Bulls Rumors: Latest Buzz Before 2020 NBA Draft Lottery

Blake SchusterAnalyst IIAugust 20, 2020

Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson gestures during the first half of his team's NBA basketball game against the Chicago Bulls, Saturday, April 8, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

The Chicago Bulls took months to fire head coach Jim Boylen after Arturas Karnisovas was named executive vice president of basketball operations in April. It doesn't seem like they'll need as much time to hire his replacement. 

An unofficial shortlist of candidates including Wes Unseld Jr., Adrian Griffin, Kenny Atkinson, Ime Udoka and Darvin Ham began circulating shortly after Boylen's dismissal, and according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, the next leader of the Bulls is already obvious: Atkinson.

"I think the list will change, but out of the group mentioned, I think Kenny would be the favorite," one general manager told HoopsHype. "Some of it depends on Arturas' timeline, but Kenny can coach, and he can oversee player development. He will be able to compete on the court while also continuing to develop the young guys."

Karnisovas previously said he's looking for a coach who can focus on player development and communication. 

Atkinson has proved adept at both. In nearly four years with the Brooklyn Nets, the New York native helped tap into the potential of Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, D'Angelo Russell and Jarrett Allen. The Nets made the playoffs in Atkinson's third year with the club while improving from 20 wins in 2016-17 to 42 wins in 2018-19. 

That growth helped Brooklyn land marquee free agents Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant last summer and could help the Bulls do the same after years of missing out on major offseason targets. 

Denver Nuggets head coach Michael Malone told K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago that the relationship between head coach and front office is the key to the executive's philosophy:

"What you just witnessed was a prime example of who Arturas is. He's not going to rush to make any rash decisions, regardless of the outside noise and pressure for him to do so. I think he's very patient, very calculated, very organized. I think he took his time with Jim Boylen before making a very tough decision. Making that decision is not one that is easily made, especially by someone like Arturas, who is a phenomenal person, and who I feel very fortunate to call a great friend—he and his family."

The Bulls roster is loaded with young players who are still struggling to develop in the NBA. Between Coby White, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr. and Zach LaVine, there are pieces in place that will allow Chicago to succeed in the coming years.

Bringing in a coach like Atkinson may well be what's missing, which is exactly what another NBA scout told HoopsHype.

"No brainer, Kenny Atkinson," the scout told Scotto. "It's a young team. He will do for Chicago exactly what he did for Brooklyn. He'll have them overachieve, outhustle and outwork teams on a nightly basis. They will be physical, smart, and tough to guard because they will share the ball. Plus, he's a no-nonsense, direct, fair coach who relates very well to players. He'd be my pick."