The Chicago Bulls own an extensive offseason to-do list, but one of the items is stabilizing the point guard position.
With Lonzo Ball’s future so uncertain following three left knee surgeries in 14 months, including a ligament transplant, the Bulls are in the unenviable position of having plenty of guards on the roster but no experienced floor general.
That’s why Patrick Beverley made such an impact after arriving in February off the buyout market. Coby White, Ayo Dosunmu and Alex Caruso all have value in their roles and had moments as a starting point guard. But all are better suited in different roles, although White has potential to grow into that role.
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Few floor generals carry as much respect as Chris Paul, whom Chris Haynes of TNT and Bleacher Report reported on Wednesday will be waived by the Phoenix Suns.
While re-signing White and making him the starting point guard remains a possibility, could the Bulls get in the mix for Paul, a 12-time All-Star?
On the plus side, Paul is a career 36.9 percent 3-point shooter who led the NBA in assists as recently as the 2021-22 season. He also has a history with coach Billy Donovan, having averaged 17.6 points and 6.7 assists for the 2019-20 Oklahoma City Thunder, who surprisingly finished 44-28 in Donovan’s final season there.
Paul, coincidentally, also is close with White, who played for Paul’s AAU team while growing up in North Carolina. The two work out together occasionally during the offseason, and White has cited Paul as a mentor.
On the minus side, Paul was due to make $30.8 million next season, only $15.8 million of which is guaranteed. That’s why Phoenix, who, presumably, could’ve shopped Paul before reaching this imminent conclusion, is poised to waive him, per Haynes’ reporting.
While Paul, who turned 38 last month, won’t command that salary if he hits free agency, Haynes reported that Paul “is eager to help a team contend for a championship.”
The Bulls are coming off an underwhelming season in which they failed to exit the play-in tournament. They also almost certainly will operate as an over-the-salary-cap team this offseason, meaning they will have the non-taxpayer midlevel exception of roughly $12.2 million at their disposal.
But if they intend to re-sign White, Dosunmu and center Nikola Vucevic, as executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas stated at his mid-April, season-ending news conference, luxury tax issues come into play. That’s a tax the franchise only has paid once.
The Lakers, who recently reached the Western Conference finals, are a logical landing spot for Paul. So are the Clippers. The Suns even could re-sign Paul if he clears waivers, which is almost a certainty given his large contract.
Ball has a $21.3 million player option for the 2024-25 season that he almost certainly will exercise given his injury saga. If Ball can’t return at some point this season, which is in serious jeopardy given that he hasn’t played since January 2022, then it’s likely the Bulls will apply for some form of financial relief.
But that relief wouldn’t come this offseason. So barring a trade, the options to add high-priced, veteran talent are limited.
Even while averaging a career-low 13.9 points last season, Paul still contributed 8.9 assists and 1.5 steals per game, although he did only appear in 59 games and battled injuries in the playoffs. When healthy, he can still play.
Will it be for the Bulls? It’s a longshot scenario for now.