Bulls Rumors: Latest Buzz Surrounding Lonzo Ball, Derrick Rose, Lauri Markkanen

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistAugust 1, 2021

Bulls Rumors: Latest Buzz Surrounding Lonzo Ball, Derrick Rose, Lauri Markkanen

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    The Chicago Bulls haven't been to the playoffs since the 2016-17 season. Chicago did show signs of progress under new head coach Billy Donovan this past season, though, topping the 30-win mark for the first time since its last postseason appearance.

    Naturally, the next stage of the rebuilding process will involve strengthening the roster. That began in last Thursday's draft, where Chicago took Illinois' Ayo Dosunmu with the 38th pick—the Bulls had no first-rounder because of the Nikola Vucevic trade.

    Chicago now turns its attention to free agency, which unofficially begins Monday at 6 p.m. ET—signings cannot become official until August 6. Adding point guard help appears to be the Bulls' primary focus, and a couple of intriguing options are on the proverbial table.

    Here, we'll dig into the latest Bulls buzz on the verge of free agency.

Lonzo Ball

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    New Orleans Pelicans point guard Lonzo Ball is likely to be one of the league's hottest names on the restricted free-agent market. New Orleans extended a qualifying offer to Ball, meaning interested teams will either have to sign him to an offer sheet or negotiate a sign-and-trade.

    Chicago could try either approach, and according to Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer, Ball may hope to see that happen.

    "For the Bulls, there's believed to be mutual interest with Lonzo Ball on a four-year deal worth over $80 million. If the Pelicans do not renounce Ball, that agreement would have to come via an offer sheet, which New Orleans would have the option to match," Fischer wrote.

    Of course, the Bulls are going to have competition for Ball's services, and not just from New Orleans. Fischer mentions the Boston Celtics as another team interested in Ball, and the 23-year-old could fall out of Chicago's ideal price range.

    According to The Athletic's John Hollinger, Ball's ceiling could be in the four-year, $100 million range.

Derrick Rose

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    Ball appears to be Chicago's top target. However, the Bulls could have another point guard on their radar in the form of a familiar player.

    According to Fischer, Derrick Rose could return to the team that drafted him first overall back in 2008—whether or not Ball is in the picture.

    "Regardless of that outcome, there are strong indications from league sources that mutual interest exists between Derrick Rose and his storied hometown franchise," Fischer wrote. "... It's unclear how Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau can stand in the way of the Bulls' potential advances, and Chicago will need to shed contracts to bring on two ball-handlers at such expected salaries."

    Rose was the league MVP with Chicago in 2011, but injuries derailed his career shortly thereafter. He suffered a torn ACL in 2012 and has not returned to All-Star form since.

    However, Rose has shown in recent seasons that he can still be a quality player. He averaged 14.7 points per game this past season—with the New York Knicks and Detroit Pistons—and averaged more than 18 points over the previous two years.

    Rose can be an asset in Chicago, where he last played in 2016.

Lauri Markkanen

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    While the Bulls are looking to add fresh (or in Rose's case, familiar) talent, they may view forward Lauri Markkanen as a potential trade chip. Chicago extended a qualifying offer to the 24-year-old but may not be interested in keeping him long-term.

    According to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, Chicago and Markkanen are both open to a sign-and-trade. Per Scotto, the Bulls could have no shortage of options.

    "One team to keep an eye on in the sign-and-trade market for Markkanen is the Minnesota Timberwolves, who've been searching for an upgrade at the power forward position," Scotto wrote. "Multiple teams with cap space entering the offseason also have Markkanen on their free-agency radar, including the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, HoopsHype has learned."

    Markkanen may not factor into a sign-and-trade with Ball, as the Pelicans already have a budding star at the power forward spot in Zion Williamson. However, he could theoretically be flipped for a piece that New Orleans does want.

    Expect Markkanen, who averaged 13.6 points and 5.3 rebounds this past season, to generate his fair share of interest.