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The Bulls desire to be a ‘player development’ franchise, yet won’t use their roster or GLeague team to help

the back end of the roster has been totally ignored

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Chicago Bulls Training Camp Photo by Joe Pinchin/NBAE via Getty Images

With the preseason over (we’ll have a recap of their two games in OKC on Monday), the Bulls did some roster cleanup in advance of the regular season as both Zach Norvell and Simi Shittu were waived. With these moves, and the punting of Noah Vonleh after he contracted COVID, the 15-man (plus 2 two-way) roster is set.

If there was any kind of competition for these last few roster spots it wasn’t done on the court. Despite having more minutes, the non-guaranteed guys just so happened to be the only ones cut from the training camp group.

When Arturas Karnisovas was brought in, a lot was made of his vision to rely heavily on ‘player development’ to build a championship franchise. This was based on a few points of evidence:

  1. What few banal words he has said since taking the job
  2. His experience as a secondary executive for the Denver Nuggets
  3. Genuinely doing good work adding player development roles to the coaching and front office staff: before it was just one guy, and then Jim Boylen would also do a lot of it (he was a real hands-on CEO...). Since then there was an overhaul: 6 coaches or staff members as laid out by Darnell Mayberry early in camp.
  4. Having a nearly inert offseason where 13 of 15 players returned, suggesting that any value would have to be added by internal improvement rather than scouring the league for additions.

There was some hope that the last point would be obviated by one of these training camp invitees winning a job, but it looks like that not only didn’t happen but it wasn’t ever going to.

So why does a development-focused executive give so little effort when it comes to the 12th-15th men on the team? These could be spots where you find players on the fringe, and instead are taken by players who, even if being charitable as to their ability, are finished products.

What’s worse is that with all the talk this week came news of other franchises cutting players yet signing them to Exhibit-10 deals to have their GLeague rights.

But for the Bulls, they haven’t done this for the guys they waived or anybody else, perhaps because they are not even having a GLeague team this year.

This hasn’t been officially announced, but rumor has it from Sportando and our own GLeague experts at Ridiculous Upside that the Bulls will not be participating in the GLeague this year.

Why not? Again, the Bulls haven’t said anything yet, but...

The Bulls’ GLeague team announcer Mark Schanowski said that the team may have some form this year:

We’ll see on that, but the point remains now that they have no developmental players under contract beyond the 2 two-way spots while most of the rest of the league (the Bulls aren’t the only ones rumored to not participate) is trying to grind out some gems.

Instead the Bulls have a lot dead weight that won’t make Billy Donovan’s 9-man rotation yet aren’t in need of ‘evaluation’ like Cristiano Felicio, Luke Kornet, Ryan Arcidiacono (::cough:: Denzel Valentine who is on a no-trade instead of signing someone tradeable as a free agent), AND won’t be using the GLeague to get their new development staff much to look at.

It just shows an incongruity between what the front office says and what they’re doing. Maybe it’s ownership imposing this on them a bit too. There is certainly the sense that in this sure-to-be-cocked-up season with limited revenue, Reinsdorf and Sons would rather not spend any more than they have to and this is just an already-lost year. A lot of this roster glut is on expiring contracts (plus veterans like Young and Satoransky with stretchably-small guarantees for next year), so you can’t really calculate that keeping on everybody adds that much more ‘trade flexibility’. Especially when the flexibility would’ve made more sense to use in this past offseason when there were expanded rosters, plus the stated reticence to take on money beyond this season nulls out the value of an expiring contract anyway.

This isn’t a huge deal, but that’s the point: if you want to be a developmental-focused team that doesn’t just mean gifting minutes to lottery picks but also trying to find talent on the margins. And if you’re a big market team you have an inherent advantage in an ability to eat some money to work that roster churn harder. Instead the Bulls are choosing to do less.

It’s reminiscent of GarPaxian ethos like how their 2nd round draft board dried up or they didn’t want to pay to attend a European scouting event. Outright spendthrift or laziness when it came to this part of the franchise.

Arturas Karnisovas was supposed to change that. But it may be ownership, and thus informative that his prior experience was with another owner that behaved this way: while undoubtedly the Denver Nuggets had major player development successes in Karnisovas’s tenure there, they are also a historically cheap-o team who are one of two in the entire league still to not own a GLeague franchise.