The Chicago Bulls‘ need for a point guard has generated discussions around the New Orleans Pelicans’ Lonzo Ball, Los Angeles Lakers’ Dennis Schroder and a few others. With Coby White’s recent injury to his shoulder, the sense of urgency has risen.
One name we don’t often hear associated with the Bulls’ point guard needs is the Dallas Mavericks’ Jalen Brunson. The 24-year-old isn’t officially set to be a free agent, but as NBC Sports’ K.C. Johnson mentions, there is a scenario that could have him available for Chicago if they are interested. Johnson calls Brunson a “realistic” option for the Bulls.
Brunson isn’t necessarily a “free agent,” but he could become available depending on how the Mavericks handle his $1.8 million non-guaranteed salary for next season (which the 24-year-old guard has far outperformed). Should the Mavericks exercise that team option, or decline it then extend Brunson, he won’t be an option for the Bulls. But if he ends up on the open market, whether as an outright signing or sign-and-trade option, his two-way prowess and shot-creation ability could be just what the doctor ordered. Sentimentally, it would also be a nice homecoming for the Stevenson product.
Brunson’s career appears to be on the upswing.
In 2020-21, he averaged a career-high 12.6 points per game. His efficient scoring should be attractive to Chicago as he converted 52% of his field-goal attempts and just over 40% of his threes last year. Brunson is also a strong free-throw shooter at just under 80% in 2020-21 and 77% for his career.
Perhaps most importantly, he is a solid defender capable of complementing Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic.
Some Have Suggested Sending Lauri Markkanen to the Mavericks in a Sign-and-Trade
The Bulls aren’t likely to retain restricted free agent Lauri Markkanen, and there have been rumblings he’s interested in signing with the Mavericks. This could create situation that works for all parties.
Rob Wegley of On Tap Sports Net presents a strong case for Brunson stepping in as the Bulls’ new starting point guard with White heading to a sixth-man role permanently–at least after he returns from his shoulder injury.
Wegley suggests a sign-and-trade deal that would see the Bulls sending Markkanen to Dallas in exchange for Brunson and Maxi Kleber.
For the Bulls, Jalen Brunson (Stevenson High School product) returns to his home state. He slots in as the starting point guard ready to contribute more than his career-high 25 MPG this season. Brunson does not give the Bulls a lockdown perimeter guard, nor does he give Chicago size at the position (6’1, 190). However, the 24-year-old does give the Bulls a point guard capable of running an offense and playing off the ball. In the 2020-2021 season, Brunson averaged 12.6 PPG and 3.5 APG in 25 MPG off the bench. Brunson did so while shooting 52.3% from the field and 40.5% from deep on a modest 2.9 attempts per game. All of this was good for a 17.1 PER and 5.1 Win Shares. For comparison’s sake, Coby White had a 12.0 PER and 2.4 Win Shares this past season. Brunson slots in as the starting point guard which lets White stick to the spark plug, 6th-man role for which he seems to be best suited.
The Mavericks would have another shooter with size to play along with Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, and Chicago would have a definite upgrade at point guard with some financial flexibility.
Bulls’ Potential Starting Five
A starting lineup of Brunson, LaVine, Patrick Williams, Daniel Theis (if he’s re-signed) and Nikola Vucevic is intriguing. A lot of what happens with the Bulls depends on whether they get to keep their first-round selection.
If it lands in the Top 4, Chicago gets an opportunity to add one of the best prospects in the draft, and that could be a point guard. If it is lower than the Top-4, the pick goes to the Orlando Magic as a part of the deal that brought Vucevic to Chicago.
The Bulls won’t find out their lottery fate until June 22. If they don’t have good fortune with the ping pong balls, Brunson represents a solid backup plan.
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