Find someone who loves you as much as Arturas Karnisovas loves guard depth.
The Chicago Bulls front office leader continued to add to the roster’s already deep arsenal of backcourt talent this offseason, signing veteran point guard Goran Dragic to a one-year deal. And to say the decision shocked folks around the league would likely be an understatement.
Dragic had long been tied to the Dallas Mavericks – a team led by his Slovenian colleague Luka Doncic. As rumors swirled that Jalen Brunson would pack his bags to sign a lucrative contract with the New York Knicks, the spot for Dragic on the Mavs’ roster only became more obvious. Well … obvious to everyone except the Mavs.
Dragic recently spoke with SiolNET Sportal – a Slovenian news publication – about his free agent process. The 14-year vet reportedly admitted to speaking with the Mavericks about a potential deal, but he was left dissatisfied with the role management pitched him.
I was in contact with quite a few clubs, Dallas was one of them. But in the end they couldn’t guarantee me that I would play. They told me that I would be more on the bench, but I’m not interested in that, so a transfer there was out of the question.
Note: Quotes have been translated via Google Translate
Dragic elaborated on the Mavs’ expectations, reportedly telling Vecer – another Slovenian news source – that the organization “imagined that I would play one game and rest five games. I know that I can easily play 20 minutes per game. I’m not ready to retire just to sit on the bench and encourage my teammates” (h/t The Daily Herald’s Mike McGraw).
For a player who recently turned 36 years old and has failed to play more than 59 games since the 2017-18 season, the Mavericks’ expectations don’t sound particularly unreasonable. However, Dragic clearly believes he has plenty of good basketball left in the tank, and he suggested to SiolNet Sportal that Chicago recognizes that:
“At Chicago I will be the secondary playmaker. I will play 20-25 minutes per game, so my role will be quite big. This is what I’m looking forward to the most, that I can still play on a high level. Despite 36 years I feel great.”
Huh. Ok. Let’s try to digest that.
Smart front offices don’t make empty promises, particularly to respected veterans who had multiple suitors on the open market. Now, that doesn’t mean things can’t change. Dragic knows as well as anyone at this point in his career that situations evolve and on-court success dictates how a rotation turns out. Still, Dragic is coming in believing he will play a substantial role (20-25 minutes, to be exact) for this win-ready team off the bench. And that suggests the Bulls believe the same. But … how is that going to happen?
When we – once again – consider the Bulls’ backcourt depth, it’s hard to imagine anyone can be guaranteed 20-25 minutes per game outside Zach LaVine, Lonzo Ball, and Alex Caruso. This feels especially true when we consider both Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White are hunting for minutes, as well.
Dosunmu had a stellar rookie campaign and performed like a strong facilitator. The expectation should be that he takes an even greater step forward after his first full offseason of NBA development. Not to mention, he has an important level of familiarity with this roster.
As for White, as inconsistent as he’s been, he’s still one of the Bulls’ best 3-point shooters and sparkplug scorers. Not only is he still talented enough not to rack up DNP’s, but the Bulls would benefit from playing him to see where his value stands in a contract year.
Of course, we also can’t forget the addition of rookie Dalen Terry. While he might project to play more at the wing, he’s still a player Donovan might prefer to find minutes for in the backcourt as the season drags on.
All of this to say … why did the Bulls pitch Dragic on this big of a role?
Well, the first reason could be because they truly feel his skillset trumps that of other players on the roster. His veteran experience could give him the upper hand in certain situations over Dosunmu and White. Not to mention, he automatically became one of the better 3-point threats on this roster when he put pen to paper. If he can play like the guy who averaged 13.4 points and 4.4 assists on 37.3 percent shooting from long range two seasons ago, he may naturally garner that significant of a role.
The second reason the Bulls may have made Dragic believe he’ll be a mainstay in the rotation is the health of Ball. Karnisovas provided a glum update on the starting point guard Wednesday afternoon, stating that Ball hasn’t improved as fast as the team would like and they can only “hope” he is ready for training camp. The organization could know even more than they are leading on, which could then describe why they felt confident enough to tell Dragic the minutes will be there.
The third reason we have to mention is the possibility of a current backcourt player ending up elsewhere. While rumors about Coby White have died down, everyone and their mother knows he was on the trading block leading up to draft night. The value the Bulls wanted in return didn’t seem to be there, though, and it now seems like White will wear a Bulls jersey on opening night. But perhaps the Bulls believe a deal will still arise for the fourth-year guard (whether it be before the start of the season or some time during), thus opening that much more room for Dragic.
Look, in a vacuum, I think Dragic is a perfectly good player to add to a win-ready team. But team-building has an endless amount of confounding variables. I’m just not sure if leading the veteran to believe this substantial of a workload is available was the wise move, which makes me a bit worried to see how it all plays out.
Fortunately, though, the Bulls have a lot to figure things out with two months until training camp. So … yeah … let’s hope they do just that.