Following the team’s unexpected decision to waive Goran Dragic, the Chicago Bulls have officially decided to sign two-way talent Carlik Jones to a full-time contract to fill out their last roster spot. Given that there are only 18 remaining games left on the Bulls’ schedule, this will be a one-year prorated deal for a total of $357,717, keeping Chicago just out of the luxury tax range.
Considering the hoops the front office has jumped through to remain under the luxury tax threshold during last year’s free agency period, and the trade deadline and buyout market this season, I cannot say I’m entirely surprised by the decision. Instead of going out in search of veteran talent to improve this team, management clearly seems content to tread water in a middling position while prioritizing selling tickets over winning games.
I wrote an article earlier this week detailing the top 10 free agents I believe the Bulls should have been willing to look into. Sure enough, other teams that were actually interested in winning games and competing for something tangible began picking through the best of the buyout market.
Toronto added Will Barton while Brooklyn moved to pick up Nerlens Noel as soon as he became available. Even a rebuilding team like San Antonio was still making forward-thinking decisions, as they acquired Sandro Mamukelashvili to ideally replace the hole in the rotation left by the departure of Jakob Poeltl.
Instead of doing any of that, the Chicago Bulls simply opted to promote Jones to the main roster. Unsurprisingly, this left many fans disappointed once again in the front office’s lack of interest in building a genuinely competitive roster.
Refusing to spend more money to secure veteran talent adds to a mountain of existing reasons to no longer trust the Chicago Bulls’ front office.
Now, I don’t intend for this to be a critique of Jones. In fact, he’s actually been quite exceptional in the G League with the Windy City Bulls this year. He’s averaged 27.5 points, 8.2 assists, 5.8 rebounds, and 2 steals per game in February en route to being named the G League Player of the Month. This was no fluke either, he’s been dominating G League-level competition for a while now, but has yet to receive a chance to prove himself in the NBA.
I interviewed Carlik back in July, ahead of the Bulls’ trip to Las Vegas for the NBA Summer League. We spoke about how his relationship with current Bull Javonte Green has made things easier here, and how he’s tried modeling his game after future Hall of Famer Chris Paul.
“It’s important that I continue having fun with what I’m doing. This is a slow, steady process, and I’m enjoying it,” Jones told me prior to their first Summer League game, “Specifically, for next season, my goal is to earn an NBA roster spot and really start to make a name for myself in the NBA.”
And now, Jones can finally say he’s achieved that goal. I have no doubt that it won’t take him long to set the bar even higher though.
However, as much as I may like Carlik, he’s realistically not going to see the court much over these last 18 games. And if he’s not on the court, he’s not going to be helping the Chicago Bulls win. The worst part is, it won’t be his fault. It’s just entirely nonsensical for Chicago to waive Dragic because of a logjam in the backcourt, just to immediately turn around and sign another point guard.
The front office wants us to believe they’ve built a team that can win now, but isn’t willing to pursue upgrades in free agency or spend above the luxury tax. They also insist this team isn’t going to tank, but then waive an experienced veteran in favor of their internal G League talent. When you add this case to the litany of issues that include misconstrued injury reports, a terrible track record in trades, and the constant sermons about “continuity”, I have to admit that Arturas Karnisovas and co. are losing me here.
I’m hoping for Carlik’s sake that this move ends up being worth it in the end, but even if it does, I’ll be extremely hard-pressed to believe this was orchestrated via the merits of Chicago’s own management.