The Bulls have a point guard problem. They have other problems too, but John Paxson has bizarrely offered the opinion that “at the 2, 3, 4, 5 spots, we’re really solid”.
Falling from No. 4 to No. 7 in the lottery has almost certainly diminished the Bulls’ chance at finding their next ‘point guard of the future’ via the upcoming NBA Draft. Ja Morant appears set to join the Memphis Grizzlies, with Darius Garland and Coby White having received promises from two teams ahead of the Bulls in the draft order.
There’s also the trade market as a way to get a prospect at the position. Particularly if the team’s interest in Lonzo Ball is real, that is a player turning 22 to start next season and will cost the Bulls this year’s pick and likely more.
If draft-night isn’t an option, free agency a couple weeks later certainly is. The Bulls reportedly have interest in Boston Celtics restricted free agent Terry Rozier, Milwaukee Bucks guard Malcolm Brogdon, another pending restricted free agent, also makes speculative sense.
It remains to be seen which avenue of team construction will deliver the Bulls the point guard they so desperately seek. But more important than which method is how the incoming player will fit into the existing group.
The only lens Bulls management should be applying when making the decision of who their next point guard should be is how this player will empower and expedite the growth and development of Wendell Carter Jr. and Lauri Markkanen. In electing to rebuild around two young big men, their development is more crucial than anything else.
If the new point guard is of the score-first variety with an inflated opinion of his own self while offering minimal ability to create in pick-and-roll...that doesn’t help. Put another way: don’t sign Rozier (“say no to T-Ro” is my official slogan for this campaign.)
Rozier, who may be the easiest of all the point guard options to secure through free agency, is exactly the type of player who should be avoided: An inefficient, volume shooter concerned more with his own numbers and production than those who realistically should be above him in the offensive hierarchy.
A similar logic holds true for the point guard options available in the draft. Garland and White are players who’s most tantalising traits come within their ability to score. In the limited data — and footage — available of Garland, it’s clear the guard has amazing ball skills and an ability to shoot from distance. But can he run an offense and engage his teammates? Similarly for White, another score-first guard who operates best in transition, questions remain of his ability to facilitate within a structured, half-court offense.
In time, both Garland and White may eventually prove they can create for others as well as they seemingly do for themselves. But for a team such as Chicago, who have already invested heavily in two players who operate in spaces on the floor which traditionally require a steady dose of their offense to be assisted, the don’t have time to wait for a rookie guard to learn the intricacies of running an offense.
That isn’t to say the Bulls shouldn’t draft a point guard if the opportunity presents itself. In fact, that may make most sense if Garland or White is deemed the best available prospect at No. 7. However, under no circumstance should the Bulls be heaping the bulk of the point guard responsibilities solely on inexperienced shoulders (as they did with Kris Dunn over the past two seasons.)
Despite the obvious need, reality suggests any name the Bulls opt to pencil in as their next “point guard of the future” will be an imperfect solution. To best mitigate against this, they should be adding quality depth to the position. Players of varying age, experience, and skills. This is yet another reason not to add Rozier as his career numbers suggest his nearest facsimile is Dunn.
So if they do draft a guard, don’t foolishly stop there. Bring in Patrick Beverley or Cory Joseph with a two-year deal. Adding a veteran presence in the offseason is still a priority, to ensure other developing talents don’t fall victim while their rookie point guard fumbles through an offensive set.
Better still, if a guard can be drafted and supported and mentored by this veteran, it allows the franchise not to hamper the development of their most important core pieces while allowing this hypothetical rookie enough room to progress without overwhelming pressure. It’s also a responsible cap management decision: the alternative of overpaying for restricted free agent this early in the rebuild would be negligent. (again, “say no to T-Ro.”)
That’s what is at stake here for the Bulls, to right the wrongs of previous offseasons that left Kris Dunn as the sole option at a position meant to foster the development of their most important pieces. It can easily be fixed, now let’s see them do it.