While it’s rare to see a free agent reunion between a franchise and its former players, the Bulls are presented with multiple opportunities to make that happen this summer. Some of the names have been rumored more than others, while some have come up strictly under speculation or fit. But in any case, it could happen, and it deserves our attention.
So with that in mind let’s go over #ThePossibleReturns.
Teams (in order): Chicago Bulls, Oklahoma City, Minnesota Timberwolves
Previous Bulls stint: 2009-2017
Taj Gibson was practically as reliable as they come. Sure, fluctuations happen, but when he took the court, you basically knew what you were going to get … and you didn’t mind it. Recently, NBC Chicago Sports Mark Schanowski reported that Gibson is believed to actually be on the Bulls free agent list.
Gibson always played with a nice level of energy and was an efficient post player. In his eight seasons with the Bulls, Gibson averaged 9.4 points per game and 6.4 rebounds per game while shooting an impressive 49.5 percent from the field. I’m not sure what it is about Bulls players going to the Timberwolves, but he put up two of his better overall seasons during his time in Minnesota, both years scoring over 10 points per game.
Gibson is a proven NBA-talent and has a good reputation in this league as a positive locker room guy. He also already has experience with Boylen as a coach, and could be a great asset to help anchor a second unit.
I believe he’ll receive interest from teams across the league, but it’s quite possible his connection with Chicago could lure him in. The only issue is that over the last two seasons he made $14 million, and it’s hard to imagine the Bulls will be willing to throw that much money at him right now. The plan would probably be to keep things at around $10 million, but if push comes to shove, and the Bulls are feeling good with their extra $3 million, they could pull the trigger.
Teams (in order): Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Pelicans, Milwaukee Bucks
Previous Bulls stint: 2014-2018
I thought this could be a possibility toward the end of the regular season, and maybe it will soon be. The Bulls need perimeter shooting and depth, and Mirotic satisfies that need without breaking the bank.
The years of trying to shape Mirotic into a nightly starter have most likely faded away, and the role he played last season on the Pelicans and Bucks (role-player) is what the Bulls are looking for and what he should be for the remainder of his career.
Last season, Mirotic averaged 15.1 points per game (which was probably a bit on the high end) and also brought in 7.4 rebounds per game. At this point in his career, he is a strong veteran option that can come off the bench and give you the spark needed. He has a tendency to be streaky, but when he gets into a rhythm he can be lethal from behind the arc.
As NBC Chicago Sports pointed out when they brought up Mirotic as a possible option, Bobby Portis is gone now, so he shouldn’t have any fear of coming back to Chicago.
Teams (in order): Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Memphis Grizzles
Previous Bulls stint: 2007-2016
Sadly, Noah’s time in the NBA feels like it has run its course. The 34-year-old has been beaten up over the years with lingering injury issues and aggressive post play. Much like Derrick Rose, Noah will always hold a place in Chicago fan’s hearts, but a return wouldn’t necessarily be the best basketball option.
After finishing up his time with the Knicks, Noah did find his way onto the roster with the Grizzlies where he averaged 16.5 minutes per game as a role player. He came in, grabbed a few boards, chucked up a couple of basketballs and got out of there. I’m not sure what team he really fits best on at this point in his career, but having to use him as a legitimate back-up option to Wendell Carter Jr. this upcoming season wouldn’t be the smartest move.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe Noah could really be a strong locker room influence on this young roster, but he is probably too much of a liability at this point in his career.
I love you, Joakim… just not back in Chi-town.
Teams (in order): Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Minnesota Timberwolves
Previous Bulls stint: 2008-2016
Whenever his name is uttered, you can feel sadness sweep over the Chicagoland area… or maybe that’s just the wind coming off the lake. Either way, Rose will forever hold a major soft spot in the heart of all Bulls fans. He provided the highest standard of basketball the city had seen since the Michael Jordan era, but sadly his time in the city is tainted with hardship.
Paxson wants veterans who can teach his young core what it means to be professionals, I think Rose checks that box. He has been through the wringer, he was the youngest player to ever win an NBA and a year later he would begin a journey that would put his entire career into question. He’s seen it all. And having that level of experience to help guide your new rookie point guard wouldn’t be half bad.
If you look at things from a strictly on-court value, it still isn’t the worst idea. Rose put up his best overall season since the 2016-17 season and did it in fashion with a career-high 50-point game performance. Last season was his best three-point shooting year by far (37.0% – previous best was 34% in 2013-14). Although, he did, once again, finish the year off with a season-ending injury (had surgery on elbow in March).
I’m not sure the Bulls will want to go through the media storm and emotional rollercoaster that will come with his return, it just might not be worth it, but it would certainly be a welcoming homecoming.
Regardless of all the talk, the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson recently reported: “Though the professional relationship has been repaired, the Bulls and Derrick Rose aren’t currently linked.”
Probably for the best.