Stone signing adds further insurance of a possible Robin Lopez trade

The Bulls announced the signing of Diamond Stone on Thursday.

No one said tanking was pretty.

The 6-11 center was originally selected by the Pelicans with the 40th overall pick in the 2016 draft, but was shipped to the Clippers in a draft-night trade. He appeared in seven games, averaging 1.4 points in 3.4 minutes. He also played 13 games in the G League.

A 2015 McDonald’s All-American, Stone played one season at Maryland.

So why add him to an already crowded frontcourt, especially with Robin Lopez, Lauri Markkanen and Cristiano Felicio all expected to see minutes at center?

Lopez’s contract is an attractive one, and he could be the best asset the Bulls have come trade-deadline time to land more draft picks.

Not only can Lopez help a playoff team, but he is positioned to make $13.7 million this season and $14.3 million in the final year of his deal. The Stone signing is nothing more than insurance for if and when they move Lopez.

If a potential playoff team loses a big man in training camp, there’s a good chance that Lopez could have his name tossed around even before the start of the season.

The Bulls showed their hand this offseason on Lopez, not only drafting Markkanen, but also signing Felicio to a four-year, $32-million deal in June.

Markkanen showed in Summer League, as well as in EuroBasket 2017, that he can not only be a 7-foot stretch-four, but also has the muscle to play in the paint. That aspect of his game seems important to Markkanen, who wants to prove that European players aren’t as soft as the reputation.

“I’m not soft. I play hard,’’ Markkanen said in June.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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