Chicago Bulls: Should Ante Zizic be an option in free agency?

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

The impending free agent cycle will be both a tough and interesting one to figure out for the Chicago Bulls reshaped front office this offseason.

Recently hired former Denver Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas is going to have a lot of personnel decisions left to make for the upcoming offseason. In the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic, as basketball fans wait for the NBA to resume (if and when they do this year), the Chicago Bulls aren’t sitting in a great spot. The Bulls own a record of 22-43 during the COVID-19 pandemic-induced NBA season hiatus and if the league jumps straight into the playoffs their season would obviously be over.

With that in mind, the new look Bulls front office should be planning out what they are likely to do for the upcoming free agent cycle and in the NBA Draft. Who really knows when the NBA Draft is going to happen, but Karnisovas does need to have a pecking order at the top of his big board.

Free agency is going to be interesting for the Bulls this coming offseason too. The Bulls should try to reshape the build of the roster to the best of their ability to make sure the cap sheet is in good order to make a run at the top free agents during the 2021 offseason. That is a highly coveted group of superstars that will be impending free agents following the conclusion of next season.

Where could Karnisovas and the Bulls look this coming offseason in the free agent market if they want to retool and get a more favorable cap sheet for the 2021 cycle? What they will have to do is find cheaper options in free agency that would be willing to take on more team-friendly contracts.

An option that could be a possibility for the Bulls is a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, but will be hitting the free agent market this coming offseason, is 6-foot-10 and 255 pound big man Ante Zizic. This Croatian center was the first round pick (23rd overall) of the Boston Celtics in the 2016 NBA Draft.

But before Zizic ever played a game in a Celtics uniform, he was dished out to the Cavaliers in a trade during the 2017 offseason that also involved the likes of Isaiah Thomas and Kyrie Irving. Zizic was one of the more minor parts of the trade deal, and he never got much of a chance to make a bona fide impact in Cleveland.

Over the course of the last three seasons, Zizic played in 113 regular season games with the Cavaliers. He averaged 6.0 points per game, 3.9 rebounds, 0.6 assists, and 0.4 blocks, while shooting 58.1 percent from the field and 71.1 percent from the free-throw line. The advanced metrics looked pretty good for Zizic during his rookie season, posting a box plus/minus rating of 1.0 and a 24.6 player efficiency rating.

During his last two seasons with the Cavaliers, Zizic’s production did decline. He registered a -3.2 box plus/minus rating and around .100 win shares per 48 minutes in each of the last two seasons. His increasing turnovers and decreasing field goal percentage in each of the last two seasons contributed to that negative statistical trend. But he did keep his player efficiency rating above 16.0 in the last two seasons, largely highlighting his continued ability to hit the glass and draw more steals.

When he originally entered the NBA after the Celtics picked him in the first round of the 2016 draft, Zizic wasn’t considered to have much offensive polish in his game. His shooting range and post-game haven’t improved a whole lot since he was drafted four years ago.

The Cavaliers never gave Zizic much of a chance to improve his offensive versatility at an early point of his career and a crucial part of his development. Less than 10 percent of his shots in his three seasons with the Cavaliers came from beyond 10-feet from the rim. And the average field goal distance in his career sits around four feet.

Traditional big men like Zizic don’t tend to carry as much value around the NBA as they used to. This is why the Bulls front office when after a big man like former New York Knicks center Luke Kornet last offseason. Kornet is supposed to be able to space the floor better on offense while maintaining a good level of rim protection on defense.

Although, the signing of Kornet has not worked out well at all for the Bulls thus far. It was a better move for the Bulls to keep more of a traditional big man in the fold last year in Robin Lopez than it was bringing in Kornet.

It could be worth the risk for the Bulls to go after a big man like Zizic and give him a chance to expand his offensive arsenal if they can get him on a team-friendly bargain contract.

According to a report from, Maccabi Tel Aviv could be interesting in getting Zizic to take his talents back overseas and join them for next season. The Bulls would have to likely pounce quick on Zizic if they wanted to pursue this type of big man in free agency this coming offseason.

The Bulls do still have one other young traditional rim-running center in the rotation with former Arkansas Razorbacks rookie Daniel Gafford. Adding Ziziz to the mix might make the frontcourt rotation a bit crowded, but he might be a good third option at the position in this rotation.

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The projected frontcourt rotation for the Bulls next season should look something like this: Lauri Markkanen and maybe Thaddeus Young at the four, and Gafford, Wendell Carter Jr., and maybe one different option at the five. Young could be on his way out of the Windy City soon since that free agent signing didn’t work out well either. Markkanen, Gafford, and WCJ are more integral parts of the Bulls rebuild at the moment.