Projecting Landing Spots for Bulls' Top Free Agents

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistApril 14, 2022

Projecting Landing Spots for Bulls' Top Free Agents

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    The Chicago Bulls spent the past two years attempting to build an NBA contender around All-Star guard Zach LaVine.

    The most pressing question in the Windy City this summer is whether he'll stick around to lead it.

    Unrestricted free agency awaits the 27-year-old, who ranks favorably among the most coveted players on the market. Even with cap space at a premium, he should have options outside of Chicago.

    Will he stay, or will he go? We're here to tackle that question for him and the Bulls' other top free agents.

Troy Brown Jr.

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    The Wizards spent the 15th overall pick of the 2018 draft on Troy Brown Jr., then traded him less than three seasons later as part of a three-team exchange that netted them promising big man Daniel Gafford.

    The Bulls, who could really use Gafford's athletic presence on the interior, were on the other end of that deal and have spent the past year-plus trying to tap into Brown's skill set. They haven't had a ton of success.

    He logged just 16 minutes a night this season and never made a loud argument for more action. His three-point shooting perked up a tiny bit (35.3 percent), but his field-goal percentage backtracked (41.9). The stat sheet shows no discernible top-shelf areas in his game.

    At 22 years old, he's still young enough for someone to want to take on his developmental project, but it should be a team on a different timeline than Chicago.

    Prediction: Brown signs with the Houston Rockets.

Derrick Jones Jr.

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    Derrick Jones Jr. ranks among the Association's most explosive athletes, and he's finding more ways to use his length and bounce for good on the defensive end.

    The question, though, is how much the 25-year-old can grow his offensive game going forward.

    His 5.6 points per game were his fewest in five seasons, though, so were his 17.6 minutes. His 53.8 field-goal percentage was the second-highest of his career (and best as a regular rotation player), while his 32.8 three-point percentage marked a new personal-best.

    If he can just get to the point of being someone defenses need to account for on the perimeter, he could make a fairly sizable impact given what he brings as a versatile defender and above-the-rim finisher. Provided his next contract is reasonable—there aren't many teams with major money to spend—Chicago should keep him around to see where this goes.

    Prediction: Jones re-signs with the Bulls.

Zach LaVine

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    Nearly all previous criticisms of LaVine have been erased.

    He wasn't always the most efficient player around; now, he just posted a 20-plus player efficiency rating for the second consecutive season, per Basketball-Reference. He was previously prone to bouts of tunnel vision; now, he's almost doubling his turnovers (2.6) with assists (4.5). His ability to impact a winning team was unclear; now, he's starring for a team that snagged the East's No. 6 seed and at one point sat atop the entire conference.

    LaVine is a certified star. He's also 27 years old, meaning he's either right in the heart of his prime or perhaps still improving. Few players can match his arsenal and impact on the offensive end.

    Chicago shouldn't get cute here. He has indirectly (but kinda directly) requested a max deal, and the Bulls should be ready to pay whatever it takes to keep him.

    Prediction: LaVine re-signs with the Bulls.