John Paxson pretty much confirmed what everybody already believed. Trading for an expensive veteran superstar is out of the question. It has never been the MO of this organization for decades now and will remain so. That’s why they never got serious about Russell Westbrook and likely won’t about any future possibilities. This is why Chicago Bulls free agent targets should be the sole focus moving forward.
This team has a clear philosophy in mind. They want to build through the draft, assemble a nice young core and then hopefully supplement it with a superstar in free agency. It’s not a bad plan when both sides of it work. The Bulls have been strong at drafting players during the Gar Forman and Paxson era. Their list of quality moves includes Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose, Taj Gibson, and Jimmy Butler.
However, it’s the other side of that equation where they’ve continued to either fail miserably, were too old, or come across weaker than they should’ve. Among the notable names include Kendall Gill, Ben Wallace, Joe Smith, Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, Kurt Thomas, Richard Hamilton, Nazr Mohammed, Marco Belinelli, Pau Gasol, Nikola Mirotic, Aaron Brooks, Mike Dunleavy, Rajon Rondo, Dwyane Wade, Justin Holiday, and Jabari Parker.
There are some big names on that list, sure. All of them were well past their primes though. It actually became a running joke how often the biggest free agents jilted them for other teams. LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony being the two most notable. This has led to the belief the team is incapable of luring a big fish to Chicago.
Chicago Bulls free agent targets list now focused on 2021
With the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes at an end, most eyes have shifted towards the next big NBA free agent class. There is no question that falls in the year 2021. Several current All-Stars and MVP-caliber talents will be set to become available. Many of whom could transform this promising Bulls roster into a contender. It’s a matter of who they might have a shot at.
Let’s run down the most notable names.
The reigning Finals MVP is on top of the basketball world, and rightfully so. A magnificent two-way superstar with ice water in his veins. He just turned 28-years old, which means he’ll be 30 by the start of the 2021 season. Not terrible. Given his durability and work ethic, he’d likely still be every bit as formidable as he is now.
Whether he’d come to Chicago? That feels unlikely. Leonard is a California native and has wanted to play in Los Angeles his entire career. Now he has his chance and though his current contract is short, the odds of him leaving there don’t feel strong. Barring something unexpected, he will stay close to the west coast from this point on. 10% chance
The Greek Freak is now league MVP, having posted a ridiculous 27 points and 12 rebounds per game for his 2018-2019 season. He’ll be 26-years old in 2021 and smack in the middle of his prime. There is no doubt he’ll be the golden goose teams try to lure. It’s also unlikely he’ll want to stay in Milwaukee given their weaker market and lack of winning tradition.
So do the Bulls have a shot? Well, that’s hard to say. Being from Greece, Antetokounmpo doesn’t have any roots with a specific city or region. The best thing to go on is he was a huge Allen Iverson fan growing up. Iverson made his name in Philadelphia with the 76ers. So that will be a team to watch. Still, this one feels like a wild card that could go anywhere. 25% chance
The six-time All-Star is one of the most dominant players of his era. An imposing center with size, length, and athleticism. He plays suffocating defense and puts up 28 points and 12 rebounds per night. Having a guy like that in the middle makes the lives of teammates so much easier. For the time being, he’s running an experiment with LeBron James in Los Angeles.
It’s possible Davis may wish to stay there and become the next Kareem or Shaq. A center fixture for the Lakers to build around. However, if he does hit the market in 2021, there are reasons to think the Bulls have hope. Davis is a Chicago-native. Not only would playing for the Bulls bring him home, but they’re also closer to his alma mater at Kentucky. 30% chance
If you were to scan the landscape of top players in that class and get asked who just feels like a Bulls free agent? Victor Oladipo would win the majority vote. That’s because he would lead the second tier of names. Guys who are really good but not quite stars. Oladipo has reached two All-Star games for Indiana, posting 18 points, 5 assists, and 5 rebounds last season.
He can score and plays good defense and is capable of putting the team on his back from time to time. Still, he isn’t one of those players that are impossible to stop. Oladipo also has some health concerns that have followed him throughout his career. These factors will make him a bit cheaper than the others and right up the Bulls’ alley. 50% chance