Despite a very disappointing 2022-23 campaign, the Chicago Bulls front office remained committed to their vision for this team over the offseason by sticking to their core and working toward making internal improvements. Re-signing Nikola Vucevic, Coby White, and Ayo Dosunmu was clearly the priority for Arturas Karnsiovas, and he managed to lock all three down for the extended future. He even managed to add a few new players to the rotation via free agency with Torrey Craig and Jevon Carter.
Unfortunately, Craig now finds himself on the injury report for the foreseeable future and Carter has simply... not been very good. At all. Brought aboard for his three-point shooting and defensive acumen, the sixth-year guard is averaging a putrid 5.2 points and 1.2 assists per game. He's also shot just 34.2% from beyond the arc and tallied up a -0.5 defensive box plus/minus.
After signing Carter to a three-year deal with a player option just a few months ago, I can't help but imagine the buyer's remorse the front office likely feels right now. It may be too late to revise history now, but that can't stop us from thinking about what could have been. Let's look back and examine five free agent guards who would have been a much better fit for the Bulls, all for around the same — or possibly even lower — price as the one they paid for Carter.
The Bulls would have been much better off if they had signed one of these 5 free agents rather than Jevon Carter.
5. Tre Jones
Going into the offseason, the Bulls knew they needed to address a few key weaknesses: three-point shooting, rebounding, and playmaking. Chicago accomplished the first two of these goals by adding a few shooters and then convincing Andre Drummond to accept his player option, but it seems they completely ignored their need for a player who can be a true floor general.
We've seen enough from Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Coby White to know they'll never be true point guards, even if they've displayed flashes of great passing ability in the past. The same could be said for Carter, who is more of a 3-and-D specialist in the backcourt than a true point guard. For that reason, I'm only more confused as to why the Bulls did not submit an offer sheet to restricted free agent Tre Jones.
Granted, the Spurs held the right to match Chicago's offer. But considering how San Antonio has inexplicably moved the guard to the bench — even though the team desperately needs someone to set the table for Victor Wembanyama — it appears the Spurs may not actually hold Jones in their future plans and would have been willing to let him walk. Jones averaged 15.9 points and an exceptional 8.1 assists per game last season and would have been a terrific addition to Chicago's bench at his $10 million annual price tag,
4. Eric Gordon
If the Bulls wanted to add a little instant production off the bench, perhaps they would have been better off pursuing a more proven veteran such as Eric Gordon. Serving as an invaluable asset in the extended absence of Bradley Beal, Gordon has stepped it up in Phoenix this season to average 13.5 points, 2.5 assists, and 2 rebounds per game while shooting a blistering hot 40.6% from three-point range.
Gordon has simply been much better than the three-point shooter Carter was advertised as in free agency. Despite being in the 15th year of a long and successful career, Gordon has had no problem registering just shy of 32 minutes per night for the Suns and appears ready for the long haul and potential title contention. If the Bulls had more players like Gordon lying around, then their success wouldn't entirely hinge upon whether or not DeRozan and Coby can light the box score up every single night.
3. Patrick Beverley
Unlike the other players on this list, Patrick Beverley hasn't earned praise for his statistical dominance. In fact, Beverley is only averaging 5 points and 2.1 assists in 17.4 minutes per game — career lows all across the board. I've always found Pat's comedic antics enjoyable, but even I can admit the 35-year-old veteran could certainly be doing more out there on the court to help the 76ers in their pursuit of a championship.
Still, the value of his presence in the locker room cannot be understated. It's no coincidence that LaVine began to unlock his full potential and the Bulls significantly improved to a 13-9 record after acquiring Beverley on the buyout market last season. If Chicago had a vocal leader in the locker room to support Billy Donovan's vision for this team, the Bulls' implosion earlier in the season could have been avoided entirely.
Even if Beverley is no statistical juggernaut, his -0.8 BPM is still significantly better than Carter's -4.2, and the 76ers have outscored opponents by 7.9 points per 100 possessions with him on the court as opposed to the Bulls only outscoring opponents by 0.1 points per 100 possessions with Carter on the floor.
2. Malik Beasley
Similar to the aforementioned Eric Gordon, Malik Beasley has defied all expectations and been terrific in his new role as starting shooting guard for Milwaukee. Beasley is averaging 11.8 points and 4.3 rebounds while shooting an unreal 47% from three-point range and 57.1% from the corner. Losing Jrue Holiday's defensive presence has been a significant loss to the Bucks, but the addition of Damian Lillard and Beasley's offense has been more than enough to make up for it.
Of course, it's hard to know if Beasley would be this successful if not for Lillard and Giannis Antetokounmpo drawing so much attention away from him on the perimeter. It's highly likely he wouldn't be able to achieve these numbers if he were instead signed by the Bulls in the summer. Still, Beasley is just 26 years old and is on a minimum contract; even if he only played 80% as well in Chicago as he currently is in Milwaukee, his contract would still be an absolute steal from a value perspective.
1. Dennis Schroder
If the Bulls could replace Jevon Carter with any player who was available within Chicago's realistic pay range during last year's free agency, I would be keen on seeing just what Dennis Schroder could do on this team. Offered the starting role with the Raptors this season, Schroder has enjoyed quite the resurgence this season. Posting averages of 14.5 points and 7 assists per game, Dennis has proven to be an overall net positive by helping the Raptors be +2.7 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court than with him on the bench.
Despite joining a new team full of players looking to increase their own individual value, Schroder has been a willing playmaker and a dependable scoring threat to look to in the clutch. He likely wouldn't get the chance to start in Chicago like he has in Toronto, but I believe the former Sixth Man of the Year could thrive once again under Donovan's guidance.
Ironically, the Bulls were rumored to have interest in Schroder on the buyout market last season, but instead opted to sign Beverley. They may get another chance to acquire the guard, however, as Schroder has expressed frustration regarding the Raptors' culture and current roster construction following the trade that sent OG Anunoby to New York and brought R.J. Barrett and Immanuel Quickley to Toronto.