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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Isaiah Hartenstein, Chicago Bulls
Isaiah Hartenstein, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

2. Isaiah Hartenstein

If the Bulls aren’t going to bring Young back aboard the ship, they need to sign someone who is undeniably a better player at this point. Whether you’ve been following his rise in Los Angeles or not, Isaiah Hartenstein would be an upgrade in every way.

Hartenstein has improved every year he’s spent in the league, as he’s progressed from fighting to just being the 15th man on an NBA roster in 2018 to become a clear-cut rotation player today. In just shy of 18 minutes per game with the Clippers last season, he posted averages of 8.3 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists, and 1.1 blocks per game.

While those numbers may not jump off of the page at you, his per-minute production is actually elite. In fact, he severely outclasses Bulls starting center Nikola Vucevic as a player in nearly every advanced statistical category: PER, BPM, TS%, Win Shares, VoRP, you name it. The only thing holding back Hartenstein from becoming a solid starter is a lack of experience and tendency to commit too many fouls. These are obstacles that can easily be overcome given enough minutes to learn and develop.

Although Hartenstein has only recently just turned 24 years old, he’s due to sign his third NBA contract and thus is not a restricted free agent. That will be crucial for any team that has their eyes locked on the blossoming big man, as the Clippers do not hold the right to match any offer for him in free agency.

In fact, the most likely roadblock to signing Hartenstein this summer isn’t going to be the Clippers, it’s the rest of the league. The Bulls can only offer the MLE to Hartenstein, but he’s likely to have multiple offers on the table at that amount from other suitors. Chicago would likely have to make room in the rotation for Hartenstein to have a sizable role on the roster before he agrees to sign here.

I wouldn’t say it’s likely the Bulls sign him this summer, but I do believe the front office will do their due diligence and measure the market on a talent like Hartenstein. After all, no one expected Chicago to pry Alex Caruso away from the Lakers on the MLE either.