Bulls disappoint by whiffing on 2023’s final big free agent

Billy Donovan, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Billy Donovan, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

With over half of last year’s roster set to hit free agency and several glaring holes to address, most fans expected the Chicago Bulls to make a wide array of changes in preparation for the 2023-24 season. That was not the case, however, as the front office prioritized bringing back Nikola Vucevic, Coby White, and Ayo Dosunmu on long-term deals and used their remaining cash sparingly — likely in a Jerry Reinsdorf mandated effort to remain beneath the luxury tax threshold.

As for the free agents Chicago did sign, namely Jevon Carter and Torrey Craig, I’m quite pleased with the additions. Each of these players fill a specific area of need for the Bulls and came on quite team-friendly deals. That being said, the pair clearly aren’t world-beaters and are still far from enough to make the Bulls contenders once again.

That’s why I held out hope for Chicago to pursue one of the last remaining top-tier free agents before the conclusion of the offseason. Among these remaining players after free agency’s first big wave of signings, Christian Wood, P.J. Washington, and Kelly Oubre were the best of the bunch. First, the Lakers signed Wood. Then the Hornets swooped on Washington. And now, the Bulls miss out now that the last domino has fallen with Oubre.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports that Oubre is joining forces with the 76ers. If James Harden is truly determined to force his way out of Philadelphia, Oubre could help fill the void with his shot-making ability.

Now that Kelly Oubre is off the board, the Bulls close out a failure of an offseason by making no radical changes.

Considering the Bulls ranked out as the NBA’s worst three-point shooting team and 7th-worst worse offense last season, they could have certainly used the services of a player like Oubre. Averaging a career-high 20.3 points per game last season, Oubre has only gotten better as his career has progressed.

He would have been a welcome addition to a Bulls bench that is severely lacking in offensive creators. This will only become even more apparent if Coby White receives a bump up into the starting lineup. As valuable as players like Alex Caruso, Torrey Craig, and Andre Drummond are coming off the bench, it’ll become obvious as time goes on that Chicago’s All-Star trio is being forced to do all the heavy-lifting.

Even if the Bulls manage to sneak into the playoffs next season, this simple fact won’t be lost on opposing teams. It will only become easier and easier to neutralize Chicago’s only three reliable offensive weapons if their teammates can’t be trusted to hit open shots and create mismatches.

Oubre is far from a perfect player, so I’m not too distraught over missing out on him in a vacuum, but the fact that a Chicago Bulls team who posted a losing record just last season failed to add a single true difference-maker this summer is a truth that’s hard for me to stomach.

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