Addressing the Bench This Offseason, Butler’s Bad Shot, and Other Bulls Bullets

Before free agency and the draft heat up this offseason, I’m going to take a week to lay on the beach and get annoyed by the amount of sand that ends up in various crevices. I leave for Miami in the wee hours of the morning today, so expect to see Patrick Flowers writing a bulk of the Bulls content until I return this weekend.

Treat him nicely, and if he does a better job than I do, don’t tell Brett. I don’t want to get fired.

•   The Chicago Bulls’ success next season will hinge on the continued development of the “Big 3” (of course, assuming Zach LaVine is wearing red in October). Not only will LaVine have to maintain the upward two-way trajectory he’s been on over the past few seasons, but Nikola Vucevic will have to re-locate his 3-point shot and perform more like his 2x-All-Star self. As for DeMar DeRozan, while I think he’s allowed to take a small step backward after an insane 2021-22 campaign, the Bulls will need him to continue his composed and clutch brand of basketball. Those are the three players this front office has asked to restore relevancy to this franchise … but we also know they can’t do it alone.

•   Chicago’s bench averaged the 2nd-fewest points per game this season behind only the Toronto Raptors. We saw this lack of reliable scoring depth hurt them immensely in their first-round series against the Milwaukee Bucks, as their bench crew was outscored a painful 103 to 149. I have to imagine Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley are already nose-deep in blueprints that map out ways to restructure this bench over the offseason. And I wonder if they think any of the pre-existing options can take that much-needed step forward, specifically Javonte Green and Derrick Jones Jr.

•   Green’s fit on this roster became immediately evident. He was the perfect Swiss-Army-knife player who put all his effort into the dirty work. He sprinted in transition, played aggressive on-ball defense, constantly tried to crash the glass, and stayed out of everyone’s way to the best of his ability. More than arguably any other role player, he felt like the kind of energetic body every winning team hopes to have. With that said, how much more do we expect his game to grow? He’s already 28 years old, and it’s hard to imagine his jump-shooting becomes anything more than inconsistent. Green is under contract next season, and I do expect him to be fighting for a rotation spot moving forward, but I wouldn’t at all be shocked to see the Bulls throw his expiring contract in some kind of offseason deal for a more proven player.

•   Derrick Jones Jr. is someone I’ve always liked. His length and verticality are helpful along the perimeter on defense and in transition offense, and he also showed real potential in short stints as a small-ball five. He also fits the kind of up-tempo and versatile game this front office hopes to play, but I just don’t know if the Bulls can afford to keep him in Chicago moving forward. At just 25 years old and headed toward unrestricted free agency, I could easily see another franchise outbidding the Bulls for his high-flying skillset. So is there a world where both Green and Jones Jr. – two of the team’s more intriguing and versatile role players – are off this bench heading into next season? Absolutely.

•   One area where I’d like to see the Bulls take another step forward next season is at the free-throw line. The team ranked 3rd in free-throw percentage but just 17th in attempts per game. The number of free throws this team averaged kind of threw me for a loop considering they have two players in DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine who are more than equipped at drawing contact. But I think it goes to show how weak the rest of their roster was when it came to putting pressure on the rim. Locating some veteran options who can help this team find a more consistent presence at the charity stripe could be a big help. I also think Patrick Williams might be able to bolster this category, especially if he can take pointers away from that 12-14 showing he had at the line against the Timberwolves.

•   As long as this team can stay healthy, it’s hard not to see them being an above-average defensive unit, particularly if they add a more experienced rim-protector to the second unit.

•   Zach LaVine is out here golfing with Don Cheadle. So, I’m sorry to say it, but this confirms that LaVine is leaving the Chicago Bulls to join The Avengers.

•   Nothing but respect for Jimmy G. Buckets.

•   With that said … this was an absolutely horrible decision:

•   These might have to be my first pair of New Balances.

 

written by

Elias Schuster is the Lead Chicago Bulls writer at Bleacher Nation. He started with BN full-time in 2019 immediately after graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign with a degree in Journalism (yes, he started with the Jim Boylen Era). Since joining, Elias has been the driving force behind Bulls and NBA content for both the site and social accounts. You can follow him on Twitter/X @Schuster_Elias.

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