Bulls

Bulls Will Need Experienced Vets to Teach New Blood

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When a rookie enters the league, they are generally paired with a veteran player that can help them learn the nuances of the game and how to be a professional. The problem is, the Chicago Bulls are sorely lacking in veteran leadership, with Otto Porter Jr. and Zach LaVine being the most experienced players on the roster.

 

The 2019 NBA Draft is over and the Bulls have drafted UNC product Coby White with their 1st round pick. The organization is now expecting him to be their point guard of the future. Then with their 2nd round pick, they added a potential rotation forward in Daniel Gafford. Both players are coachable, have a strong work ethic, and should make fine additions to the team. However, for White and Gafford to effectively learn how to play on the NBA level, the Bulls must add some veteran players to the roster to help offset the rookie learning curve and create a smooth transition for the teams’ newest arrivals.

With only four days remaining until the start of NBA Free Agency, let’s take a look at some quality veterans that might be available for this team in unrestricted free agency. The Bulls hope to fill these positions with players who will make an ideal fit for this squad… and as Jim Boylen says, “have a Soul and a Spirit”.

AVANT “GUARD”

Patrick Beverley

Chicago native Patrick Beverley is a seven-year NBA veteran, most recently with the Los Angeles Clippers. On offense, he’s an undersized, two-way Swiss-army knife who’s not particularly great at any one thing but is good enough to keep a defense honest. He plays well off ball-dominant players and doesn’t need to have the ball in his hands to be effective. Last season, Beverley only scored 7.6 PPG, but added 5 RPG & 3.8 APG and shot nearly 40% from the arc. On defense is where he really excels as a a lock down defender and all-around defensive pest. He willingly accepts the challenge of guarding the other team’s best perimeter player every night. So if the price is right and the Bulls ultimately decide to move on from Kris Dunn, he would make a near-perfect addition to this team.

Beverley would the provide veteran leadership this team is lacking by pushing White and his teammates in practice and helping them improve their half court game on both ends of the court.

Ricky Rubio

Ricky Rubio is coming off a two-year stint with the Utah Jazz, after six seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves. “Tricky Ricky” is an excellent veteran guard who excels at both passing and defense, where he has averaged 7.7 APG and 1.9 SPG for his career. He also provides some of the same transition offense and court vision that the Bulls saw in White. The flip side is that he’s a below average shooter, especially from behind the arc (33%). Although he averaged nearly 13 PPG over his last two seasons, his sub 40 FG% is atrocious and makes him even more of a scoring liability than Dunn.

He could possibly help Coby White improve his half-court decision making, passing and defense. If the team can live with the poor shooting splits, Rubio can still be a solid floor general and temporary starter until the rookie is ready to take over.

Elfrid Payton

One free agent name not often discussed is Elfrid Payton. The 6’4 guard was drafted 10th overall in 2014 and is only 25 years old. Last season, Payton did not return from a hand injury until the beginning of the calendar year, but when he came back he made an immediate impact with the New Orleans Pelicans. He had six triple-doubles, including five straight from March 10-18, and was a stat sheet stuffer when he regularly played. Payton finished the season with an impressive stat line of 10.6 PPG, 7.6 APG, 5.2 RPG and 1.0 SPG, while averaging just under 30 minutes per game. His performance against the Bucks, and their league-best defense, was quite impressive.

Now entering his 6th season, Payton’s all-around game has improved enough to where he could become a more consistent floor leader for a young rebuilding team like the Bulls, who may be willing to reach for his ceiling.

“FORWARD” THINKING

Taj Gibson

Chicago Bulls fans are all familiar with Taj Gibson from his first stint with the Bulls. The “hard hat and lunch pale”, blue collar power forward was a beloved player with the team during their successful run earlier this decade. He recently played the last two seasons for the Timberwolves, where he averaged 11.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG and had the best eFG% of his entire career. Taj is a glue guy and a veteran presence, who can be an example for the younger players. With his positive attitude and workmanlike demeanor, Taj will set a tone in the locker room that the team can respect and Boylen will love.

At 34 years old and now on the back nine of his career, Gibson’s second stint with the Bulls would be welcome as a perfect rotation piece and mentor for rookie PF Daniel Gafford.

Dewayne Dedmon

Dewayne Dedmon is a seven foot journeyman center, who played the last couple of seasons for the Atlanta Hawks. Unless he re-signs with the Hawks, he’ll be looking to join his sixth team in seven seasons. His last two years were the best in his career so far, even though he lost his starting job to young center, Alex Len. From 2017-19, Dedmon averaged 10.4 PPG, 7.7 RPG, and shot just over 50% from the field in only 25 minutes per game. Offensively, he’s a player that can score on all three levels, shooting nearly 37% from arc and and 80% from the strip. His defense last season was also vastly improved, as he averaged 1.1 SPG and 1.1 BPG.

Dedmon is a strong two-way big that could be a perfect complementary backup center to Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen, allowing them both to play more at the power forward.

Thaddeus Young

The Bulls know Thaddeus Young well. He is a 6’8″ skilled veteran forward, who played his last three seasons with the Central division rival, Indiana Pacers. In that time, Young has averaged just shy of 12 PPG, with 6.3 RPG and 1.6 SPG. He’s an athletic, two-way stretch four that can also move to the three and be a solid threat from the arc. With a likely departure from Indiana this offseason, Young may be looking to sign on with a contending team that can maximize his ability to win a championship after 13 seasons in the league. However, he would fit well when Lauri moves to the five and the Bulls play small.

As the captain of the Pacers last season, Thaddeus Young could bring his veteran leadership to a young team in need of his experience while providing an athletic skill set in a sixth man role. 

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About Ben Rodriguez

NBA league analyst and Chicago Bulls basketball writer. A true Bulls fan since the Jordan era and long after.

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