3 cheap free agents Bulls can target if Zach LaVine re-signs

Thaddeus Young, Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Thaddeus Young, Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /
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As a managerial duo, Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley have built a reputation around the NBA for being notoriously tight-lipped about their plans and decision-making process. Despite being very aggressive in trades and free agent signings, it’s usually very difficult to see what their next plan of action is. This, however, is not one of those times. The Chicago Bulls absolutely intend to re-sign Zach LaVine to a max extension this summer.

But what happens after that? If they’re successful in their endeavor to lure LaVine back to town, the front office will still have a few holes to fill in order to bring the Bulls a step closer to legitimate championship contention.

Among those holes, Chicago will likely want to improve their interior defense and outside shooting, two areas the Bulls ranked near the bottom of the league last season. Acquiring a veteran free agent that can address these issues needs to be near the top of the priority list this offseason, but they also need to come cheap.

Even if the Bulls successfully re-sign Zach LaVine, they’ll still need to make a few free agent signings to become true contenders

Should the Bulls re-sign LaVine, envisioning the core rotation pieces starts to become a much easier task. Lonzo Ball, LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Williams, and Nikola Vucevic will likely once again comprise the starting lineup. Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu, and Coby White will round out the reserve guard rotation, while Javonte Green should be the primary small forward off the bench.

The power forward and center slots are much more difficult to predict, however, as Tony Bradley has not yet accepted his player option and Marko Simonovic has yet to show anything to prove he’s ready for such a role yet. Free agency is increasingly looking like the team’s best route towards improving their deficiencies on the interior.

Here’s an early look at the three relatively cheap free agents that I believe the front office would target in order to round out next year’s rotation.

3. Thaddeus Young

Bulls fans should be well-acquainted with this 15-year veteran by now, as Thaddeus Young recently provided invaluable service for a growing Bulls team during the 2020 and 2021 campaigns. Young averaged 11.2 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 3.1 assists primarily in a bench role during his two seasons in Chicago.

Thad’s versatility was huge for those teams, as he navigated between roles as a traditional power forward and a small ball center to maximize the talent of the players around him. Unfortunately, there wasn’t actually much talent around him in the first place.

His performance was one of the very few silver linings during a span where the Bulls would post a paltry record of 53-84. In fact, Young would prove to be the best playmaking big man the Bulls have had since Joakim Noah.

Perhaps even more impactful than his performance on the court, Young was an invaluable leader in the locker room. Young was nominated for the Twyman Stokes Teammate of the Year Award in 2019, was invited to join Team USA in 2020, and would go on to win the NBA’s Hustle Award in 2021. He’s the type of player that has always prided himself in winning small battles and making a difference wherever and whenever he can.

Young was a mentor and friend to many, most of all to LaVine. Thad and LaVine’s friendship dates back to Zach’s rookie season when the veteran made a strong impression on the guard in Minnesota. LaVine would later go on to name Young “the best teammate I ever had.” It’s clear to see the importance Young has had on LaVine’s career trajectory, and it would be great to see his career end alongside a good friend.

Young will be turning 34 years old later this month, so there may not be much quality basketball left in him, but he has already proven he doesn’t need minutes to make this team better. He may not be the best player on this list anymore, but he’s perhaps the most affordable and realistic option to pursue.