Even the best intentions can be met with contempt and the Chicago Bulls’ offseason is an example of that.
From the team’s perspective, they have added a pair of savvy veterans in Jevon Carter and Torrey Craig to a group that was 40-42 last season but in far more games than not, with a 15-23 record in clutch contests bearing that out. But Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report suggests that might not be enough to move the needle.
Jones, 27, was traded to the Washington Wizards this offseason in a three-team deal that also saw Marcus Smart head to the Memphis Grizzlies. He is heading into the final year of a two-year, $29 million pact and could be trade bait at the deadline for the rebuilding Wizards.
Harden, 33, is in a different boat.
A former MVP, 10-time All-Star, and three-time scoring champ, Harden’s last few stops have ended similarly, with the veteran forcing his way to a team only to become disenchanted shortly thereafter. Whatever the root cause of this latest meltdown, Harden’s track record goes against the culture the Bulls have touted, though Swartz remains skeptical.
“Chicago is largely bringing back the same roster that went 40-42 last year, re-signing Nikola Vučević, Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu and trying once again to squeeze winning basketball out of Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan. This just isn’t going to happen.”
Bulls Added Pair of Potential Starters
Both Carter and Craig have been predicted to see significant roles this coming season. But Carter’s mention, in particular, seems to fly in direct opposition to comments from the team.
“Jevon will bring some of the defense we lost at the lead guard spot with Lonzo (Ball) out,” an anonymous Bulls staffer said during Summer League in Las Vegas, per Keith Smith of Spotrac on July 14. “And he can shoot too.”
Ball, 25, will miss all of next season, his second lost campaign in a row, and possibly longer.
Carter, 27, was signed to a three-year, $19.5 million contract in free agency after a career year with the Milwaukee Bucks in which he averaged career-highs with 8.0 points and shot 42.1% from three-point range. He also made a career a career-best 39 starts in his 80 appearances, also a career-high mark.
He could have to contend with White who re-signed on a three-year, $36 million pact this summer but the staffer noted White’s scoring punch off the bench as being vital.
“Adding Jevon Carter and re-signing Coby White were big moves for us.” The staffer said, per Smith. “Coby has come a long way. We think he could win Sixth Man of the Year. He’s been that good as a bench scorer.”
Craig’s path is more convoluted with highly-regarded prospect Patrick Williams still in the mix.
Williams is coming off a season in which he left himself disappointed that he didn’t do more with the opportunities afforded to him, and the hope is another offseason of working with DeRozan remedies that. But, if not, the 32-year-old Craig could be poised to step in and solidify a much-need role as a defender and floor spacer between the Bulls’ top trio.
“He is versatile and tireless at [the defensive] end,” wrote Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report about Craig on August 17. “Second, he ramped up his outside shooting this past season and wound up with career highs in makes (1.3 per game) and accuracy (39.5).”
Head coach Billy Donovan could have a quick hook for Williams if he is again hesitant when on the floor with the Bulls’ stars.
Bulls Breaking Point Could Be This Season
We are getting closer to training camps, and DeRozan’s future remains the biggest piece of unresolved business for the Bulls’ front office. Once thought to be a lock for a second contract, the team’s misfortunes have led to some doubt about whether either side wants to continue this union.
His age and the team’s future figure be big sticking points in any negotiations, though, as he heads into his 15th NBA season and the franchise starts to think about life after he leaves, be it this season, after the campaign, or whenever a new deal expires.
If their results aren’t vastly improved heading into the trade deadline this coming season, the noise around a DeRozan trade could increase.