Months removed from the onset of the 2023-24 season, the Chicago Bulls aren’t done making moves just yet. Even as I type this out now, the Bulls’ final game of Summer League action is playing out before our very eyes. Watching carefully, scouting out not only our own players but the opposition as well, Chicago’s vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has a few tough decisions left to make regarding this team’s roster construction.
Fortunately, we may have just been given a small smidge of insight into the inner workings of Karnisovas’ mind. That’s because Spotrac’s Keith Smith has been down in Las Vegas doing the dirty work to a scoop on front office intel around the league. While he may have spent his time bouncing around from one team to the next, I’m pleasantly surprised at the info he was able to coax out of an anonymous member of the Bulls’ front office.
Let’s take a look at everything we learned from Smiths’ investigative journalism at the 2023 NBA Summer League, and everything it means for the Chicago Bulls moving forward.
The Bulls don’t appear to be considering a rebuild ahead of the 2023-24 season.
"“We’re aware of the criticism about running it back. But we have good players. Are we supposed to throw in the towel? We’ll be a playoff team, barring another major injury.”"
As if this summer’s signings weren’t indicative enough, it seems the Bulls truly are going to make another push for the playoffs next season. With Torrey Craig and Jevon Carter rounding out the rotation, the hope is that this team has addressed a few of its biggest weaknesses and can reasonably claw its way to a playoff series victory.
Whether or not that’s a realistic expectation, however, remains to be seen.
"“Working around Lonzo Ball’s injury makes everything a little harder. We were a good team before he went down. You build a roster designed to play a certain way, around expensive players, and it becomes very hard when you lose one of those key guys. But we’re figuring it out.”"
Smith’s source does bring up a very valid point here. Down $20 million on the payroll and without their starting point guard, the Bulls are already playing with the NBA’s biggest handicap long before the season has even begun. Speaking of injuries, it should be noted that the Bulls enjoyed a relatively very healthy season last year, and still missed the playoffs. Is expecting this team to have perfect health again while managing to improve on last year’s 40-42 record all that fair?
The point guard battle is far from decided, but it looks like Coby White is on his way back to the bench.
"“Adding Jevon Carter and re-signing Coby White were big moves for us. Jevon will bring some of the defense we lost at the lead guard spot with Lonzo (Ball) out. And he can shoot too. Coby has come a long way. We think he could win Sixth Man of the Year. He’s been that good as a bench scorer.”"
If there’s anything the Bulls’ fanbase could agree upon entering the offseason, it’s that Chicago needed to bring Coby White back on a long-term deal. Far too many prospects have left the Bulls’ development system just to achieve great success elsewhere. So when the Bulls inked White to a team-friendly three-year extension, many fans were happy to see him as a key part of Chicago’s future once again.
But what many probably did not expect, is that Coby would be making a prompt return to the bench. After improvements to both his playmaking and defensive ability as the season progressed, optimism began to spread regarding his prospects as this team’s point guard of the future. This isn’t to say he can’t win the position at some point later in the season, but for now, it looks like it just might be Carter’s job to lose.
Restricted free agent Ayo Dosunmu isn’t being hung out to dry by the Bulls’ management.
"“We’re still very high on Ayo (Dosunmu). This is how restricted free agency can go sometimes. Don’t read anything into our opinion of him as a player just because he isn’t signed.”"
Two summers ago, the Bulls held out on deciding the fate of restricted free agent Lauri Markkanen as long as possible to keep their books open and trade partners on the phone. The Bulls ended up netting a meager first-round pick and Derrick Jones Jr. for the future All-Star, but I don’t think things will play out the same with Ayo Dosunmu here.
Creeping up against the luxury tax threshold, I think it’s obvious to see that ownership doesn’t wish to pay out luxury tax fees unless absolutely necessary. This means the front office was more than willing to let Ayo sit on the backburner while they pursued other players, because his restricted status means the Bulls can match offers for the guard. With so few teams remaining with substantial cap space, I’m not sure if a suitor for Dosunmu will ever emerge.
Now, the big question on everyone’s minds is whether or not Ayo inks a long-term deal, or accepts his one-year, $5.2 million qualifying offer and does this all over again next season.