“The Chicago Bulls are waiving center Marko Simonovic,” tweeted The Athletic and Stadium NBA insider Shams Charania on July 5. “Simonovic appeared in 16 games since signing with Bulls on multiyear deal in 2021.”
Simonovic, 23, was the No. 44 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, though he did not come over to the States until the 2021-22 season which played some part in his limited role. But the other, and far more damning reason for it is his lack of development for a team that has lacked size in the frontcourt for the last two seasons.
Bulls head coach Billy Donovan was far more likely to roll out lineups with four guards than to call on Simonovic.
Simonovic was one of just three players on the Bulls’ roster taller than 6-foot-7 along with centers Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond, and was the only one of the three that had a chance to fill some backup minutes at power forward.
But Simonovic’s shortcomings on the defensive end did him no favors.
He averaged just 1.4 points and 0.8 rebounds in his Bulls career, posting a negative or neutral plus-minus in nine of his 16 appearances.
The decision comes as the Bulls’ roster sits at just 12 players and still suffers from a lack of size in the frontcourt. But the Bulls were facing a deadline to guarantee the third year of Simonovic’s three-year, $4.3 million contract that would have paid him $1.8 million in 2023-24 which seems like a small price to pay for a Bulls team that is wary of crossing into the luxury tax.
Chicago is roughly $10 million below the luxury tax threshold, per Spotrac, but that number does not represent the $5.2 million qualifying offer extended to third-year guard and restricted free agent Ayo Dosunmu whose situation is underscored by Simonovic’s release.
Bulls Bet on Marko Simonovic Over Ayo Dosunmu
Be it because they thought he would have a higher ceiling or because they knew he would not come over right away, the Bulls gave Simonovic a third year on his rookie contract as opposed to giving it to Dosunmu who was the higher pick in their class, selected with the No. 38 overall selection, and is a Chicago native which they played into during his rookie season.
Following a sophomore slump, Dosunmu’s future in Chicago seems very much up in the air.
“The delay on his potential re-signing can be read one of three ways,” wrote NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson on July 6.
“Either the Bulls are trying to drive his annual salary down in perhaps a longer-term deal, saving him as a potential sign-and-trade asset or waiting to see what the market dictates his price is before deciding whether or not to match his offer.”
Teams like the Boston Celtics, San Antonio Spurs, and Toronto Raptors have all been mentioned in connection to Dosunmu in some form or fashion be it rumored interest or speculative based on needs and fit. There could even be another suitor ready to join the fray after striking out on one target.
Dallas Mavericks Could Sign Ayo Dosunmu to Offer Sheet
The Dallas Mavericks have gone about putting complementary pieces around Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving this offseason, landing restricted free-agent forward Grant Williams in a sign-and-trade with Boston.
Portland matched that offer sheet, keeping Thybulle and potentially opening up the possibility the Mavericks turn their attention to Dosunmu.
He is not as accomplished as Thybulle, a two-time All-Defense Team selection. But Dosunmu earned All-Rookie Second-Team honors in large part because of his impact on the defensive side of the ball where he could offer much of what Dallas sought in potential trade target Alex Caruso at a lesser price and with greater durability.
Dosunmu, 23, led the Bulls in total appearances with 77 as a rookie and made 80 appearances with 51 starts this past season.