There’s absolutely no secret about it: The Bulls will have a new starting point guard next season.
Whether that comes through the draft — if the Bulls were to get lucky in the lottery and hit on the No. 2 pick, grabbing Murray State’s Ja Morant — or if they just hit the free-agent market, the ship has sailed on Kris Dunn.
That doesn’t mean Dunn won’t be on the roster, but if he’s the starter on opening night, it means the Bulls’ offseason plans went very wrong.
“We have not given up on Kris,” vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said. “I think he has defensive abilities. But we have to get better at that position — there’s absolutely no question in my mind. He has an opportunity this summer to improve his game, come back with the mindset of being a true push guard, getting us to play with pace. I do see our starting lineup with three legitimate three-point shooters in Zach [LaVine], Lauri [Markkanen] and Otto [Porter], [so] a point guard who can get those guys opportunities will be a priority.
“Kris is going to have opportunity because he’s under contract, but we understand as an organization that’s a position that, if we’re to make a step in the right direction, we’re going to have to address. No beating around the bush on that one.”
The draft lottery on May 14 is the first indication of where they’re headed. If the Bulls jump up to No. 2 or 3, they’ll be in contention for Morant. But if they hold steady at No. 4 or drop lower, that’s when things could get really interesting.
According to one NBA executive, the Bulls and Lakers had initial conversations about point guard Lonzo Ball shortly after Ball’s camp made it public that Chicago would be one of his desired destinations if the Lakers were to move him. Could the No. 4 pick and a package with Dunn be enough to pry Ball loose? He’d be the perfect fit for what the Bulls are looking for, with an ability to push the ball and make plays, in addition to solid defense; he finished this season seventh among NBA point guards in defensive RPM (real plus-minus).
If the Bulls have to explore an upgrade through free agency, Patrick Beverley checks a lot of boxes but also is likely to cost more than the Bulls are willing to pay. They have about $20 million in cap room and also want to add a veteran shooter to come off the bench, so Beverley plus a player such as Ricky Rubio or Darren Collison could be too pricey. That might mean settling for the next tier of point guard, but still someone who can make plays and provide defense. Hello, Cory Joseph? The Pacers guard finished fourth in defensive RPM coming off the bench.
There’s one other option to watch. According to one scout, the Bulls have taken interest in the Pistons’ roster. They’re said to love Wayne Ellington’s ability to shoot from beyond the three-point line, as well as Ish Smith’s ability to run a team.
WHAT THE BULLS HAVE: Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Ryan Arcidiacono, Antonio Blakeney, Shaq Harrison, Walt Lemon, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Denzel Valentine.
WHO COULB BE ON THE MOVE: Dunn, Arcidiacono, Lemon, Luwawu-Cabarrot.
THE DRAFT: Ja Morant would be a no-brainer, but the Bulls have also done their homework on Vanderbilt’s Darius Garland and are expected to bring him in for a private workout.
FREE AGENCY: If the price is too high for Patrick Beverley – a real possibility – keep an eye on Cory Joseph or Ish Smith.
WILDCARD: A draft-night trade with the Lakers that brings Lonzo Ball and Big Baller Brand – or what’s left of it – to Chicago.