Things could be coming to an end for the current iteration of the Chicago Bulls sooner than it may have seemed coming out of exit interviews in mid-April.
“I…heard from an insider that he believes the Bulls are done with this Big Three,” reported Sam Smith of Bulls.com in his weekly mailbag on May 19. “Sources who may or may not know agreed. Of course, such an observation doesn’t need Sherlock Holmes.”
Smith went on to explain that a reset would be logical given the Bulls’ roster construction with starting enter Nikola Vucevic an unrestricted free agent this summer while DeMar DeRozan is heading into the final year of his contract. Both players are in their 30s and the Bulls were 40-42 on the season despite having the duo and Zach LaVine more than any other trio in the NBA.
“I expect a change in that core,” Smith wrote.
The Bulls built this roster around very specific pieces and expended a lot of draft capital and financial wiggle room to do so.
They lost their 2023 first-round pick to the Orlando Magic — their final payment for the 2021 trade for Vucevic — when it fell out of the top four during the NBA Draft Lottery. And they still owe a top-10 protected pick to the San Antonio Spurs from the DeRozan trade.
Chicago is owed a lottery-protected first-rounder by the Portland Trail Blazers and Blazers general manager Joe Cronin says he speaks with Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas every transaction window. But Sean Highkin of the Rose Garden Report all but shot that down during an appearance on ‘The Athletic NBA Show’ on May 20.
Bulls in ‘Fact-Finding Stage’
“The scenario of them running it back is still very much a possibility,” NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson said on ‘The Bulls Talk Podcast’ on May 19. “But I don’t think it’s as for sure as I would have felt coming out of those exit meetings at the end of the season. I think I think they’re very much in the fact-finding stage about what’s next for them.”
Johnson attributed the Bulls being active during the NBA Draft Combine despite not owning a pick in the 2023 NBA Draft as doing their due diligence.
The Bulls met with projected No. 2 overall pick Brandon Miller at the combine and Johnson says he knows “for a fact” that they will attend Scoot Henderson’s pro day. Henderson is expected to slot in at No. 3 overall to the Blazers.
Portland already rosters Damian Lillard and has a pair of young promising guards in Shaedon Sharpe and Anfernee Simons making Henderson’s fit questionable at best.
That is where much of the intrigue around the Blazers’ plans comes from.
Arturas Karnisovas Vowed to ‘Look at Everything’ Again
To Johnson’s point about the rhetoric coming out of the Bulls’ end-of-season pressers, Karnisovas echoed sentiments he shared after the Bulls were bounced out of the playoffs in five games in the first round by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2022.
That resulted in Goran Dragic and Andre Drummond being added on cheap deals with the former later cut (he would join the Bucks) to make room for Patrick Beverley.
There are doubts that Karnisovas will do anything significant at all.
“They are not going to make a move for a point guard, that has not been in the pipeline for them at all,” an Eastern Conference general manager told Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney. “They have pretty much put everything into the idea that Lonzo [Ball] is coming back.”
Ball is expected to miss most if not all of the 2023-24 season and there are serious questions about his ability to return to the floor at all. He has not played since mid-January of 2022, has had three procedures performed on the same knee since joining the Bulls last offseason, and four surgeries on the knee since he entered the league in 2017.