Bulls Sign ‘Big Shot’ Making Defender Away From Suns

Torrey Craig, Chicago Bulls

Getty Torrey Craig and DeMar DeRozan #11 of the Chicago Bulls.

It’s been an active offseason for the Chicago Bulls.

“The Chicago Bulls have agreed to a two-year deal with a player option with free agent wing Torrey Craig, wrote ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski on July 3. “Craig…was one of the few reliable depth pieces for the Phoenix Suns last season.”

Craig, 32, is listed at 6-foot-7 and 221 pounds. A former undrafted free agent out of USC upstate, he shot 39.3% on 3.2 attempts from three-point range this past season making a career-high 79 appearances and 60 starts for a Phoenix Suns team that finished fourth in the Western Conference.

His ability to go from planned reserve to starter and back again was lauded by former Suns head coach Monty Williams and teammate Devin Booker.

Craig was especially impactful at the beginning of the Suns’ opening-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers averaging 18.0 points and shooting 62.3% on 5.3 three-pointers per game, over the first three contests including setting playoff career-highs with 22 points in Game 1 and knocking down five triples in Game 2.

“Craig made just about every big shot for us,” former teammate Chris Paul said after Game 2. “It was the timing of the shots that he made, and that’s big in this series.”

His role diminished as the postseason wore on, to Willams’ point, and scarcely played in their second-round matchup against the eventual world champion Denver Nuggets, averaging just over 9.0 minutes per game after seeing more than 25.0 minutes per game versus L.A.

Craig started all of those games.

“I gotta give Craig a lot of credit,” Bulls star DeMar DeRozan said on ‘The Old Man and The Three’ with retired NBA player JJ Redick in 2022. “He’s one of the…top two players that defends me the best. I give him credit.”

Craig’s deal is estimated by Spotrac to be worth $5.4 million with a starting salary of  $2.5 million in 2022-23 and $2.8 million in 2024-25 assuming he picks up that option.

Signings (and trades) cannot be made official until July 6, per league rules.

Implications of Torrey Craig Signing on Patrick Williams

This signing could have an impact on fourth-year forward Patrick Williams who is coming off a season in which he posted career-highs in points, and three-point attempts per game, and started all 82 regular-season contests.

He averaged 10.2 points while shooting 41.5% from deep with 4.0 rebounds and 1.2 assists.

And yet the final results left many, including Williams, feeling like the campaign was somewhat of a letdown.

“I wanted to be more consistent,” Williams told Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic in April. “I wanted to play-make a little bit more; show that I can do that. Obviously, every player wants to be able to make plays down the stretch and be able to do that down the stretch. I think I have the skill to do it. I think the opportunity was there. I don’t think I grasped it.”

There is some thought that he is being held back by playing out of position.

Williams has also admitted that his roadblock is mostly mental.

Adding a player like Craig not only reinforces the power forward spot behind Williams – assuming he gets his starting spot back – but it also gives head coach Billy Donovan another option if things still don’t click for the talented Williams this season.

Arturas Karnisovas Completes Offseason Checklist

The Bulls have done well to add Jevon Carter (three years, $20 million) and acknowledge that Lonzo Ball won’t play next season, acting accordingly to ensure they aren’t left scrambling like last season when Ayo Dosunmu entered the season as the starter but was ultimately replaced by journeyman post-All-Star addition Patrick Beverley.

Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has also retained Coby White (three years, $33 million) and wants to bring Dosunmu back.

Checking off much of his offseason to-do list — including Nikola Vucevcic (three years, $60 million) is one thing.

Doing so with enough talent to keep up with the other Eastern Conference playoff teams – let alone title contenders – is another thing entirely. And, while Karnisovas urged fans to wait for free agency before judging the Bulls’ offseason, that time come soon.