NBA Rumors: Bulls frontrunners to steal Lakers’ prime free agent target

Zach LaVine, LeBron James, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Zach LaVine, LeBron James, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

After bringing back three members of last year’s roster in Andre Drummond, Coby White, and Nikola Vucevic, signing experienced veterans in Torrey Craig and Jevon Carter, and even pulling off a trade to land Julian Phillips at 35th overall in the 2023 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls have certainly kept themselves busy this summer.

But what if they weren’t done making moves just yet?

With a clear hole in the forward rotation, the Bulls will have to address their weak depth before starting off on what looks to be a season that could entirely change the trajectory of this franchise for years to come. So if Chicago truly intends to contend this season, scouring the free agent for a premium forward needs to be at the top of the to-do list.

Perhaps no player is better suited to fulfilling that role than former Dallas Maverick forward Christian Wood. That is, at least, if Dan Woike of the LA Times is to be believed. Although Wood was originally heavily favored to join up with the Lakers on a cheap prove-it deal, Woike reports that Chicago has emerged as a potential suitor for the talented big man.

"“According to sources familiar with the team’s free-agent pursuits but not authorized to speak publicly, the Chicago Bulls are suddenly viewed as a potential threat that could keep the Lakers from landing Wood. The reason? Chicago recently got a $10.2-million player exception because of Lonzo Ball’s knee injury that’s expected to keep him off the court next season. The Bulls can use some or all of that money to acquire a player via trade or sign a player to a one-year free-agent deal.”"

The DPE acquired due to Lonzo Ball’s injury makes the Chicago Bulls serious contenders to sign Christian Wood.

If the Bulls were to sign Wood, he’d almost certainly come off the bench, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him challenge for the starting power forward role — whether that means Patrick Williams moves up to small forward, or is supplanted entirely. Woike also mentions the Heat as a team that’s registered interest in Wood, particularly if they pull off a trade for Damian Lillard and push their chips all in.

Wood has averaged 18.1 points and 8.9 rebounds per game over the last three seasons, becoming an absolute force on the offensive end and forcing teams to gameplan accordingly. Outside of Coby White, the Bulls do not have a single bucket-getter on the bench, so adding Wood could help reinvigorate this team’s offense.

It’s certainly debatable whether or not Wood would be a perfect fit for the Bulls — I, for one, will remain firmly entrenched in the P.J. Washington bandwagon until he eventually signs a deal — but for the right price, this is a move that would be hard to hate. After all, there’s a reason so many contenders appear to be interested in signing the 7-year veteran to a team-friendly deal.

Fortunately, the Bulls are among the very few teams that can offer a rate higher than the veteran minimum, and Wood will certainly be looking to secure more than that paltry payday. However, it should be noted that this move would require the Bulls to dip into the luxury tax to pull it off, and we’ve seen no indication from Jerry Reinsdorf thus far that he’ll approve big spending from this front office.

Taking all that into consideration, this report could be a preview of a big swing for the fences signing from Chicago, or it could simply be Wood using the Bulls as leverage to sign with the team he really wants to play for. For now, we’ll just have to see how this one plays out.

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