Without much financial flexibility or trade assets to make a big splash at the draft or in free agency, the Chicago Bulls have been very limited in the moves they’ve been able to make thus far this summer. That being said, it seems they’ve still managed to improve at the margins by re-signing the core players from last year and adding quality contributors to the bench.
Perhaps the most surprising move the front office has made this offseason was signing Torrey Craig to what appears to be a two-year veteran minimum deal. While most assumed Craig would opt to return to the Phoenix Suns, or possibly link up with a championship contender like the Golden State Warriors, his decision to sign with Chicago could dramatically alter the Bulls’ goals for next season.
Fellow Bulls fan and writer for The Sporting News, Stephen Noh, did a great job of encapsulating why we should be excited about this signing in just one minute and outlined what Craig brings to this team.
But if you have more than a minute on your hands, let’s examine three key areas the Bulls have improved in by adding Craig, and why it just might potentially lead to starting minutes for the forward next season.
1. The Bulls’ All-Stars will need the spacing Torrey Craig can provide
For a Bulls team that has ranked dead last in three-point makes per game for two consecutive seasons, it’s been a relief to see the front office directly address this issue in free agency. The Bulls managed to successfully retain two capable shooters in Coby White and Nikola Vucevic, before making two quality pickups in Craig and Jevon Carter. Craig in particular is interesting, as his 39.5% three-point shooting (and 44% from the corner) alongside Kevin Durant and Devin Booker last season may make him an ideal candidate to slot in alongside Chicago’s own All-Star duo.
This doesn’t mean he would be a direct improvement over Williams in the starting lineup — in fact, you could argue that he is a better shooter in a vacuum — but it does mean the Bulls can better balance their rotation by moving Pat to a bench that severely lacked any shooting outside of White, while maintaining the spacing necessary for Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan to go to work.
2. Torrey Craig’s prolific defense will become an invaluable asset
There remains very little doubt left surrounding Craig’s ability as a do-it-all defender, as his peers have sung his praises and the stats support their claims. Even one of Chicago’s own is fond of Torrey’s defensive grit. “I give him top two players in the league that defends me the best,” DeRozan said on J.J. Redick’s podcast ‘The Old Man & The Three‘. He continued on to pour on the praise for Craig, bringing up his unforgettable game-winning shot against Craig and the Pacers on New Year’s Eve in 2021.
"“In my mind, I’m like, ‘I’m not gonna make it to the rim with how tired I am if I try to shoot a fadeaway off two feet. And the way he was contesting me all night, he was gonna block it. So in my mind, I crossed, and I know he’s not gonna expect me to shoot off one leg. And I went off one leg just to be able to get the shot off because if I shot a fadeaway off two feet, he would have blocked it. No question he would have blocked it.”"
As fate would have it, Craig would not go on to block the shot, as DeRozan provided Bulls fans with one of the biggest shots made in the last decade of Chicago basketball. Now, we get the privilege of watching the pair play together.
3. Patrick Williams can shine as a first option off the bench
Through three seasons of his NBA career, Patrick Williams has displayed plenty to be optimistic over. His last season was his most successful yet, as the 6-foot-7 forward contributed 10.2 points and 4 rebounds per game while shooting a blistering 41.5% from deep on the highest volume of his career.
And yet, the one constant criticism Williams has received throughout his short career is a relative lack of assertiveness on the offensive side of things. By turning things over to Williams and Coby, we may see both of these young players unlock their full potential and grow into true difference-makers. Much like we saw with Mikal Bridges last season once he was traded from Phoenix to Brooklyn, Williams should look to emulate a similar offensive progression.
Regardless of who gets the starting power forward job, I imagine one of either Craig or Williams will join Alex Caruso as the first players off the bench. Perhaps more than anything else, this newfound luxury of being able to stagger the minutes of DeRozan and LaVine will help make the Bulls a much more balanced team. For this reason, I believe Chicago is a team to watch when it comes to outperforming expectations next season.