The Bulls entered this offseason with qualifying offer decisions to make on Kris Dunn ($7.1 million), Denzel Valentine ($4.7 million) and Shaquille Harrison ($2 million). They’ve made a decision on two of these players, and it could be hinting at what happens to the third:
The Bulls plan to not issue a qualifying offer to Kris Dunn, per sources. The Clippers are among several teams expected to show interest in the soon-to-be-free-agent guard.— K.C. Johnson (@KCJHoop) November 16, 2020
Can also confirm Bulls will extend qualifying offer to Denzel Valentine, which @DarnellMayberry had 1st.
Dunn bombed out as a Bulls point guard of the future candidate after coming over in the Jimmy Butler trade, but he developed into an elite defender in Jim Boylen’s aggressive system last season. In fact, he was one of the most impactful defenders in the entire NBA (he just missed out on an All-Defensive spot), albeit in 24.9 minutes per game and in just 51 games due to yet another injury.
I thought Dunn’s jump defensively may at least result in him getting the qualifying offer and potentially becoming a trade candidate down the line (he would have had veto power if he played on the QO). However, perhaps the jump from $4.6 million to $7.1 million was just too much (though cap space isn’t currently an issue), or maybe the Bulls just had no interest regardless of the price.
As good as Dunn became defensively last season, he’s still mostly awful offensively and a player teams just don’t care about on the perimeter:
Am I surprised that Kris Dunn wasn't extended a qualifying offer and left to be an UFA?— Mark (@mkhoops) November 16, 2020
Not when opposing defense's completely disregard him on offense like this example, something which occurred frequently. pic.twitter.com/Grh3X0Smet
Dunn did improve his finishing last season, but that doesn’t mean all that much when you can’t shoot from the outside and rarely get to the free-throw line. The 26-year-old isn’t all that special as a playmaker either.
Toss in the injury history, and clearly the Bulls decided it just wasn’t worth it to give out the qualifying offer. Arturas Karnisovas seems to value smart, versatile offensive players, and Dunn definitely isn’t that. Plus, maybe this helps Dunn get a better deal for himself as an unrestricted free agent.
If they want, the Bulls can simply bring back Harrison for cheaper to offer a lot of what Dunn brings to the table anyway. Harrison is also a defensive pest with a limited offensive game, so choosing him over Dunn wouldn’t necessarily be a bad choice, though there’s no guarantee Shaq is back.
[UPDATE: a couple hours later, and reports are out will NOT be a Qualifying Offer extended to Shaq Harrison -yfbb]
The bigger surprise is extending a qualifying offer to Valentine, who absolutely should take it after a disappointing start to his career in the NBA. Valentine just turned 27 on Monday and has made little impact in the NBA, outside of a decent 2017-18 season for a terrible Bulls team.
Valentine came into the NBA with medical red flags and has undergone numerous lower-body surgeries. He missed the entire 2018-19 season due to ankle surgery. He then spent most of the 2019-20 season in Boylen’s doghouse.
But, going back to AK valuing that offensive versatility, perhaps he thinks Valentine can be a useful player off the bench as a shooter and secondary playmaker. We did see it at times in that 2017-18 season (38.6% from 3 and 4.2 assists per 36 minutes), but there has been little consistency and he often plays as if he’s much better than he is.
I personally would have moved on and used the roster spot elsewhere. Perhaps that will still be the case.
Looking ahead, there’s now more speculation about the Bulls using the draft to get a playmaker, though that should have been the case regardless of Dunn’s status. There’s also some smoke out there about the Bulls looking to trade for a veteran option at point guard (Chris Paul is now out, but maybe Ricky Rubio? Russell Westbrook? Jrue Holiday? Mike Conley?), with both ESPN’s Jonathan Givony and The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor bringing it up. SI’s Jeremy Woo also floated the possibility of Zach LaVine being on the trade market, and O’Connor recently reported the Mavericks had asked about him.
We’ll see what this new front office has in store.