The Bulls are in an interesting position moving forward. They just hired Billy Donovan as their new head coach, as well as Arturas Karnisovas to be the team’s executive vice president of basketball operations.
With new leadership and a nucleus of intriguing young talent, Chicago could soon be competitive if all goes well. The franchise could also fall further into a rebuild if they don’t make the right player development and roster decisions, so this will be a pivotal next year or two.
The team is in desperate need of on-court leadership, playmaking, and frontcourt depth. Here are five players Chicago can realistically acquire this offseason, both via free agency and trade, to help them rise the ranks of the Eastern Conference.
For the players who would need to be traded for, the Bulls can offer a combination of Lauri Markkanen (should they want to trade him), Otto Porter Jr., Thaddeus Young, Cristiano Felicio, Tomas Satoransky, Kris Dunn, Denzel Valentine, Ryan Arcidiacono, Chandler Hutchison, Luke Kornet, Shaquille Harrison and Daniel Gafford, as well as the 2020 No.4 overall pick and future first and second-round picks if needed.
5. Eric Bledsoe (Trade)
Donovan enjoyed unexpected success in Oklahoma City this season and often ran a three-guard lineup, so he’ll likely want to acquire at least one proven point guard for the Bulls, a team void of one. Bledsoe is a reasonably-priced and defensive-minded point guard who can both solidly make plays and score, and if Milwaukee wants to move in a different direction and clear up some cap space, Bledsoe would likely be one of the first players to go.
The 30-year-old Bledsoe is owed about $43 million over the next three seasons. He most likely won’t play to the level of his contract by the final year, but the Bulls don’t have anyone making significant money besides Porter Jr., whose contract expires after next season.
It’s unclear what the Bucks would want in return for Bledsoe, but Dunn, a still relatively-young player with potential, and some other pieces could make it work, especially if the Bucks need to get cap relief. Bledsoe would steady the Bulls on offense and dramatically help their perimeter defense, so he should get strong consideration.
4. Marc Gasol (Free Agency)
Gasol doesn’t look like he has many years left in the league, but neither did his brother Pau before he went to Chicago a few years ago. Gasol may want to chase rings at this point in his career, yet the Bulls could offer him more money than most and greatly value his veteran leadership and savvy.
Gasol would also likely get decent playing time alongside the developing Wendell Carter Jr. and Markkanen, both young players in need of guidance by a former All-Star big man. Gasol would also give the Bulls a safety net at the center spot. He’s someone who can pass, defend, and spread the floor, all skills that can help give a team a boost off the bench.
3. Dennis Schroder (Trade)
Schroder is on an expiring $15.5 million contract for next year, and if the Thunder want to truly rebuild, he’ll likely be highly-desired on the trade market. The Bulls can offer more than most for the 27-year-old point guard, including future picks, Dunn, Valentine, and other players with potential.
The Bulls should only trade for Schroder if they see him as their point guard of the future. He’s a player who can both score and pass, penetrates well, and is improving his jumper. Schroder has strong intangibles and 46 playoff games under his belt, making him more trustworthy to run a team’s offense than most.
Chicago probably wouldn’t want to get into a bidding war with another team willing to sacrifice its future to win-now with Schroder, but if the asking price isn’t too high and the team is willing to extend him, Schroder could be a foundational piece for a Bulls team with other young players who have greater potential.
2. Ricky Rubio (Trade)
Rubio had a fantastic season for the Suns in 2019-2020. His jumper was more consistent and his playmaking was as strong as ever while remaining a sneakily-good defender. Phoenix may want to keep most of their roster that went 8-0 in the bubble around, but they could also consider trading Rubio since his market value probably won’t ever be this high again.
He’ll make nearly $35 million over the next two seasons, which makes Rubio a good value acquisition at the point guard position. He’d greatly help Chicago’s offense run more smoothly, both generating open looks for their scorers and running pick-and-rolls effectively. He may not have obvious leadership qualities or much playoff experience, yet Rubio could dramatically accelerate the development of the Bulls’ young players by generating opportunities for them to shine.
1. Jrue Holiday (Trade)
With the Pelicans looking more and more like a team in need of restructuring, which includes hiring a new coach, Holiday could be moved this offseason both for his short-term benefit and the team’s long-term vision. He’s one of the best defenders in the league and in the latter stages of his prime, so teams all around the league will surely be trying to acquire him.
The Bulls should consider trading young assets and picks for Holiday. He’s a fantastic leader and consistent on-court performer on both ends. You can argue he’s not a true point guard, but his playmaking skills have been strong throughout his career.
Holiday would fill in numerous holes for Chicago while helping keep the team’s younger players focused on the main goal. Especially considering the 2020 draft is weaker than in previous years, parting with the No.4 pick for a proven veteran on a solid $16 million contract should be strongly considered.