“If Chicago wants another big for short-term depth and maybe more in the future, it should target Trendon Watford,” wrote Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report on July 5. “He’s an energetic combo big who only turns 23 in November. He’s put up good numbers on some bad Portland teams…but it shouldn’t cost the Bulls much to find out whether that production is legit.”
Watford averaged 7.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.1 assists while shooting 39.1% from beyond the arc, albeit on a modest 1.0 attempts per game. An undrafted free agent out of LSU in 2021-22, he showed his ability to read the floor in transition and make plays in Portland.
His production scaled with an increased role, too, with the big man averaging 12.9 points on 60.7% true shooting with 6.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists in his 12 starts in 2022-23.
Watford shot 36.4% on 1.8 three-point attempts per game in those games.
He was a surprise cut by the Trail Blazers on the eve of the official July 1 start of free agency but also when the NBA moratorium on legal tampering began. Cutting Watford saves the Blazers $1.8 million in salary cap space and a roster spot, notes Blazers beat writer Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian on June 30.
Their only two signings in free agency so far have been forward Jerami Grant and big man Ibou Badji. But Portland is also in talks with suitors over a potential trade of star guard Damian Lillard so the roster spot should come in handy regardless.
Bulls Need Trendon Watford’s Size, Versatility
In the end, the Blazers’ loss of a talented player could be the Bulls’ gain if executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas is inclined to make an offer.
Chicago currently has 11 fully guaranteed contracts and two more – Carlik Jones and Marko Simonovic – that will become guaranteed on June 7 at $1.8 million for Simonovic while Jones has a partial guarantee for $250,000 on opening night and then the remaining $1.7 million becomes guaranteed on January 10.
That does not include restricted free agent Ayo Dosunmu.
He would be the biggest non-center on the roster at 6-foot-8 and, listed at 240 pounds, should have no trouble manning minutes in the pivot behind starter Nikola Vucevic as a changeup to backup Andre Drummond or alongside either one.
Jones is an unrestricted free agent after opting out of his contract and the Bulls added Torrey Craig and drafted Julian Phillps to replace him. Watford is just the bigger, younger, and better player all around.
How the Bulls Can Land Trendon Watford
The Bulls should have a little over $3 million remaining of the $12.4 million non-taxpayer mid-level exception assuming they used it on Craig and Jevon Carter in free agency this offseason.
They also have the bi-annual exception worth $4.5 million and could also have a $10.2 million Disable Player Exception that they could use to sign Watford to a one-year deal if the NBA approves their claim on Lonzo Ball. There are still a lot of moving parts, including other potential suitors.
But Watford could offer the Bulls a chance to infuse more versatility into their rotation while also giving them a young piece that fits whatever direction they are heading by the end of the regular season and, they hope, the playoffs.