This past season, a Chicago Bulls team headlined by a trio of offensive-minded players finished the campaign with the 24th-ranked offense but a top-five defense. With limited resources at their disposal, perhaps they need to lean further into that identity.
Chicago was led on that end by All-Defensive guard Alex Caruso and, in the latter stages of the season, Patrick Beverley who is an unrestricted free agent. With the Bulls potentially needing to replace him, a rival Eastern Conference executive tells Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney that Denver Nuggets guard Bruce Brown could be an option.
“Bruce Brown…wants to stay in Denver, but the money might be tough,” the executive tells Heavy Sports. “He is a big-time fit there.”
Brown cut his teeth with the Detroit Pistons in 2018-19 but got some time on the national stage in the 2022 playoffs with the Brooklyn Nets, averaging 14.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.3 steals.
He averaged a career-best 11.5 points adding 4.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.1 steals in 2023.
This postseason has been another opportunity for Brown to showcase his multi-faceted skillset, averaging 12.2 points, 3.9 boards, 2.2 assists, and 1.1 steals. His production far surpassed his current $6.8 million salary he is slated to make in 2023-24 if he picks up his player option on his two-year, $12.2 million contract.
He noted that he signed that contract amid a dearth of offers last offseason.
That is unlikely to happen to him again after what he’s shown for the second consecutive postseason with the NBA Finals still to come, and Brown said he is “happy” he chose Denver.
But that could all still create the perfect scenario for the Bulls, allowing them to come in over the top on Denver – who was a potential Caruso trade destination at the deadline – while not necessarily getting outbid themselves.
“Even if Brown declines his player option and is interested in a return, the most the Nuggets can offer him is $7.8 million,” wrote Vinny Benedetto of the Denver Gazette on May 27. “After making just over $15 million over the course of his first five NBA seasons, Brown could realistically make more than that next season alone after a breakout first season in Denver.”
Brown says he is not thinking about his contract but the Bulls – armed with the non-taxpayer midlevel exception worth an expected $12.2 million next season, per RealGM – should be.
Bulls Could Turn to Potential Lakers Castoff
If Chicago strikes out in forming what could be the league’s best defensive backcourt with Brown and Caruso, they could still look Westward for a solution to one of their issues: three-point shooting.
“Can the Lakers keep Malik Beasley,” asked the exec rhetorically. “If they can’t, if they don’t pick up his option, that is a place you look.”
Beasley, 26, averaged 11.1 points in 26 games with the Los Angeles Lakers after being traded from the Utah Jazz. He knocked down 35.3% of his triples but is a career 37.8% shooter from deep. The biggest issue for him and prospective teams could be that his playing time evaporated as the postseason wore on.
He finished with fewer than six minutes four times in his five appearances over the Lakers’ final 10 playoff games and was a healthy scratch in five other games.
“He can be a contributor, really on any team,” one Western Conference executive told Heavy Sports. “The expectation is they’ll keep him. He can be a good trade piece if you need one. It’s just, if the tax is a big worry, he’d be the easy piece to move off of.”
The Eastern exec agreed with the idea that Beasley likely stays.
East Exec: Bulls ‘Like Cheap’
“They could always go for some low-cost veterans,” the East exec said. “The Bulls like cheap.”
This would jibe with sentiments that the Bulls aren’t eyeing big changes this summer in part because they can’t.
Oubre, 27, averaged a career-high 20.3 points and pulled down 5.2 rebounds per game this past season. He hits free agency after appearing in just 48 games in the final year of a two-year, $24.6 million deal.
Curry, 32, averaged 9.2 points and did most of his damage from beyond the arc, shooting over 40% from beyond the arc for the seventh consecutive season he’s been healthy.
He wrapped a four-year, $32 million contract this season.