Bulls Eyeing Veteran 'Toughness' In Free Agency

The Bulls will likely pursue a veteran point guard this July.

Cody Westerlund
April 11, 2019 - 5:41 pm

CHICAGO (670 The Score) – After watching one of the three youngest rosters in the NBA absorb an array of adversity this season, executive vice president of basketball operations John Paxson has already highlighted a trait the Bulls need to add in free agency this July.

"What I will tell you and I know for sure, we need some physical and mental toughness from some vets to help our guys out," Paxson said. "And that will be a priority."

The Bulls project to have roughly $20 million to spend in free agency, a number subject to slight adjustment based on the draft slot they land and the decisions they make regarding qualifying offers for their own free agents. They have nine players on guaranteed contracts for 2019-’20 and own two draft picks, while reserve guard Shaq Harrison is on a non-guaranteed deal. So the Bulls figure to add at least two players in free agency.

Related: Bulls eyeing a contract extension for Jim Boylen

After an underwhelming season from Kris Dunn, adding a point guard is a priority. If the Bulls don’t do that in the draft on June 20, it will be a must in free agency. Patrick Beverley of the Clippers, Darren Collison of the Pacers and Ricky Rubio of the Jazz are three point guards who fit in the price range the Bulls are looking at. Tomas Satoransky of the Wizards is a combo guard who’s set to be a restricted free agent and could be another player to keep an eye on.

"We have to get better at that position, there's absolutely no question in my mind," Paxson said.

"I do see our starting lineup with three legitimate 3-point shooters in Zach (LaVine), Lauri (Markkanen) and Otto (Porter). A point guard who can get those guys opportunities will be a priority. Kris is going to have opportunity because he's under contract, but we understand as an organization that's a position that if we're to make a step in the right direction that we're going to have to address. No beating around the bush on that one."

The Bulls could be seeking another big man as well, especially if respected veteran center Robin Lopez departs in free agency. The Bulls would warmly welcome Lopez back if the price was right, but many around the league expect him to seek a situation where he can receive more playing time. He was rookie center Wendell Carter Jr.’s backup before Carter was sidelined by a season-ending thumb injury in January.

The Bulls will be doing their recruiting after a trying 22-60 season that featured a coaching change, a near-boycott of a practice that drew national notoriety and stalled or uneven growth from several youngsters due in large part to injury.

The Bulls have failed to land top-tier free agents for more than a decade, but that's not the type of pursuit they'll embark on this summer. They want to add a starting-caliber point guard and depth to take the next step, then think bigger from there.

"You always have an opportunity to change that," Paxson said of the perception that free agents don’t want to join the Bulls. "My feeling is that the relationships that are really important are with the player and subsequently with their agent. If you have good relationships with the agent, then you’re going to be able to get people into your door in terms of recruiting them or whatever that may be. I personally cannot listen or pay attention to the outside noise and those things are said. Some of it’s true, some of it’s not.

"I do think that when you establish yourself, as we’re trying to do right now as a relevant team again and as we get better positioning ourselves to have money when guys come up in the future, I think this will be a destination place. I do. But we have to get better. That’s the thing. We have to get to a point where we are playing for important things, but again, our young guys have to develop into the type of players that other guys would want to play with. I think we have a couple guys right now on the roster, and I think we’ll have more in the future."

Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for 670TheScore.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.