s fine if Chicago fancies itself a potential contender, but if it doesn’t, it might be time to let the big man walk.
We’ll delve deeper into that situation and more while predicting the futures of three of the team’s top free agents.
Patrick Beverley (Unrestricted)
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Plucking Chicago native Patrick Beverley off of the buyout market was fun, especially since it meant the point guard picked the Bulls over the Golden State Warriors.
But you know what wasn’t nearly as fun? Watching Chicago immediately move the 34-year-old into the starting lineup.
Sure, the Bulls needed a replacement for Lonzo Ball, but Beverley was a non-factor for the Los Angeles Lakers, and he’s been the same since getting back to Chicago. During the regular season, the Bulls were 9.0 points worse per 100 possessions with Beverley than without him, per NBA.com.
Chicago needs more production out of this position going forward, and honestly, at Beverley’s age, he probably needs a team that’s closer to contending than this club is.
Prediction: Beverley signs with the Miami Heat.
Nikola Vučević (Unrestricted)
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While Vučević’s numbers never quite matched what he did with the Orlando Magic, he didn’t have the same opportunities he did in the land of Disney. He was a focal point in Orlando. In Chicago, he played second fiddle to Zach LaVine and later dipped to the third option once DeMar DeRozan arrived.
To Vučević’s credit, you won’t find many more productive third options than him. This season, he put up 17.6 points a night on 52/34.9/83.5 shooting while grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing 3.2 assists.
The problem is the Bulls weren’t able to capitalize on those numbers. They were 6.9 points better per 100 possessions when he didn’t play.
That speaks to two things: his imperfect fit as an offense-first center and Chicago’s struggles overall. Both should have the big man and the Bulls interested in a change, preferably as part of a sign-and-trade that nets the franchise something in return for a player it sacrificed two first-round picks (plus Wendell Carter Jr. and Otto Porter Jr.) to get.
Prediction: Vučević is sign-and-traded to the Dallas Mavericks.
Coby White (Restricted)
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Coby White loomed as one of the more logical trade candidates during this season.
The fact he was never dealt despite having restricted free agency awaiting him suggests Chicago’s plans for the seventh pick of the 2019 draft haven’t finished.
If the Bulls were solely operating in win-now mode, then they probably could have found something more helpful to their roster than White’s scoring and shooting. Since they seemingly need more time to get this roster anywhere near championship-level, though, they should buy into his development and see what his future will hold.
His role and stats were both diminished this season, but he took subtle (but important) steps as a distributor and a defender. If the Bulls see him becoming more than a quick-strike scorer off of the bench, then they shouldn’t mind covering the cost of his next contract.
Prediction: Chicago matches an offer sheet White signs elsewhere.