“That the Mavs couldn’t land Matisse Thybulle, whom they badly needed…says everything about the mess that is restricted free agency”, wrote Grant Hughes of Bleacher Report on July 16. “Here, we send Caruso, an even better defender, to Dallas. … Though Caruso is nominally a point guard, he’s capable of checking lead ball-handlers and wings alike.”
– Alex Caruso
McGee, 35, was born in Flint Michigan but went to high school in Chicago and would offer a rim-protecting presence the Bulls do not currently have on the roster behind starter Nikola Vucevic and even top backup Andre Drummond. The 7-foot-tall McGee would be the tallest player on the roster.
A three-time NBA champion – including in 2019-20 with Caruso and the Los Angeles Lakers – he averaged 4.4 points and 2.5 rebounds for the Mavs this past season after signing to be their starting center. He was largely phased out of the rotation by the end of the year.
McGee is going into the second year of a three-year, $17.2 million contract.
Hardy, 21, is a former second-round pick (No. 37 overall in the 2022 NBA Draft) who has been impressive during his short career. The explosive guard averaged 8.8 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 1.4 assists while shooting 40.4% from beyond the arc this past season.
In his five starts as a rookie, Hardy averaged 21.1 points, 5.0 boards, and 3.2 assists.
“This deal hinges on the Bulls finally angling for a rebuild and prizing Hardy,” Hughes admits.
The additional second-round pick is a nice sweetener, especially for a Bulls team that is still limited in how it can use its first-round picks. But is this package enough to pry Caruso loose from the Bulls?
Bulls Have Placed High Valuation on Alex Caruso
Chicago has been mired in trade rumors for some time including with two-time All-Star Zach LaVine. However, just as the reports of those talks have shown, the Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has a high asking price on Caruso.
“The hardest guard on the market to get? Chicago’s Alex Caruso, who nearly a dozen teams have serious interest in,” wrote Matt Moore of The Action Network in January. “Chicago knows the market for him. Some teams have backed away, believing they won’t be able to win a bidding war for Caruso.”
Caruso, 29, averaged 5.6 points, 2.9 assists, and 2.9 rebounds this past season.
But he really makes his hay on the other end of the court, earning First-Team All-Defense honors in 2022-23 as he heads into the third year of a four-year, $36.9 million contract.
“Chicago might be able to extend him for less than the three years and $53.2 million for which he’s eligible,” wrote Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report on July 13. “With the uncertainty surrounding [Lonzo] Ball‘s health, having Caruso around for a few more years feels crucial.”
Lonzo Ball’s Knee Injury Still Looms Large
Ball’s knee injury has undone all that Karnisovas did over his first two-plus years at the helm, with his absence exposing all of the warts skeptics warned of before this core took the floor together. He is expected to miss all of next season and it remains uncertain if he will ever be able to return to the floor.
Karnisovas and Co. have mostly been in a holding pattern since then.
But, if they do finally have a sudden change of heart, this could be one of the first dominoes that fall signaling the shift in ideology.