Bulls Drop Potential Hint at Plans for 2023 Starting Lineup

Billy Donovan, Chicago Bulls

Getty Head coach Billy Donovan of the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls could have a different starting point guard on opening night for the eighth consecutive season. They are 229-318 since the 2015-16 campaign; a .419 winning percentage and the fourth-worst record in the NBA in that span, per Stathead.

But there is some intrigue around just who that new starter will be, and we may have gotten a hint from an anonymous team source.

“Adding Jevon Carter and re-signing Coby White were big moves for us. Jevon will bring some of the defense we lost at the lead guard spot with Lonzo (Ball) out,” the source told Keith Smith of Spotrac on July 14. “And he can shoot too. 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.”

If Chicago still values White, 23, for his scoring punch off the bench it could mean his designs on starting could have to wait. A restricted free agent this offseason, White re-signed with Chicago on a three-year, $36 million contract.

White is coming off his worst statistical season posting career lows with 9.7 points and 2.9 rebounds adding 2.8 assists while shooting 37.2% from deep.

But his continued development as a point guard earned head coach Billy Donovan’s respect.

“You don’t come (into) the league thinking, ‘I’m cool coming off the bench,’ ” White told Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic in April. “Yeah, I’ll play whatever role for whatever team I’m on, for sure. But my goal is to be a starter. That ain’t gonna change.”

White did open the season as the starting point guard in 2020-21 but made a career-high 74 appearances in 2022-23 while only drawing two stars

Still, the Bulls added Carter — on a three-year, $19.5 million pact — for a reason.

Carter, 27, averaged 8.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 2.4 assists this past season with the Milwaukee Bucks. He also knocked down 42.1% of his looks from beyond the arc while providing hard-nosed defense on the other end of the floor as well as toughness all of which the Bulls need.

Bulls Point Guards Under Arturas Karnisovas

Former Bulls starter Patrick Beverley – who started 22 of the Bulls’ final 23 games of the regular season and both Play-In Tournament outings – is now with the Philadelphia 76ers.

And last season’s opening-day starter, Ayo Dosunmu, is still lingering in restricted free agency, which is not uncommon, though he may be a longshot to reclaim the job after a rough second season.

“We’re still very high on Ayo,” sources told Smith. “This is how restricted free agency can go sometimes. Don’t read anything into our opinion of him as a player just because he isn’t signed.”

The Bulls have already extended a qualifying offer to Dosunmu, who went from an All-Rookie Second Team selection to being demoted twice in his second season. The expectation is that he is back – possibly on a multi-year deal — but the longer he remains unsigned the more speculation grows with rumors that the Toronto Raptors could be interested surfacing.

Karnisovas has been scrambling for the last two years trying to find a viable solution to a problem he thought he’d solved.

Lonzo Ball’s Injury Derailed Bulls

Ball’s continued absence will not be as much of a financial burden on the Bulls after an independent panel appointed by the NBA determined that his injuries will indeed prevent him from playing next season.

They have granted the Bulls a $10.2 million Disabled Player Exception that they can use to acquire a player in the final year of his contract.

But they cannot replace the impact he had when he was healthy.

“Working around Lonzo Ball’s injury makes everything a little harder,” the source told Smith. “We were a good team before he went down. You build a roster designed to play a certain way, around expensive players, and it becomes very hard when you lose one of those key guys. But we’re figuring it out.”

Will Carter or White — or perhaps even Dosunmu — finally give the Bulls what they have so desperately been searching for over the last year-plus? If not, Karnisovas and Co. will be right back to the drawing board.