ESPN gives Bulls third-worst offseason grade in the East

Goran Dragic, Troy Brown Jr., Chicago Bulls (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)
Goran Dragic, Troy Brown Jr., Chicago Bulls (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images) /

Now that the dust has settled, opinions about the Chicago Bulls‘ relatively quiet summer have been justifiably mixed. Most fans would have liked to see the team pursue bigger fish in free agency, and watching other teams swing big trades while the Bulls missed out on draft day was at times difficult to watch.

That being said, I wouldn’t say the front office has made any glaring mistakes in the decisions they actually did make this summer. While I personally would have liked the team to pursue a different area of need with the Goran Dragic signing, it seems increasingly likely this was just an insurance policy for Lonzo Ball. As for the rest of the team’s acquisitions, Andre Drummond and Dalen Terry feel very low-risk with the potential to pay off in a big way.

ESPN’s Kevin Pelton doesn’t appear to feel the same way about Chicago’s offseason, however, as he assigned the Bulls a “C+” (on a baseline of “B” being average), the third-worst offseason grade among all Eastern Conference Teams in a recent article.

Pelton only dished out worse grades to the Brooklyn Nets and Charlotte Hornets, which feels a little insulting considering the disastrous state of affairs going on with each of those organizations at the moment. The Nets are in a state of disarray and look like they’ll lose both their superstar talents by the end of the year, while Charlotte has re-hired a failed former coach, traded away their most promising draft prospect, refused to sign any veterans, and are awaiting their second-best player to stand trial for domestic violence charges.

To be put even in the same stratosphere as either of these teams just feels disrespectful. But at the same time, it almost feels earned.

The Chicago Bulls have once again been rated harshly for their offseason decision-making by ESPN.

Although the Bulls were critiqued harshly for their aggressive decision to go out and sign DeMar DeRozan last summer, it obviously ultimately worked out in their favor as he posted an All-NBA caliber performance in his first season with Chicago. It’s for precisely this reason that it feels so jarring to see the front office switch gears here.

Instead of taking risks and working to patch the very obvious holes this team had, it seemed the front office was instructed to prioritize ducking the luxury tax at all costs. This led the Bulls to only make a few under-the-radar signings after re-signing Zach LaVine.

"“In a vacuum, Chicago’s modest additions this offseason have made sense, but it leaves us wanting more. The Bulls used just $3.2 million of their midlevel exception to sign Andre Drummond as a backup to Nikola Vucevic coming off a strong season split between the Philadelphia 76ers and Nets. Chicago’s other veteran newcomer is Goran Dragic, signed for the minimum to add depth at point guard, where Lonzo Ball’s timeline to return from knee surgery remains uncertain.”"

I’m glad Pelton points out Chicago’s seeming unwillingness to divest the entire MLE this summer, although there were several interesting players available for cheap late in free agency such as TJ Warren and Jalen Smith. Many of these players would have been an excellent fit on the Bulls and provided some much-need bench relief.

Instead, the Chicago Bulls opted to cut costs and avoid paying the luxury tax by not using their MLE. These cheap underhanded tactics don’t go unnoticed by fans, especially considering the fact nearly every contender in today’s NBA is willing to dive into the tax in order to put a truly competitive team out there on the court.

"“Beyond that, the Bulls also re-signed forward Derrick Jones Jr. and drafted Dalen Terry. The moves should upgrade Chicago’s second unit, woefully short on quality size last season. Still, the Bulls haven’t fully addressed the weaknesses apparent in their second-half slide after a strong start.”"

Pelton acknowledges there’s still work to be done here in Chicago, but at the same time doesn’t seem to know what exactly needs to be done. While it is frustrating watching the Bulls prioritize financial gain over everything else, I think it’s a little ridiculous to claim Chicago had a terrible offseason when the team did in fact improve this summer, even if only marginally so.

Likening the Bulls to the trainwrecks currently taking place in Brooklyn or Charlotte — or even giving the same grade to Chicago and Miami despite the former getting better while the latter got worse — is simply a dishonest comparison.

If you believe the Chicago Bulls are treading water and had an uneventful offseason, that’s fine. Just make sure you grade them as such. We’ll see what this team can really do when healthy next season either way.

Next. How much cap space will the Bulls have in 2023?. dark