By declining his player option for the 2023-24 season, Derrick Jones Jr. added an extra obstacle for the Chicago Bulls front office to overcome this offseason. As one of the team’s most dependable bench players last season, it would be no easy task replacing his production on the depth chart.
This decision came as a direct contradiction to his previous statements, as DJJ told K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago back in June.
"“Like I told Coach (Billy Donovan) and everybody else, I’m locked in for two years. I didn’t sign for two years for no reason. So I’m here for two years… I just gotta sit down with my agent and talk to him, figure things out. But I don’t see why not. I got no other plans, yet.”"
Jones Jr. was one of the Bulls’ best defensive players in the second unit last season, and was an elite rim-runner and lob threat. If the Bulls had better playmakers on the team (like Lonzo Ball), it’s possible they could have helped unlock DJJ’s full potential. Instead, he departs to join Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks via free agency.
Shams Charania of The Athletic broke the story on Wednesday.
3 Bulls players who stand to benefit by Derrick Jones Jr. leaving in free agency.
3. Torrey Craig
All things considered, Torrey Craig‘s role was probably safe with the Bulls no matter what this season. With offers rumored to be on the table from contending teams such as Golden State and Sacramento, I doubt Craig would have joined up with the Bulls unless he was sure he’d be given ample opportunity to play and extend his career.
That being said, with Jones Jr. gone, Craig is now undoubtedly the best reserve forward and will be the first off the bench for Chicago next season. Craig can log minutes at power forward if the Bulls play small, but he’d also be DeMar DeRozan’s backup at small forward if Chicago adds a little size at power forward in free agency.
Not having a young and hungry player like DJJ breathing down his neck for minutes will just be an added benefit for Craig this season. The Bulls need him locked in as a three-point sharpshooter and defensive wing, not worried about where his next contract is coming from, so this could be a small silver lining in DJJ’s decision to leave.