The bubble bros have arrived!
Arriving to @AdvocateHealth Bulls Minicamp!
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) September 21, 2020
Monday marks the start of voluntary group workout for the Chicago Bulls and the remaining seven teams left out of the Orlando restart. The league has permitted a two-week in-market bubble where players can run drills and 5-on-5 scrimmages after roughly six months apart. For a team like Chicago, one in the midst of massive organizational change, these next couple of weeks should hold a lot of weight.
This will be the new front office’s first chance to get an up-close and personal look at their roster. Up until this point, they’ve been able to observe talent only on an individual basis. Additionally, this will be an opportunity for Bulls players to get a better feel for where the organization is heading. After a toxic 2019-20 season, this bubble must lay the groundwork for what the new Bulls culture will look like going forward.
As Coby White told reporters last week, the goal of this in-market bubble is simple – get better. However, while the team tries to start a new chapter together, each individual will have their motivations. Coby White will want to prove he’s the point guard of the future. Wendell Carter Jr. will want to focus on an improved offensive role. Lauri Markkanen will want to show his new bosses that last season was nothing more than a fluke. These workouts may be voluntary, but everyone probably has a reason why they feel like they need to be there … that is, everyone except Kris Dunn.
According to NBC Sports Chicago’s K.C. Johnson, Dunn is the only known player NOT to be in attendance for the Bulls bubble. For a guy who is coming off a season-ending knee injury and is bound to draw some interest in the free-agent market, the decision makes all the sense in the world. Chicago will have an opportunity to extend an estimated $7.1 million qualifying offer to Dunn when the season is officially over, but it’s not a forgone conclusion that they’ll do so. We have no idea what Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley think of the fourth-year guard, and now they will not get a more in-depth look at him before they have to make a decision.
Again, the choice to sit out on Dunn’s part, though, is more than understandable. He proved his worth this season with a border-line All-Defensive Team performance, averaging the second-most steals per game. The Bulls have seen what they’d get if they kept him around, and Dunn is not about to risk another injury just to remind them of that.
The same can’t be said for Denzel Valentine and Shaquille Harrison (Valentine is a confirmed bubble participate while Harrison is assumed). Also on the brink of entering restricted free agents, it’s fair to question why either would risk damaging their stock. But, it’s simple, neither have proven their worth quite like Dunn. Both are average bench role players who aren’t expected to draw large-scale interest in free agency. Not to mention, certain teams may be less willing to spend on certain role players with the salary cap all out of whack. Both have an opportunity to show Karnisovas and Eversley that they’re worth keeping around, at least for one more season.
My gut tells me neither Valentine nor Dunn remains with the Bulls past this season, but props to them if they prove me wrong. Dunn, on the other hand, will be an interesting situation to monitor. The decision to sit out gives him more leverage, and it could pay off big time.