Coby White

Bulls Notes: Point Guard, Dragic, LaVine, Front Office

With Lonzo Ball undergoing another procedure on his knee and preparing to be sidelined for the start of the 2022/23 season, the Bulls will have to come up with a plan for how to replace his production at point guard, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic, who examines the top candidates to take Ball’s spot in the starting lineup.

As Mayberry outlines, Alex Caruso probably makes the most sense as Ball’s short-term replacement, given his experience, leadership, and defensive abilities. While Caruso isn’t a big-time offensive player, that wouldn’t be a problem if he’s playing alongside Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.

Still, like Ball, Caruso has an injury history and shouldn’t be leaned on too heavily, since having both players on the shelf would seriously limit the effectiveness of Chicago’s backcourt, Mayberry writes. Ayo Dosunmu, Goran Dragic, and Coby White are the other candidates to take Ball’s place in the starting five.

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • In another story for The Athletic, Mayberry poses 10 questions that will shape the Bulls’ season, including whether LaVine can realistically take his game to another level after signing a five-year, maximum-salary contract.
  • While Dragic and Andre Drummond were solid veteran signings, it remains to be seen whether they’ll help specifically address the Bulls’ shooting and rim protection, two needs management publicly acknowledged entering the offseason, writes K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.
  • The honeymoon period is just about over for the Bulls’ front office led by Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley as they enter their third season in Chicago, says Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. According to Cowley, Karnisovas has proven he’s an “organizational-changer,” but the Bulls will have to continue moving toward title contention rather than peaking as a middle-of-the-pack playoff team.
  • The Bulls have a new jersey sponsor, according to Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago, who writes that a Motorola Mobility patch will replace the Zenni Optical logo on the team’s jerseys starting this season.

Extension Rumors: Hunter, C. Johnson, Poole, G. Williams, More

Of the players eligible for rookie scale extensions this offseason, Spurs forward Keldon Johnson became the first to sign a new deal worth less than the maximum. According to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report (Twitter link), Johnson’s new four-year contract will have a base value of $74MM, with $1.5MM in annual unlikely incentives that could push the total value of the deal to $80MM.

Johnson’s contract will serve as a point of comparison for many of the other extension-eligible players who will be negotiating with their respective teams this summer and fall, Fischer writes in a full story for Bleacher Report.

For instance, representatives for De’Andre Hunter figure to seek a similar deal for their client, though the Hawks may be reluctant to invest heavily in a player who has appeared in just 76 games in the last two seasons due to injuries. One cap strategist who spoke to Bleacher Report said Hunter’s injury concerns “are very real,” and sources tell Fischer that the 24-year-old and Atlanta are approximately $20MM apart in their discussions about a four-year extension.

Johnson’s extension with San Antonio is worth roughly the same amount annually as deals signed by sharpshooters like Davis Bertans, Duncan Robinson, and Joe Harris, and all four of those deals will be reference points when Cameron Johnson and the Suns discuss a new deal, according to Fischer, who suggests an extension for Johnson could easily surpass $15MM per year.

Here are a few more notes from Fischer on rookie scale extension candidates from around the NBA:

  • There’s a sense that the Warriors may be best off waiting on an extension for Jordan Poole unless they can get a team-friendly rate this offseason, Fischer writes. “What’s the upside in locking him in now?” the team cap strategist said. “He’s not Luka Doncic or Donovan Mitchell, who’ve proven they can carry a team. He’s close. If he does it again, you pay him. But prior to this year he was a borderline rotation player.”
  • Cap experts who spoke to Fischer believes that the Celtics‘ four-year extension for Robert Williams (worth $48MM, plus $6MM in incentives) will be a benchmark for their extension talks with Grant Williams. However, rival executives don’t think the C’s will want to spend much more on Grant than they did on Robert.
  • The Trail Blazers and Nassir Little may both be motivated to work out a new deal this summer. As Fischer explains, Little could increase his value (and his price tag) in 2022/23 if he’s part of Portland’s new-look starting lineup, but his injury history might make him inclined to take a guaranteed payday sooner rather than later.
  • There has been no traction on extension talks between the Sixers and Matisse Thybulle, sources tell Bleacher Report. Fischer also classifies Bulls guard Coby White as a player who is unlikely to sign an extension before the season.

Bulls Rumors: LaVine, Gallinari, Drummond, White

Zach LaVine is expected to finalize a new contract with the Bulls shortly after free agency begins at 6:00 pm Eastern, according to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. LaVine has informed people that he plans to stay in Chicago, and his new contract will likely be a five-year max deal in the $215MM range, Johnson adds.

After weeks of rumors that LaVine was prepared to explore his options on the free agent market, the situation has settled down in recent days and a return to Chicago appeared imminent. General manager Marc Eversley said after last week’s draft that the team would “do what it will take” to re-sign LaVine.

The 27-year-old guard has been an All-Star the past two years. He dealt with knee issues this season, but was still able to average 24.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 67 games.

There’s more from Chicago, all courtesy of Johnson:

  • The Bulls are among several teams that would have interest in adding Danilo Gallinari if he gets waived by the Spurs. The move is expected after San Antonio agreed to acquire Gallinari on Wednesday as part of the return for Dejounte Murray. Johnson estimates that Gallinari will receive a two-year deal worth about $7-8MM per season and points out that Billy Donovan coached Gallinari with the Thunder.
  • Chicago, which has been linked to several centers through trade and free agency rumors, has interest in signing Andre Drummond. Several other teams will also pursue Drummond, Johnson adds, but he should be available on a veteran’s minimum salary.
  • Johnson says rumors that the Bulls will try to sign Mohamed Bamba are “on life support” and believes that reports of interest in dealing for Jazz center Rudy Gobert were exaggerated. Another possibility could be trading for San Antonio’s Jakob Poeltl if the Spurs continue to unload their veterans.
  • It appears likely that third-year guard Coby White will remain in Chicago. Johnson states that the Bulls listened to offers for White before the draft and were asking for a young rotation player and a draft pick. White is among Chicago’s best outside shooters and provides backcourt depth that is important with concerns about Lonzo Ball‘s knee.

Otto Porter, Gary Harris, T.J. Warren Among Lakers’ Potential FA Targets

The Lakers‘ options on the free agent market this week will likely be limited, since the team will only be able to offer the $6.5MM taxpayer mid-level exception or a minimum-salary contract to potential targets. However, as Jovan Buha of The Athletic writes, the team will still aim high, hoping to sell players on the opportunity to start and the ability to increase their stock with a strong year in Los Angeles, like Malik Monk did in 2021/22.

According to Buha, youth, length, athleticism, and shooting are among the traits the Lakers will be prioritizing. Two-way wings who could come in and potentially start alongside Anthony Davis, LeBron James, and Russell Westbrook will be a priority, sources tell The Athletic.

Here are some details on the types of players the Lakers will be eyeing in free agency:

Central Notes: Bulls, Gobert, Cavs, Pistons, Pacers, Murray

The rumors linking Jazz center Rudy Gobert to the Bulls have been overstated, league sources indicate to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. President of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has spoken multiple times since Chicago’s season ended about wanting to prioritize continuity, as well as his desire to see a healthy version of the current core. Johnson believes those comments were genuine.

In Johnson’s view, the safe bet is that the Bulls have a relatively quiet night on Thursday, keeping and using the No. 18 overall pick. If the team does make a trade, it’s likely to be a smaller-scale move than a Gobert blockbuster, perhaps involving Coby White, Johnson adds.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com confirms that the Cavaliers aren’t opposed to the idea of trading back in the draft from No. 14 or even trading out of the first round altogether. According to Fedor, Cleveland has received trade offers from multiple teams, but nothing is imminent and all possible scenarios are still at the discussion stage. Sources tell Fedor the Cavs would prefer to acquire a future first-round pick if they’re moving back in the draft, but would also be open to acquiring a win-now veteran if the fit is right. Michael Scotto of HoopsHype previously reported that the team was open to moving down this year to acquire a future first-rounder.
  • Pistons general manager Troy Weaver told reporters this week that the front office is prioritizing long-term upside with the No. 5 overall pick, but he stressed that doesn’t mean the team favors 19-year-old prospects over 22-year-olds. “To me, upside is a growth mindset,” Weaver said, per Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. “I don’t subscribe to, ‘The guy is a 23-year-old and he can’t grow, doesn’t have upside.’ There’s some guys that are 19, 18 that limit themselves. I’ve seen a couple of young players and I said, ‘It’s going to be a while because he just doesn’t get it.'”
  • James L. Edwards III of The Athletic rounded up several more of Weaver’s quotes from this week’s presser, along with his own thoughts on the GM’s comments.
  • The Pacers were one of the few NBA teams to make public which prospects they were bringing in for pre-draft workouts, but they didn’t make an announcement about bringing in Iowa’s Keegan Murray, who had a workout, a lunch, and a meeting with team officials during his visit, per Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files (Twitter links). Indiana holds the No. 6 pick in Thursday’s draft.

Draft Rumors: Top 3, Kings, Sharpe, Wizards, OKC, Hornets, Bulls

In his latest 2022 mock draft, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony (Insider link) still has Jabari Smith going to the Magic, Chet Holmgren to the Thunder, and Paolo Banchero to the Rockets.

Givony says the Magic continue to cast a wide net as they evaluate their options at No. 1, but rival executives “overwhelmingly” expect them to ultimately land on Smith. The Rockets, meanwhile, watched Banchero work out in Memphis and then brought him to Houston for an individual workout, according to Givony, who writes that the team seems “high on (his) talent, skill, and fit.”

While Givony’s newest mock doesn’t include a shake-up in the top three, there are some changes elsewhere in the lottery and further down in the first round. ESPN’s draft guru also shares a handful of draft-related tidbits. Here are some of the highlights:

  • According to Givony, Keegan Murray‘s chances of being the No. 4 pick may be gaining momentum, since Kings owner Vivek Ranadive and incoming head coach Mike Brown reportedly like him and Sacramento isn’t Jaden Ivey‘s preferred landing spot. However, Givony notes that the Kings have been willing in past years to draft players they haven’t worked out — plus, the pick is considered to be available via trade if there’s a team that wants to move up to snag Ivey.
  • Although Shaedon Sharpe is viewed as a legitimate candidate to be selected at No. 5 by the Pistons, he didn’t separate himself in a recent 3-on-3 workout that also included Bennedict Mathurin and Dyson Daniels, Givony writes. ESPN’s new mock has Mathurin and Daniels going sixth and seventh overall, ahead of Sharpe at No. 8.
  • The Wizards‘ lottery pick (No. 10) is widely thought to be available in a deal that would send a “proven backcourt player” to D.C., per Givony.
  • The Thunder are reportedly looking to trade up from No. 12 to acquire another pick in the top half of the lottery, according to Givony, who says Ivey and Sharpe may be among Oklahoma City’s targets.
  • Rival teams don’t believe the Hornets will keep both the 13th and 15th overall picks. Givony has also heard from rival clubs that the Bulls don’t love their options at No. 18 and are open to trading that pick, possibly in a package with guard Coby White.

Zach LaVine Likely To Re-Sign With Bulls

Despite rumors that Zach LaVine plans to talk with other teams in free agency, the most likely scenario has him re-signing with the Bulls, writes Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

LaVine is expected to receive a new five-year contract valued at around $200MM, according to Fischer, who notes that the only significant point of contention is the status of the final year of the deal. It could be fully or partially guaranteed, or LaVine could be given a player option.

The Trail Blazers, Spurs, Hawks and Lakers are all expected to reach out to LaVine, but Fischer doesn’t believe any of those teams can provide the two-time All-Star with a better situation than what he has in Chicago. LaVine wants to be the sole focal point of the offense, which hasn’t happened since the Bulls added DeMar DeRozan last summer, but he wouldn’t get that in Portland, Atlanta or L.A. It’s something San Antonio could offer, but the Spurs aren’t among the top contenders in the West.

Upgrading the frontcourt will be an offseason priority in Chicago, according to Fischer. His sources say the team is listening to offers for Nikola Vucevic, who has a $22MM expiring contract, and has expressed interest in Jazz center Rudy Gobert, although the club’s  reluctance to part with Patrick Williams may prevent a deal from being worked out with Utah.

The Bulls are also exploring trades involving third-year point guard Coby White, who will be eligible for a rookie scale extension, and the No. 18 pick in next week’s draft, Fischer adds.

Fischer’s Latest: Gobert, Jazz, Bulls, P. Williams, Snyder, Spurs

Confirming a pair of earlier reports, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report states that the Jazz haven’t entertained inquiries on Donovan Mitchell, but have been willing to engage in talks involving Rudy Gobert, with the Bulls among the potential suitors for the three-time Defensive Player of the Year.

According to Fischer, a Bulls offer for Gobert would – as expected – start with center Nikola Vucevic. The “popular package” discussed by various league executives would also include Patrick Williams, according to Fischer, who notes that the Jazz have long been seeking a wing defender like the former No. 4 overall pick.

However, as Fischer writes, the Bulls weren’t interested in discussing Williams during in-season trade talks for Jerami Grant, so it remains to be seen how open they’d be to including him in an offer for Gobert. If Williams is off the table, adding Coby White and Javonte Green would work from a salary-matching perspective, Fischer observes, but presumably the Jazz would be seeking a more substantial return for one of their two All-Stars.

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • The Jazz offered Quin Snyder a variety of contract structures in an effort to keep him in Utah, but those offers were rebuffed, with Snyder deciding it was time to move on. The expectation in league circles is that Snyder – who is highly regarded by Spurs CEO R.C. Buford – would be the leading candidate for the coaching job in San Antonio when Gregg Popovich steps down, says Fischer.
  • The Jazz are still working on their list of head coaching targets and will begin to formally reach out to candidates in the coming days, according to Fischer. One of the names included in the team’s preliminary list of candidates was Terry Stotts, who has the same representation as Snyder and spent several weeks around the Jazz in 2021/22, Fischer notes.
  • While there’s some skepticism around the NBA about how much Jazz CEO Danny Ainge will cater to Donovan Mitchell, Ainge isn’t viewed as someone who “scours the market of the NBA’s up-and-coming head coaches,” Fischer writes. In other words, if Mitchell and team owner Ryan Smith both want to bring in former Jazz assistant Johnnie Bryant as Snyder’s replacement, Ainge likely wouldn’t stand in the way, sources tell Fischer.

Bulls Notes: LaVine, 10 Offseason Questions, Liddell, Minott

Two-time All-Star Zach LaVine is no longer considered a lock to return to the Bulls, with “league gossip” linking him to rival teams, as reported by K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago a couple of weeks ago. With that in mind, Frank Urbina of HoopsHype explores four potential teams who might pursue the 27-year-old in unrestricted free agency this summer.

The Lakers would obviously have interest, but acquiring LaVine would be complicated because it would require moving Russell Westbrook first, or him to be involved in a sign-and-trade. They’d also be hard-capped at that point and only able to sign minimum-salaried players to fill out the rest of the roster, per HoopsHype’s Yossi Gozlan.

Lavine makes sense as a fit next to Pistons guard Cade Cunningham, according to Urbina, and Detroit has the ability to create enough cap space to sign him outright. However, after reaching the postseason for the first time in his career in 2021/22, I’m skeptical LaVine would be interested in joining a rebuilding club.

The Heat and Hawks are two other sign-and-trade possibilities, but Urbina notes that HoopsHype and other publications still believe LaVine returning to Chicago is the most likely outcome, as the Bulls can re-sign LaVine for up to $212.3MM over five years, while rival teams will be limited to four years at $157.4MM.

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic lists 10 offseason questions looming over Chicago this summer. Mayberry wonders how the Bulls can go from good to great, whether they’ll be able to re-sign LaVine, where things stand with Lonzo Ball‘s balky knee, how to improve the team’s depth, and whether or not it’s the right time to deal away guard Coby White (who’s eligible for a rookie scale extension on July 1), among several other questions.
  • The Bulls worked out former Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell on Wednesday, as Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago relays (via Twitter). The Bulls control the No. 18 pick and Liddell is currently No. 20 on ESPN’s big board, so he could be a realistic target at that spot. Liddell had an impressive junior season for the Buckeyes, averaging 19.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, and 2.6 BPG on .490/.374/.765 shooting in 32 games (33.2 MPG).
  • Memphis forward Josh Minott will also work out for Chicago on Thursday, tweets Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com. Minott is currently No. 48 on ESPN’s board and averaged 6.6 PPG and 3.8 RPG in a limited role as a freshman (33 games, 14.6 MPG).

Central Notes: LaVine, White, Ayton, Brogdon

Because Zach LaVine wasn’t named to any of the All-NBA teams announced this week, the Bulls will be facing a lower price for a maximum deal for the free agent guard, writes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. LaVine can re-sign with Chicago for up to $212.3MM over five years, while rival teams will be limited to four years at $157.4MM.

The roughly $55MM difference will work in the Bulls’ favor, but Cowley echoes several other reports suggesting that re-signing LaVine isn’t a sure thing. He lists the Lakers, Hawks and Trail Blazers as teams with interest and says more are expected to emerge as free agency draws closer.

Cowley adds “all indications” are that Bulls management plans to offer a full max deal, and it will be up to LaVine to decide whether he wants to continue his career in Chicago. If he does want to move on, Cowley expects executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas to explore sign-and-trade options.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Cowley’s assessment of LaVine is part of an overall look at the Bulls‘ backcourt, where the fate of Coby White is also uncertain. White will be eligible for a rookie-scale extension this summer, but Cowley believes the front office is more likely to try to trade him for outside shooting help. Cowley doesn’t expect free agent Matt Thomas to return and says the team could target TyTy Washington or Malaki Branham in the draft if either is still available at No. 18.
  • Expect the Pistons to be among the teams pursuing Suns center Deandre AytonOmari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press states in a mailbag column. Ayton will be a restricted free agent, and Sankofa suggests Detroit might use Jerami Grant to facilitate a sign-and-trade deal. Grant is entering the final year of his current contract and is eligible for a four-year extension worth $112MM.
  • Evan Sidery of Basketball News looks at five potential trade destinations for Pacers guard Malcolm Brogdon, who may no longer be in the team’s plans after the acquisition of Tyrese Haliburton. Sidery proposes potential deals involving the Suns, Jazz, Lakers, Timberwolves and Heat.