Bulls position breakdowns: Forwards, and why all eyes are on Doug McDermott

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Doug McDermott wasn’t quitting on the season, as much as he was simply dealing with the reality of it.

With playing time all but dried up by the time April rolled around, rather than kid himself into thinking there was something salvageable to accomplish, he opted to mentally call his first season with the Bulls “the redshirt season he never had in college,’’ and start preparing for the offseason.

“Just because I knew the minutes weren’t there, I used that to my benefit,’’ McDermott said back in May. “That meant running and lifting way earlier than I usually did during a season.

“But looking at Jimmy [Butler] from his first year, Tony [Snell] last year, it’s something that just gives you motivation. You know they’re good players and just happened to be in a position where kind of like me, had some guys that are in front of them that play a lot more minutes.

“You can’t take it personally. You learn from it.’’

McDermott had better be a quick learner.

With small forward Mike Dunleavy a free agent and very little cap room to bring him back unless they can move a Joakim Noah or Taj Gibson, McDermott’s offseason may be as important as any other on the roster.

The “Dunleavy Effect’’ couldn’t be overlooked with this team, as the veteran missed 19 games with a foot injury and watched the Bulls struggle in the standings without him, going 9-10, despite only being a guy that brought 9.4 points to each game.

If McDermott can improve his footwork and physicality on defense, the hope is that he would fill that likely vacant roster spot.

He’ll definitely be fresh after this season.

WHAT’S COMING BACK

Nikola Mirotic – It was quite the roller coaster season for the rookie, going from a guy that fought for playing time early, led the NBA in fourth quarter scoring by the time the month of March rolled around, and then faded in the playoffs. But the Bulls definitely have an idea of what they have in the stretch four, and there were signs of All-Star potential.

McDermott – All eyes will be on last year’s first-round pick, as he has to make the adjustment to playing small forward, as well as NBA defense.

Tony Snell – Snell is still a tweener at the small forward/big guard position, and also remained an enigma. His defense improved, but he’s still a streaky shooter who could flourish in Fred Hoiberg’s new offense.

WHAT’S DEPARTING

Dunleavy – At age 34, Dunleavy was still playing at a high level of basketball. His catch-and-shoot, as well as his underrated team defense will be missed more than many realize.

WHAT’S OUT THERE

There are definitely some serious upgrades at the wings for the Bulls in free agency, with Jeff Green [player option], Draymond Green [restricted], DeMarre Carroll [unrestricted] and Kevin Love [player option] all potentially coming into play on the market. Also, all too big of a price tag for the Bulls. The likes of James Jones and Jared Dudley are more realistic.

THE DRAFT

There are definitely some intriguing wings in the upcoming draft, starting with the Croatia’s Mario Hezonja and Justise Winslow out of Duke as top 10 prospects. With the Bulls at No. 22, however, Virginia’s Justin Anderson comes into play, not only a defensive presence, but also a player that hit 45 percent of his threes last season.

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