The Front Office Has 23 Games Left to Make Some Critical Roster Decisions
Arturas Karnisovas is in the dog house for a lot of Bulls fans right now, but he could be ready to change that this offseason.
At his post-trade-deadline press conference, Karnisovas mentioned multiple times that these final 23 games would be a period of strict evaluation. Whether you want to believe him is up to you, but it’s also not that difficult, when we consider (1) how embarrassing this year has been and (2) how many contract decisions need to be made.
Anyway, I jotted down some thoughts on the roster decisions I believe Karnisovas is weighing over this final month and a half. Enjoy … if that’s at all possible.
Big 3, Big 2, or Big 1?
First things first, Arturas Karnisovas is going to have to pick favorites. The time is now to finally decide what the future holds for his original “Big 3.”
If the team magically goes 20-3 and enters the East’s top-5 … fine. He will then be ok to run it back and keep Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic at the helm. If the team does anything short of that – which they will – Karnisovas is going to have to shake things up.
This trio holds a net rating of -0.6 in their 1,151 minutes together. This comes one season after they held a -1.1 net rating. Are the results better? Sure. But it’s not enough to justify keeping things intact for the long haul. The numbers have shown that the fit isn’t ideal. While the case could be made that a more traditional point guard could help these three co-exist more effectively, the mere fact that their success would rely that heavily on a fourth player is a major problem. Your three best players need be able to figure out how to play together. Simple as that.
Let’s also not forget that the Bulls really need to restock assets. Trading either Zach LaVine or DeMar DeRozan could be their best way to do just that. Heck, there is even a world where working out a sign-and-trade for Nikola Vucevic could return at least something of value for this organization. The former two names are really the ones to watch, though.
With Vucevic making it past the deadline, it does feel more likely than not he’s re-signed. And, with that being the case, these final 23 games could be crucial in helping the front office decide who fits best alongside him. My gut tells me they favor Zach LaVine, especially with a DeRozan up for a hefty contract extension, but LaVine is also likely to generate the most impactful trade return.
Of course, the other option is that the Bulls continue to slip further and further out of the postseason picture and decide to fully blow this thing up by moving on from all three. What they do is all going to depend on these last 23 games.
Is Coby White a Keeper?
The Bulls decided not to move on from Coby White at this trade deadline, which means they’ll now have to deal with his restricted free agency in the coming months. How they plan to approach that could depend pretty heavily on how he performs over these final few weeks.
To White’s credit, he’s made legitimate progress as a ball-handler and defender during his fourth season in the NBA. But is that enough to encourage the front office to hand him a new deal right when free agency opens up? My guess is that they’d love to keep the 22-year-old on a cheap multi-year deal, but could a rebuilding team with cap space buy into his potential and outbid the Bulls?
Karnisovas and Co. need to decide how aggressive they want to be when it comes to keeping White ASAP. If the plan is to continue to build a winning product in the short term, then letting him walk and having the extra finances to throw elsewhere might be in their best interest. If the plan is to take a step back and prioritize player development, then White might be a priority signing.
Let’s also not forget that Ayo Dosunmu will need a fresh contract, as well. If it came down to it, I have very little doubt that the organization would pick the second-year guard over White.
What About Javonte Green and Patrick Beverley?
The Bulls found a diamond in the rough with Javonte Green. He originally felt like nothing more than salary filler in one of the Bulls’ deadline trades two seasons ago, but he’s turned out to be the kind of role player that almost any contender hopes to have. While he may struggle a bit to shoot the 3-ball, he’s absolutely dynamite in transition and is always looking to cut hard to the rim. Green has also been a plus-defender throughout his career, proving that he can play a lot bigger than he is while in Chicago.
As someone who seems to love positionless basketball and two-way hustle, my guess is that both Karnisovas and Billy Donovan hope to see Green stick around. But the 29-year-old will also be an unrestricted free agent with a chance to possibly sign the most lucrative deal of his career. Like White, the Bulls need to decide how valuable he is in terms of their long-term picture. While he isn’t particularly old, his age and recent knee surgery could be key factors at play.
I’d bet that Beverley isn’t in Chicago next season. However, I have to imagine it’s at least something the organization is evaluating through the remainder of the year.
If Beverley comes in and legitimately lights a spark for this team that pushes them to the playoffs, then I suppose it is very possible they find a way to keep him around. Even in that situation, though, the Bulls have to consider Beverley’s age (34) and their numerous other needs. While the new guard is a fiery defensive presence who can knock down a couple of catch-and-shoot 3s, he isn’t by any means a traditional point guard or above-average offensive player.