It was a roller coaster of a season for the Chicago Bulls in 2018-19, one that featured more lows than highs, including the mid-season firing of Fred Hoiberg. Nevertheless, there were some bright spots, in particular, the development of the team’s young core. Zach LaVine – 23.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.5 apg – became a more consistent, and efficient, evidenced by the UCLA product, for the first time in his career, boasting a positive swing rating. Lauri Makkanen -18.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg – flashed huge upside as a floor-spacing big man. And prior to going down with injury, Wendell Carter – 10.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg and 1.3 bpg – looked like Chicago’s paint-protecting center of the future. The biggest positive for the Bulls this season, however, was the addition of Otto Porter – 17.5 ppg as a Bull – via trade, who helped make Chicago look like a team ready to make a playoff push next year.
Overall, the Bulls will head into the offseason needing to add more depth, shooting and perhaps even a starting-caliber point guard depending on what they think of the up-and-down Kris Dunn. But the core of the team is already there, and if they continue to take steps over the summer, Chicago could be a team to watch in 2019-20 under Jim Boylen.
GUARANTEED CONTRACTS FOR 2019/20
Otto Porter: $27,250,576
Zach LaVine: $19,500,000
Cristiano Felicio: $8,156,500
Kris Dunn: $5,348,007
Lauri Markkanen: $5,300,400
Wendell Carter: $5,208,000
Denzel Valentine: $3,377,568
Chandler Hutchinson: $2,332,320
Antonio Blakeney: $1,588,231
NON-GUARANTEED CONTRACTS FOR 2019/20
Shaquille Harrison: $1,588,231
Walter Lemon Jr.: $1,588,231
Ryan Arcidiacono: Restricted
Wayne Selden: Restricted
The continued development of the team’s young core should be the top priority for Chicago this summer. LaVine, Markkanen and Carter each flashed potential greatness throughout 2018-19, and getting them to not only get better, but to grow more consistent, should be No. 1 for the Bulls. Bulking up Markkanen and Carter will also be crucial, as Chicago ranked 27th (48.1 percent) in rebound rate this season, mostly due to the team’s frontcourt lacking the size to excel on the glass. Acquiring – either through free agency or on the trade market – knockdown shooters (plural) should be another goal for the Bulls, as they ranked 25th (per Synergy Sports Tech) in spot-up shooting accuracy this year.
POTENTIAL FREE AGENCY TARGETS
Taj Gibson: Could a return to Chicago make sense for both parties? Coming off the bench, Gibson would help the Bulls on the glass and their reserve scoring.
Patrick Beverley: A native Chicagoan, Beverley would be a great fit at the lead-guard spot for the Bulls. He has carved a career out of being a bulldog defensively, making him the perfect mentor type for Dunn, who possesses similar skills. He would be a great addition to the locker room, too.
Wayne Ellington: Chicago lacks shooting on the wing, a role Ellington could fill wonderfully.
Kenneth Faried: The Manimal has gotten his career back on track as a member of the Houston Rockets. If nothing else, he could be a cheap target for the Bulls, one who would help shore up their rebounding woes from this past season.
POTENTIAL TRADE TARGETS
Mike Conley: The Memphis Grizzlies guard was available at the deadline, and could reportedly come available again this summer. The Bulls showed little hesitancy in adding another talented veteran, albeit an expensive one, in Porter. Could they do it again with Conley to fill their void at the lead-guard spot? Considering Chicago might struggle to attract elite free agents, being aggressive on the trade market could be their best solution to take the next step.
Goran Dragic: The Miami Heat seem satisfied with using Justise Winslow as their point guard of the future. He would have to opt in first since he has a player option for next season, but if he does, Dragic could make sense as a trade target for Chicago. He wouldn’t muddy their books past next season, and his scoring from the point-guard spot would help elevate the Bulls’ point production. What’s more, his pick-and-pop abilities next to Markkanen could be deadly.
Frank Ntilikina: The New York Knicks appear open to moving the 2017 No. 8 overall pick. Would be a low-risk, high-reward move for the Bulls, who would be acquiring a 20-year-old ball-handler that could blossom into their point guard of the future.
2019 DRAFT ASSETS
The Bulls have one first-round pick for 2019, and one second-round pick. Lottery odds give them the highest chance of landing the No. 4 pick.The second-round pick, however, isn’t their own. Chicago’s second-rounder for 2019 will be sent to the Philadelphia 76ers (via the Los Angeles Lakers), while the Grizzlies’ second-round pick will go to the Bulls, leaving Chicago with one pick in each round.