Chicago Bulls Make Fast Deals for Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso in 2021 NBA Free Agency

After failing to make this year’s play-in tournament, the Chicago Bulls decided to retool their roster for 2021 free agency. This was after Arturas Karnisovas (previously under Marc Eversley) and Marc Eversley were in charge. Although Eversley and Karnisovas’ first offseason were quiet, the Bulls made a lot of noise at the deadline to trade and now have the opportunity to make splashes in the free-agency period.

The Bulls reached an immediate agreement with Lonzo Ball, their preferred target, on Monday at the beginning of the free agency period. To acquire Ball, Chicago will send Tomas Satoransky and Garrett Temple, as well as a second-round draft to the New Orleans Pelicans. It’s an affordable price for a player that the Bulls have been trying to acquire since the deadline. The organization is also pleased to have secured a commitment so fast from their most important target. __S.7__

Chicago was not done on the first day free agency. Soon, Alex Caruso and Chicago agreed to a $47 million, four-year deal. __S.9__ __S.10__

Chicago has offered Caruso a close-to-full mid-level exemption (a maximum of $9.5 million the first year) but some clever maneuvering might have the guard acquiring them as a signing-and-trade deal. This would allow the team to keep the mid-level open while still operating below the cap. The Bulls will sign Daniel Theis to the Houston Rockets in a similar deal. The plan is that Theis would be traded into the Rockets’ Victor Oladipo exception. Theis’s sign-and trade would allow Caruso to enter a trade exemption, thereby preserving his mid-level status.

Although it is sad to lose Theis, this would make the process much easier and allow Caruso to be added to the team along with another mid-level player. Thaddeus Youth is available and could be used to trade for other players or as a veteran. As part of the Lauri Markkanen signing-and-trade, the Bulls may still be able to obtain something. There’s also the $3.7 million bi-annual exception. Chicago now has a $143 million hard cap, although the front office is making moves to lower that figure.

The Bulls have added Caruso and Ball to their roster, which will help them strengthen their bench around Zach LaVine at both ends. Ball, 23, had his best season ever, scoring 14.6 points per game, 5.7 assists, and 4.8 rebounding. He also shot 41.4% from three-point land, shooting 37.8% on 3-point attempts, and 8.3 shots per game. Ball quickly becomes the most skilled passer and is a great partner for LaVine in transition. The ball-to-LaVine lob should be an everyday occurrence.

Ball will also help with defense, which is where Caruso’s impact really comes into play. Chicago relies on Caruso’s relentless perimeter defense as a key factor in the Lakers’ success over the past few years. Coby White and LaVine are not exactly defense stalwarts so it’s a good idea to bring in Ball and Caruso for perimeter defense.

It is also important to note that Caruso was able to shoot over 40% from 3 point land in the past season. Although Caruso isn’t well-known for his offensive skills, he can play elite defense and make 3-pointers with a fast pace, as well as bring extra playmaking to the table.

Free agency is off to an excellent start for the Bulls. They have the potential to make bigger moves and you can bet Eversley and Karnisovas won’t stop negotiating. With a few roster spots remaining, they could benefit from more support on the wing or in the frontcourt. The Bulls’ new front office has begun to flip nearly all of the rosters from their old system. This will make it impossible for Chicago to miss out on a major jump in playoff contention in 2021-22, with All-Stars Nikola Vucevic and LaVine leading the charge.

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