Chicago Bulls 2024 NBA offseason preview: It's time to pick a path forward

2023-24 season: 39-43

Highlight of the season: After a disastrous start while having to navigate trade rumors involving former All-Star Zach LaVine, the Bulls came together to make a play-in run off the back of the breakout play of Coby White.

Despite overcoming multiple injuries — including a season-ending foot injury to the aforementioned LaVine — and seeing real growth from White and third-year guard Ayo Dosunmu, the Bulls once again failed to reach the playoffs, losing their second play-in game and going on vacation early.

During the regular season, former All-Star center Nikola Vučević, for whom the Bulls paid a steep price at the 2021 trade deadline, struggled mightily from 3-point territory, underlining a major spacing need for a team that was one of the worst in the league in that department. The 33-year-old knocked down just 29.4% of his outside shots and failed to make up for his lack of efficiency in different avenues.

That left White and DeMar DeRozan as the two main offensive hubs for most of the year, which was never a recipe for sustained offensive success. Despite an obvious need for change, Chicago remained a slow-paced team (28th in the league in pace) and insisted on sitting quietly at the trade deadline while teams were willing to pay handsomely for defensive ace Alex Caruso.

The Bulls’ decision to keep Caruso was extra odd considering how they couldn’t seem to drum up any type of interest in LaVine on the trade market, leaving them in dire need of acquiring assets for the future. Instead, Caruso’s trade value is likely to decline, as teams will only get him for a year.

Their inaction led to much criticism from fans and media, particularly as the Bulls are repeating a pattern of passiveness that has defined their last few seasons.

While Bulls management, led by Arturas Karnišovas, did acknowledge a need for change in a news conference after the season concluded, it remains to be seen whether the organization will actually follow through. As far as the fan base is concerned, the franchise is going into an enormous summer in regard to picking a direction and mapping out a plan.

Chicago Bulls guard Coby White (0) drives on Detroit Pistons guard Jared Rhoden (8) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Detroit, Thursday, April 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)Chicago Bulls guard Coby White (0) drives on Detroit Pistons guard Jared Rhoden (8) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Detroit, Thursday, April 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Coby White was a pleasant surprise for the Bulls this season. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

A legitimate playmaker. Neither White nor Dosunmu are elite playmakers, and the Bulls are in dire need of someone who can take full control of the offense, dictate and initiate actions, and make life easier for teammates. Unfortunately for the Bulls, that type of player isn’t realistically attainable given their salary cap situation. Perhaps then, instead of having a specific need, one could argue that just coming out of the summer with clarity — and an organizational direction — will do.

If the Bulls stay in the mid-to-late lottery, they could pick up the best available prospect between G League Ignite forwards Ron Holland and Matas Buzelis and wings Cody Williams from Colorado and French 6-foot-9 shooter Tidjane Salaun. White had a breakout year and the Bulls are hoping for the return of Lonzo Ball next season, which could solidify an established backcourt. — Krysten Peek

Projected draft picks (pre-lottery): No. 11

The Bulls won’t have much money to spend. They allegedly offered DeRozan a two-year contract worth $80 million to stay and are still on the hook for LaVine’s max contract and the $41 million left on Vučević’s deal. Furthermore, Patrick Williams is in need of a new contract.

However, given that the Bulls are predictable, they’ll likely do as they do every other season: Act as an over-the-cap team, but stay just under the luxury tax line to save themselves a quick buck.

Key free agents

DeMar DeRozan (UFA)

Patrick Williams (RFA)

Andre Drummond (UFA)

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Try something else. This team rarely makes large changes, but if this summer proves to be an exception, it won’t be enough to just move a few pieces around and then end up with, say, Brandon Ingram. It’s either a total teardown or it’s star shopping. Anything else would be a lateral move. And frankly, that’s been tried.

Should the Bulls decide to re-sign DeRozan, there will be significant fantasy fallout. Bringing DeRozan back signals LaVine will likely be traded because the Bulls can’t afford to keep both players. With LaVine still on the books for three years and $138M, the Bulls could opt to keep LaVine over DeRozan, but the results with LaVine this season were not promising. White is in a great position to replicate his numbers if either situation occurs. Keep an eye on Dosunmu and Caruso, as they’ll likely take on more prominent roles. — Dan Titus

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