The Chicago Bulls could find a major upgrade for their bench for a bargain in Indiana Pacers forward T.J. Warren, writes Bleacher Report’s Dan Favale. What happens next season will largely depend on what Zach LaVine does.
If things go according to plan, the Bulls will need to be smart with their moves. This as much as continuity is the reason for emphasizing improving on the margins.
It would also mean avoiding potential crisis-mode deals that further cloud the future.
Chicago’s bench needs an influx of talent in any case which would Warren an intriguing under-the-radar signing.
Bulls Need Shooting
Favale lays out what it is that the Bulls need in plain English what it is the Bulls need. It is not a secret and they were fairly open about what they are looking for in their exit interviews. But improving on the margins can be tricky.
The Chicago Bulls desperately need another 3-4 who spaces the floor and should be able to access their $10.4 million chip while maxing out Zach LaVine.
At 6-foot-8, Warren would be the third-tallest player on the roster. He was drafted 14th overall in 2014 by the Phoenix Suns and spent his first five seasons there becoming a 19-point-per-game scorer in 2018 earning a four-year, $50 million contract extension. The Suns traded him to Indiana in a three-team deal that also included the Miami Heat.
Warren generated buzz with an incredible run in 2020 in the bubble with the Indiana Pacers.
He averaged 31.4 points per game while shooting a blistering 52.4% from beyond the arc in six games to close out the regular season. While he did cool off in the postseason going 0-for-8 in two games, he also went 7-of-11 (63.6%) in the other two but Indiana was still swept by Miami.
The most intriguing part of Warren is essentially hypothetical at the moment. He has played in just four games in the last two seasons with none coming last season. Foot injuries have halted whatever trajectory he was on.
That might not be enough to drop the cost, though.
Teams shouldn’t need cap space to sign him, but will his market retreat to mini-mid-level-exception territory ($6.4 million)? I’m betting no. Wings who can stroke threes, have improved their one-on-one defense and previously shown they’re capable of putting the ball on the deck ooze value, even at their most distressed.
However, his ascension started the season before in Phoenix when Warren shot 42.8% from deep on 4.2 attempts per game, both career highs. He had shot 40.0% from three in his second NBA season. But that came on just 1.5 tries per contest.
That is enough of a track record for some team to sink money into assuming his medicals check out. The question is should the Bulls be that team?
Three-Point and Other Deficiencies
Chicago ranked fourth shooting 36.9% from long distance during the regular season, per NBA.com. But they were 30th in attempts. During the postseason, they ranked 15th (of 16 teams) at just 28.3% while taking the second-most attempts.
A return to health for LaVine and Lonzo Ball will help bring that number up.
Adding Warren could be a low-risk, high-reward option as long as there isn’t a rush for his services as described by The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks in 2020.
It takes Warren only a split second to create a shot. He doesn’t need to back down defenders in the post or dribble the ball into the ground at the 3-point line. He’s always moving, and once he gets the ball, he either immediately shoots it or gives it back.
The Bulls also lacked bodies capable of sticking on the bigger wings and combo forwards in the league – something Tjarks explained Warren did well when last healthy.
Indiana has the no. 6 defense in the NBA this season while often putting Warren on elite perimeter scorers. The list of his most frequent assignments includes Jimmy Butler, Khris Middleton, and Jayson Tatum.
Warren needs to be healthy to get any consideration after the season the Bulls just had. But ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the forward was healthy in March. He could fill a critical role off of the bench if he can prove that he is finally healthy again.