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Blueprint for the Chicago Bulls’ total rebuild

Jalon Dixon
John Paxson Bulls logo
Dec 6, 2016; Auburn Hills, MI, USA; A view of the Chicago Bulls logo on a pair of game shorts at The Palace of Auburn Hills. The Pistons won 102-91.Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

With the All Star break passing, all eyes are on the city of Chicago as the team that was once a storied dynasty has continued to fall from grace and drop further down the list of bottom-tier squdads in the NBA. 

Amid another underachieving season riddled by injury, it may be time to look ahead to the off-season and figure out what moves general manager Gar Forman and the Bulls can make to turn Chicago back into a legitimate threat in the Eastern Conference. 

Heading into the 2020 off-season the Bulls could potentially have a significant amount of flexibility regarding roster changes. 

  • For starters, when looking at the team’s contract list, Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine and Antonio Blakeney are all on the last year of their deals. 
  • Although all three have shown flashes of potential, it is likely that they will not be brought back for the 2020 season. 
  • This, along with moving on from a player like Cristiano Felicio and potentially negotiating a long-term contract with Otto Porter Jr. to take a more team friendly deal, the Bulls could have $20 million in cap space to bring in free agents.

Lock down the forward position: There are three free agents the Bulls should have their eyes set on. 

  • Los Angeles Lakers center Anthony Davis has a player option for next season. Davis also has to take into consideration that Lebron James’ contract comes up at the end of next season. When taking a look at the remnants of Cleveland since his departure, James does have a history of leaving teams in difficult financial situations. 
  • Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram has been playing at an All-Star level all season in what has been a “prove it” year after not receiving a contract extension last off-season. As a player with a lot of high potential that will be looking for a big payday and possibly a larger market after what looks like a breakout season, the Bulls might just be the team he would be looking to go to for the right price.
  • Re-signing forward Otto Porter Jr., who may not necessarily be a priority this off-season. But the Bulls are aware that he has a player option next off-season before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2021. As an elite “Three-and-D” wing, Porter Jr. is only 26 years old and is a career 40% three-point shooter. He is definitely a potential building block for this team. The Bulls need to decide next offseason whether they plan to extend him or if they should start looking for trade offers. They cannot afford to just let a player of his caliber walk away without at least a future draft pick or two as compensation.

Trade for Rising Stars: Every rebuild needs the proper building block. The best way to accelerate a franchise’s reboot is to acquire a talented, established player with untapped potential. By trading for a rising superstar, the Bulls can start to build a roster around them in a way that maximizes their star’s potential and creates a blueprint for the franchise moving forward. When looking around the league, there are definitely a few rising stars that should be on the Bulls’ radar.

  • Philadelphia 76ers point guard Ben Simmons: The consensus belief is that Simmons’ trade availability is still in question at least until 76ers general manager Elton Brand sees how his team plays in the playoffs. With talks of a possible Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons split, this could be a big pick up for a team that is desperately in search of a point guard.Simmons provides Chicago with somewhat of a point-forward with the ability to distribute the ball offensively while still being able to get 15-18 points per game himself.  
  • Sacramento Kings guard Buddy Hield: Despite agreeing to a $94 million contract extension this past summer, the disgruntled guard has reportedly taken issue with head coach Luke Walton and is rumored to request a trade. The idea is to bring in a distributing guard like Simmons in and then surround him with elite marksman like Hield to strengthen the Bull’s perimeter play. Ideally the Bulls would want a pairing of Buddy Hield and Otto Porter Jr. alongside Ben Simmons to maximize the floor spacing. 
  • Unfortunately the Bulls may have to include Porter Jr. in either one of these deals through some kind of sign-and-trade just to bring Hield over. The thing with that is the Bulls somewhat still win out because although they lose a little bit on the defensive end, Hield is a much more consistent three-point shooter with a shorter rap sheet in terms of injury history.

Draft a Playmaker: With those potential trades in mind, there is a high probability that the Bulls first-round pick this year would have to be included in order to land players of the caliber of Simmons or Hield. But if those moves were to fall through, Tankathon projects the Bulls to be the eighth overall pick right now based on the standings. 

  • Being that far down, it easy to say that the Bulls would be not in position to draft a top-tier guard like Georgia guard Anthony Edwards or Lamelo Ball. The best potential players to pick from the position would likely be Killian Hayes out of France or maybe RJ Hampton who played in the National Basketball League.
  • The point of getting one of these players is to find a guard who can truly run the offense and be a distributor for this team with all the offensive weapons they have. Ideally, Hayes would be the pick just because he is a crafty, playmaking guard with a high ceiling considering that he is still only 18. Nonetheless, the Bulls should definitely consider drafting for fit rather than just going with the best player available if they do indeed keep their pick.

Reach For the Big Free Agents: The 2021 off-season is the next big free agency summer where some of the biggest superstars in the league from Lebron James to Giannis Antetokounmpo will all become available for teams to sign. As a big market franchise, the Bulls need to try and bring in at least one topflight player to really get the team back on the map. 

  • If Chicago is not able to entice players like Giannis, Lebron or Kawhi, one name to look out for is  Former Chicago Bulls draft pick Spencer Dinwiddie. Dinwiddie has since resurrected his career in Brooklyn now seems to be a part of a crowded backcourt alongside Kyrie Irving and Caris LaVert. 
  • This may not be a major signing to most picking up a Dinwiddie or even a Jrue Holiday out of New Orleans could at least give us that veteran guard that can run an offense and help guide a young budding team.

The Bottom Line

The Bulls front office should truly be open to hearing out any possible trade offers and taking risks that will allow them to go after versatile players who provide something on both ends of the court. 

Right now, the core guys being Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, and Kris Dunn all are specialists to a certain degree. LaVine and Markkanen are both finesse players who tend to be streaky offensively while providing very little on the defensive end. 

On the other hand, Dunn is more of a defensive guy who can be elite on that side of the ball but tends to be relatively quiet offensively outside of his occasional great shooting nights from behind the arc. 

Acquiring these players while unloading players like LaVine, Markkanen, Tomas Satoransky and others creates an opportunity for Chicago to bring in true potential superstars without having to compete heavily in free agency.