Bulls Take First Steps to Retain Pair of Key Free Agents

Billy Donovan, Chicago Bulls

Getty Head coach Billy Donovan of the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls are putting actions behind their words.

Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said he wanted to keep guards Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White and has taken the first step to do just that.

“The Chicago Bulls have tendered qualifying offers to Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White, and a two-way qualifying offer to Terry Taylor,” tweeted Keith Smith of Sportrac on June 28. “All three players are now restricted free agents on July 1.”

More than just Karnisovas, White, in particular, won over head coach Billy Donovan this past season after two years of being yanked between roles and his production suffered because of it. Perhaps a bit ironically, White’s potential redemption comes after his worst season from a statistical standpoint.

White, 23, averaged career lows with 9.7 points and 2.9 rebounds adding 2.8 assists and shooting 37.2% from beyond the arc, both of which were down from the previous season.

But he made strides in his ball-handling, feel for the game, and defensively.

The former No. 7 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft has gone from being a staple on the trading block to having a potential chance at being the Bulls’ starting point guard when the 2023-24 season opens

“He’s got better in every aspect of his game,” Karnisovas said in his exit interview on the Bulls’ YouTube channel on April 15. “I think that’s a good example of a player that is developing and taking strides from decision-making to defense to three-point shooting…He’s been really good for us and has been key in a lot of wins so he’s gotten really better.”

“I worked really hard this summer, especially on my defense,” White told NBC Sports Chicago Bulls play-by-play analyst, Adam Amin in November. “And to see it start paying off is a great feeling. … I’m just going to continue to try to get better. I got a long way to go still. Try to continue to do the right things and make the right reads and take what the defense gives me.”

White made just two starts this past season, his fewest since his rookie year. But he has made it clear that he still wants to be a starter.

The Bulls tendering him is the first step to seeing that happen.

Ayo Dosunmu Needs a Bounceback

Dosunmu, 22, was a surprise as a rookie entering the league as the No. 38 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and going on to lead the Bulls in total appearances with 77. This past season he took it another step and made 80 total appearances.

The opening-day starting point guard, Dosunmu also drew 11 more starts than he did as a rookie, and yet his production either plateaued or regressed to the point that he lost his role.

Dosunmu averaged 8.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.6 assists with his rebounding the only metric that did not regress. His biggest step back came in his shooting efficiency with Dosunmu – who shot 37.6% on 2.4 threes per game as a rookie – shooting 31.2% from deep on an identical 2.4 attempts this past season.

Despite that sophomore slump, Dosunmu is still held in high regard within the organization.

“It’s a good experience for Ayo,” Karnisovas said of Dosunmu’s struggles this past season. “I think Ayo is going to be a good player in this league I think.

“This year, the defenses were ready for him and they tried to figure him out, and he has to make adjustments. And I think it’s going to be a big offseason for him but I hope you know he’s here for a long time as well.”

Arturas Karnisovas Following Through on His Word

Actions always speak louder than words and, while fans can remain hopeful that the Bulls will add the necessary pieces to take a step forward in 2023-24, Karnisovas’ actions match at least part of his comments from his exit interview in that he is trying to bring as many players back as he can to continue his theme of continuity.

Terry, 23, did not get much playing time after being picked up off waivers from the Indiana Pacers late last season averaging 4.0 points and 1.6 rebounds across his five appearances.

But Karnisovas and the Bulls are also negotiating a new contract for Nikola Vucevic.

Whether or not the results that Karnisovas seeks will come from his constant push for continuity but it certainly won’t be for lack of trying.

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