Marko Simonovic

COVID-19 Updates: Wizards, Budenholzer, Celtics, Nance, Duarte, More

The Wizards are on the verge of replenishing their point guard depth, with Spencer Dinwiddie and Aaron Holiday now out of the NBA’s health and safety protocols, per Josh Robbins of The Athletic (Twitter link). Both players will remain sidelined for at least one more game, however, as they work on their conditioning.

Here are more protocol-related updates from around the league:

  • Mike Budenholzer has become the latest head coach to enter the health and safety protocols, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Darvin Ham will serve as the Bucks‘ acting head coach in Budenholzer’s absence.
  • Aaron Nesmith has exited the health and safety protocols, but another Celtics player – Payton Pritchard – has entered them, tweets Jared Weiss of The Athletic.
  • Trail Blazers big man Larry Nance Jr. entered the COVID-19 protocols on Tuesday, but it’s possible he’ll be able to clear them quickly. According to Aaron Fentress of The Oregonian (Twitter links), head coach Chauncey Billups said Nance registered an inconclusive test, so if he can return two consecutive negatives at least 24 hours apart, he’ll exit the protocols.
  • Pacers rookie Chris Duarte has cleared the protocols, though he’s doubtful to play in Wednesday’s game vs. Brooklyn, tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files.
  • Cory Joseph, who was the last Pistons player in the protocols, has exited them, according to Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press (Twitter link). Joseph remains unavailable for Wednesday’s game in Charlotte due to return to competition reconditioning.
  • Rookies Marko Simonovic (Bulls) and Brandon Boston Jr. (Clippers) were at their respective teams’ practices today and are no longer in the protocols (Twitter links via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago and Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times).
  • Other players who have cleared the protocols include Spurs forward Devontae Cacok and Mavericks rookie JaQuori McLaughlin. Cacok is out vs. Boston on Wednesday due to return to competition reconditioning (Twitter link via Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News), while McLaughlin is no longer on Dallas’ injury report.

Bulls Sign Jordan Bell To 10-Day Contract

DECEMBER 30: Bell’s 10-day deal with the Bulls is now official, according to the transactions log at NBA.com. It will run through January 8, covering Chicago’s next four games.


DECEMBER 29: The Bulls plan to sign big man Jordan Bell to a 10-day contract, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who reports (via Twitter) that the team will use a hardship exception to complete the move.

Bell technically was a Bull once before, having been drafted by the team with the 38th overall pick in 2017 — his rights were quickly dealt to the Warriors on draft night in exchange for cash.

Since 2017, Bell has appeared in a total of 160 regular season games for Golden State, Minnesota, Memphis, and Washington, averaging 3.7 PPG and 3.1 RPG on 12.1 minutes per contest. He also played in 32 postseason games with the Warriors and won a title in 2018. The 26-year-old had been playing for the Santa Cruz Warriors in the G League this season, averaging 10.8 PPG, 12.7 RPG, 3.8 APG, and 1.6 BPG in nine games (28.6 MPG).

Perhaps no team has been hit harder in the last month by COVID-19 than the Bulls, who placed power forward Marko Simonovic in the health and safety protocols earlier today, per Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link).

Although Chicago only has five players in the protocols for the time being, nearly all the team’s players have been affected by COVID-19 at some point this month. As K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago tweets, Alex Caruso and Tyler Cook are the only players on the team’s standard 17-man roster who haven’t been in the protocols this season.

Central Notes: Turner, Bulls, Simonovic, Garza, Allen

Myles Turner led the NBA in blocks per game last season (3.4) and the Pacers‘ defensive rating was about five points better when the big man was on the floor. However, because he appeared in just 47 games and Indiana missed the postseason, he didn’t make an All-Defensive team and didn’t receive any votes for Defensive Player of the Year.

Speaking to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, Turner expressed a desire to make up for that in 2021/22. Asked about his individual goals for the season, he said he wants to become an All-Star and would like to be recognized for his play on defense.

“I feel like I’m snubbed and haven’t gotten the credit I deserve in that department. I’ve led the league in blocks, and that looks good and all, but no All-Defensive Teams, not a lot of consideration for Defensive Player of the Year,” Turner said. “… I think I’m one of the better defenders in this league as far as my position. I’m versatile on defense. I’m not just a perimeter defender. I’m not just a shot blocker. There are different facets of my game that I think set me apart a little bit.”

The Pacers are off to a 5-8 start and remain outside of the playoff picture for the time being. However, Turner is proving once again that he can be force on the defensive end. His 3.2 blocks per game lead the NBA, and Indiana has a 100.5 defensive rating during his minutes, compared to 115.7 when he sits.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • The Bulls entered the offseason looking to upgrade at the point guard position, and all the early returns suggest they succeeded in a major way. Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic explores what Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso have brought to a resurgent Chicago team.
  • The Bulls recalled rookie center Marko Simonovic from the G League on Thursday, the team announced (via Twitter). Simonovic has yet to make his regular season NBA debut, but could see a little action during the team’s West Coast road trip with Nikola Vucevic sidelined due to a positive COVID-19 test.
  • Pistons rookie Luka Garza has been recalled to the NBA from the G League following Kelly Olynyk‘s knee injury, the club announced today (via Twitter). Unlike Simonovic, Garza has seen some NBA action already, logging 39 minutes across five games. Olynyk’s absence should open the door for him to play a slightly larger role.
  • The Bucks are off to a bit of a slow start this season, but newly-acquired wing Grayson Allen has been a bright spot, averaging 15.4 PPG and 3.9 RPG on .445/.419/.950 shooting in 12 starts (29.3 MPG). Eric Nehm of The Athletic takes a closer look at the impact Allen is having and the chemistry he’s developing with Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Eastern Notes: Goodwin, Bulls, Wizards, Knicks

Former Hawks guard Brandon Goodwin worked out for the Celtics this week, Chris Grenham of Forbes Sports tweets. There’s mutual interest in a training camp invite, though no contract has been signed. Goodwin saw action in 47 games with Atlanta last year, averaging 4.9 PPG and 2.0 APG.

He played on a $1.7MM contract last season and became a free agent when the team failed to extend a qualifying offer. He didn’t play in the postseason, partially due to a respiratory condition.

We have more from the Eastern Conference:

  • While most of the rotation spots are a given, the Bulls will have a number of intriguing training camp battles, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times notes. Marko Simonovic could work his way into the mix at both power forward and center, while Troy Brown Jr. and Derrick Jones Jr. will compete for second-unit minutes at the wing. Free agent signee Alex Caruso and Coby White will fight for backcourt minutes once White fully heals from shoulder surgery.
  • Oddsmakers don’t think much of the Wizards, but they may be underestimating what the front office did this offseason, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. PointsBet has a 34.5-win over/under line for the Wizards, 12th among Eastern Conference teams, and ESPN’s experts peg them as the 11th-best team in the conference. However, Washington improved its depth this summer and project to be an improved defensive unit, Hughes notes.
  • The Knicks get a B-minus from The Athletic’s Zach Harper as their offseason grade. While the backcourt was upgraded with the addition of Kemba Walker, Harper believes the small forward spot didn’t improve all that much by replacing Reggie Bullock with Evan Fournier. They also didn’t improve in the frontcourt spots, in Harper’s estimation.

Bulls Notes: DeRozan, Ball, Caruso, Simonovic

When DeMar DeRozan‘s deal with the Bulls first leaked, he seemed like an odd fit for a team that already had Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine in its backcourt. But DeRozan dismissed that concern during his introductory news conference in Chicago, writes Rob Schaeffer of NBC Sports Chicago.

“I mean, it’s basketball. Lot of people I see criticizing, talking about ‘fit this, fit that’ have probably never even played basketball,” DeRozan said. “For me, if everybody (is) on the same page mentality and wants to win, it don’t matter about a ‘fit,’ because it’s all gonna come together how it need to come together and make it work. Because at the end of the day the common denominator is winning.”

DeRozan brings a lot of valuable assets to the Bulls that go beyond on-court fit, Schaeffer points out. He ranked eighth in free throw attempts per game last season with 7.2, a category in which Chicago was last in the league, and his turnover rate has been better than the league average in all 12 of his NBA seasons. In addition, DeRozan believes he can serve as a veteran leader, the way Chris Paul did in Phoenix.

“With the experience of the successes, the failures, everything that I went through,” he said, “just understanding going into the season from Day 1 to the last day what it takes to really go over those humps, the tough days where stuff is going bad. When a game or two is off track, how to put things back in place, how to get guys back together.”

There’s more from Chicago:

  • When the Bulls reached an agreement with Ball, that gave DeRozan more incentive to come to Chicago, according to Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic“Once Lonzo signed, that made it even more appealing,” DeRozan said. “You could see what they were working toward, and it was something I wanted to be a part of. It wasn’t too much of a pitch that they had to make after that.”
  • Alex Caruso will bring defensive toughness and championship experience to the Bulls, Schaeffer adds in a separate story. The former Laker said good defensive players have to show a willingness to be physical and “a little dirty” to be successful.
  • The contract for forward/center Marko Simonovic, a second-round pick in 2020, is worth $4.3MM over three years, tweets Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. The first two seasons come with a full guarantee, but the final year is non-guaranteed. The Bulls used the remainder of their non-taxpayer mid-level exception to sign Simonovic, according to Keith Smith of Spotrac (Twitter link), who breaks down the minimum-salary deal at $925,258 for the upcoming season, $1,563,518 in 2022/23 and $1,836,096 in 2023/24.

Bulls Sign Ayo Dosunmu, Marko Simonovic

6:53pm: Dosunmu received a guaranteed two-year, $2.48MM contract, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. That’s a minimum-salary deal, which would leave the mid-level open for Simonovic.


1:38pm: The Bulls have officially locked up a pair of second-round picks, signing guard Ayo Dosunmu and forward/center Marko Simonovic to their first NBA contracts, according to NBA.com’s transactions log.

Dosunmu, 21, played his college ball at Illinois, spending three years with the Fighting Illini before declaring for the draft following his junior season. He averaged an impressive 20.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG, and 5.3 APG on .488/.390/.783 shooting in 28 games (35.1 MPG) in 2020/21 and was selected 38th overall by the Bulls in the 2021 draft.

Simonovic, meanwhile, was the No. 44 pick in the 2020 draft, but played in Serbia for one more season before making the leap to the NBA. The 21-year-old big man, who confirmed earlier this week that he’d be signing with the Bulls, put up 15.7 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 1.7 APG, and 1.0 SPG in 25 games (31.6 MPG) for Mega Basket in the Adriatic League in 2020/21.

Terms of the two deals aren’t yet known, but the Bulls had less than $1MM of their mid-level exception left after signing Alex Caruso using most of the MLE. That means they’ll be able to give one of their rookies a three- or four-year deal, but will be limited to two years for the other (via either the bi-annual exception or the minimum salary exception).

The Bulls now have 12 players on under contract, with Lauri Markkanen‘s restricted free agency still to be resolved.

Bulls Notes: Caruso, Dosunmu, Simonovic, Valentine, Williams, DeRozan

Alex Caruso‘s four-year, $37MM contract has a $3MM guarantee in the fourth season, ESPN’s Bobby Marks reveals in an Instagram video. The Bulls used up $8.6MM of their $9.536MM mid-level exeption for Caruso’s first-year salary, giving them just enough room to sign No. 38 overall pick Ayo Dosunmu, Marks adds.

We have more on the Bulls:

  • Second-round pick Marko Simonovic had an impressive summer league debut, contributing 13 points and five rebounds in 15 minutes against New Orleans, Sam Smith of the team’s website writes. “This is everything new for me,” said Simonovic, a 6’11” power forward. “I’m coming from Europe and everything is different. But I feel really good and people tell me I look good. I think next season I can help the team.”
  • The Bulls have renounced their rights to Denzel Valentine and Cristiano Felicio, according to the RealGM transactions log. While that doesn’t rule out the possibility of re-signing those players, Chicago needed to renounce the rights to them and seven other players to complete all its off-season moves. Felicio signed with a club in Germany earlier this week.
  • Patrick Williams believes he can learn plenty from DeMar DeRozan, Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago writes. “He’s a really good wing in this league. Mostly, I want to be at the level that he’s at,” Williams said. “When he gets here, I’ll definitely ask him some questions about how he plays in the mid-post and kind of what he sees after an important possession. I’m definitely excited to learn from not only him but everyone else as well.” DeRozan was officially acquired on Wednesday.
  • In turn, DeRozan is impressed with the talent level on the roster, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic writes. “Great organization. The history behind it is definitely amazing. But for sure, the talent,” he said. “Looking at players like Zach (LaVine), I’ve been a fan of Zach since he’s been in the league. Just looking at the overall squad. Seeing (Nikola) Vučević there, that was my teammate in college. So, it’s been great.”

Marko Simonović To Suit Up For Bulls This Year

Power forward/center Marko Simonović has verified recent rumors that he will be joining the Bulls for the 2021/22 season, his first in the NBA, tweets Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic.

Along with forward Patrick Williams, Simonović was part of the first draft class selected by the Bulls’ then-new front office team of president Arturas Karnisovas and GM Marc Eversley. The 6’11” big man, most recently with the Serbian club KK Mega Basket of the Adriatic Basketball Association, was chosen with the No. 44 pick in 2020.

In 25 games for Mega Basket during the 2020/21 season, Simonović averaged 15.7 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 1.7 APG, and 1.0 SPG.

The 21-year-old’s shot diet indicates potential as a floor-spreading big man who will not fear contact inside, operating as a reserve for a new-look Chicago team heavy on versatile scorers and passers. Simonović connected on 47.3% of his field goal looks last season, including 34.9% of his 5.2 three-point attempts a game. He also converted 77.8% of his free-throw tries.

Chicago is reportedly using a chunk of its mid-level exception to sign Alex Caruso, but could save a portion of that MLE for Simonović’s deal.

Central Notes: Doumbouya, Middleton, Antetokoumpo, Simonovic

While fielding a number of questions about the Pistons’ No. 1 pick, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com also addressed the future of 2019 draft pick Sekou Doumbouya. Langlois anticipates Doumbouya, who wasn’t drafted by current general manager Troy Weaver, will play in the summer league where he can show greater consistency and effectiveness. The Pistons must decide this offseason whether to pick up the forward’s fourth-year option at $5.5MM for the 2022/23 season.

We have more on the Central Division:

  • Bucks forward Khris Middleton is focused on the Finals but he’s also a minority owner with the Brisbane Bullets in Australia’s NBL. Middleton told Marc Spears of The Undefeated many players are looking into similar ventures. “Being a part of an ownership group is something I wanted to do, for sure,” Middleton said. “As a player it could be tough. But I realize the responsibilities I had wasn’t going to really affect my basketball career right now. But it’s something I think a lot of players are starting to trend towards is finding ways to invest their money, finding things to do with their money that can grow, and it’s something I’m interested in.”
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo and Middleton are the two main building blocks that made the Bucks a championship-level team. Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today examines the lengthy partnership between the two teammates. Middleton was acquired in 2013 from Detroit in the same year the two-time MVP was drafted. “At first, friendly competition, a guy like him from Detroit and I just got drafted,” Antetokounmpo said. “We just tried to get on the floor, going at one another in practices. But throughout the time, there was a lot of times that he proved that he’s going to do whatever it takes to help the team win. That’s the type of guy that you want next to you.”
  • Draft-and-stash prospect Marko Simonovic is expected to sign with the Bulls this summer and from what K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago hears, he can be a rotation player at least. Simonovic was a second-round pick so the team’s fans should set their expectations for the 6’11” big man accordingly, Johnson adds.

Marko Simonovic Likely To Sign With Bulls

Draft-and-stash prospect Marko Simonovic cannot officially sign with the Bulls until next month but it appears likely that he’ll make the jump to the NBA next season.

An Instagram post from his agent, Misko Raznatovic, displayed a picture of them sitting beside each other with the words, “One way ticket to Chicago!”

It’s uncertain what type of contract the 6’11” Simonovic will be signing with the club. The Bulls could use cap room or an exception to bring him aboard, depending on how their offseason plays out.

Selected as the No. 44 pick in 2020, the 21-year-old center played in Serbia this year for Mega Basket in the ABA Adriatic League. He averaged 15.7 PPG and 9.1 RPG in 31.6 MPG over 25 games. He shot 47.3% overall and 34.9% on his 3-point attempts.

With Daniel Theis and Cristiano Felicio entering unrestricted free agency and Lauri Markkanen headed to restricted free agency, the Bulls could have some openings in the frontcourt.