Everyone knows the Chicago Bulls‘ new roster is improved. We also know it isn’t a perfect collection of talent.
What do the Bulls still need and what players are available to them via trade considering Chicago has some flexibility on that front?
Bulls Urged to Use Trade Exception to Acquire Frontcourt Depth
Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz sees a lack of frontcourt depth as the Bulls’ biggest challenge heading into the upcoming season. Swartz identified a collection of options that the Bulls could swing a deal for, using their $5 million trade exception from the deal that sent Daniel Theis to the Houston Rockets in a sign-and-trade swap.
Losing Lauri Markkanen, Thaddeus Young and Al Farouq-Aminu in trades this offseason has left the Bulls a little thin up front, which could cause head coach Billy Donovan to get creative with his lineups. Both DeMar DeRozan and Patrick Williams will have to see a large dose of their minutes at power forward, and we could see some three-guard lineups (Lonzo Ball, Coby White and Zach LaVine) with either DeRozan or Williams at the 4 and Nikola Vucevic at center. All three guards are at least 6’5″, so Chicago shouldn’t lose too much size even when supposedly going small. Also armed with a $5 million trade exception from the Daniel Theis sign-and-trade, the Bulls could go bargain hunting for backup big men. Players who fall under this price point and could become available include Willie Cauley-Stein, Gorgui Dieng, Danuel House and Mike Muscala.
While Dieng is a bit more accomplished as an interior defender, and House and Muscala are better shooters, Cauley-Stein is the most athletic finisher who also has upside as a shot blocker. There is another reason to believe Cauley-Stein could be set to deliver a strong 2021-22 season
Willie Cauley-Stein’s Contract Year Could Lead to Jackpot for New Team
Cauley-Stein signed a one-year, $4 million contract for the upcoming season. He’s only 28 and could still secure a strong multi-year deal if he balls out during the 2021-22 season. Matt Gilroy of Mavs Money Ball recognizes the “best-case scenario” for Cauley-Stein’s upcoming season. Gilroy speaks from a Dallas Mavericks perspective, but it is easy to see some of these same scenarios playing out if he was in a Bulls uniform.
Cauley-Stein, while being two years younger than Powell, is also a better pure athlete than Powell ever was. Cauley-Stein is perhaps one of the fastest big men in the entire league — something he didn’t get the chance to showcase much in the Mavs’ glacial offense. Getting out and running, and allowing Luka to feed him easy outlet baskets to bump his points per game from five closer to nine would make him a potent bench big. The chemistry between Luka and Cauley-Stein really blossomed later in the season (he was actually horrible early on, which makes his team-leading 2P% even more impressive), so carrying that over to this season is imperative.
The Bulls figure to play a lot of up-tempo basketball next season.
That’s one of the reasons they acquired Lonzo Ball from the New Orleans Pelicans. Ball and Coby White are both capable of pushing the pace and that’s an offensive approach where Cauley-Stein’s athleticism could really shine. If the Bulls can get him in a contract year, it would raise the likelihood they would be getting the best version of the athletic big man.
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