2. Rui Hachimura, Los Angeles Lakers
It may not be wise to put too much stock in one postseason run, but Rui Hachimura is doing everything in his power to earn a big payday this offseason. Averaging 18 points and 5 rebounds in the first two games against the Grizzlies, Hachimura played an enormous role in giving the Lakers the series lead they needed to prevail over Memphis.
Owing $94 million to LeBron James and Anthony Davis alone next season, the Lakers are expected to prioritize re-signing D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves, meaning Hachimura is a likely cap casualty. For the same reason the Bulls should be looking at Reed, Rui is well worth testing the waters with in free agency — this team desperately needs a power forward.
Not only do they need shooters, but the Bulls could also use a boost to their defensive personnel.
1. Josh Hart, New York Knicks
Speaking of increasing stocks, perhaps no player has done as much to boost their perceived value following the All-Star Break as much as Josh Hart. Just a middling 30-27 in games without Hart on the roster this year, the Knicks have looked exponentially better with Hart on the roster, posting a record of 17-8 in those games.
Averaging 11.6 points and 7.8 rebounds per game while shooting 45.5% from deep and playing the best defense on an already tough Knicks squad, Hart proved to be the top-tier role player that championship contenders rely upon. Much like Lonzo Ball on the Bulls, these players are simply irreplaceable and help everyone achieve their full potential. Hart ultimately played a decisive role in their five-game victory over Cleveland, and has the potential to propel them to an Eastern Conference Finals.
Hart has seemed to embrace his role with the Knicks and the culture of New York, so I must admit it would likely be difficult prying him away. Still, he’s likely to decline his $12.9 million player option, and from there, it’s anyone’s game. Hart would bring an intensity that this Bulls team sorely lacks, so if he becomes available, I think they’d have to at least try to recruit the two-way talent.