Alex Caruso

Bulls' Artūras Karnišovas takes 1st step in offseason changes

Fan favorite Alex Caruso headed to Oklahoma City after two straight non-playoff seasons in Chicago

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Artūras Karnišovas promised change this offseason after admitting in mid-April following the Chicago Bulls’ second straight non-playoff season that “this group hasn’t worked.”

And when you trade a player in Alex Caruso as crucial to the culture that Karnišovas said he wanted to build in Chicago, it means Karnišovas is serious about enacting change.

The question, of course, is what’s next? Do the Bulls view cashing in their two-time All-Defensive team floorburn leader who significantly improved his 3-point shot for a potentially dynamic floor leader who is nine years younger as the lone move to keep the Bulls competitive?

Or are more moves and a more significant facelift coming? League sources reiterated that the Bulls remain active on several trade fronts centered on Zach LaVine, including with the Utah Jazz and Philadelphia 76ers. Does this take-a-step-back move make DeMar DeRozan consider unrestricted free agency more strongly?

As a standalone transaction this offseason, this move isn’t a great one at first glance. If other moves are made, perhaps it can be viewed in fuller context. This is Karnišovas' first transaction involving players changing teams since August 2021.

At the very least, three things are clear: By adding Giddey, the Bulls aren’t fully sold on a Lonzo Ball comeback. Peter Patton, the notorious shooting coach who serves as the Bulls’ director of player development, has an important project on his hands with Giddey, a career 31 percent 3-point shooter whom the Dallas Mavericks largely left unguarded in their second-round victory over the Thunder.

And, man, are Bulls fans going to miss Caruso---and rightfully so.

Caruso returns to the franchise that gave him his first shot as an undrafted free agent with the Oklahoma City Blue of the G League, coached then by current Thunder coach and reigning NBA Coach of the Year Mark Daigneault. He gets to play for a championship.

Giddey, who turns 22 in October, comes to Chicago to theoretically get on the same timeline as Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu in a backcourt for the future depending on how the LaVine and Ball situations play out.

White played brilliantly last season to become a finalist for Most Improved Player. And while he played well on the ball, he often can be more lethal off the ball in catch-and-shoot situations. While White showed significant improvement in floor organization, the Bulls have lacked a true floor general since Ball’s first injury.

Giddey can be that, and he also has size and length. He’s not anywhere near the level of Ball as a defender or as a shooter---and this is where Patton and Giddey’s own work ethic will have to come into play. Remember: Ball completely revamped his shot to become an elite 3-point shooter.

At 6 feet, 8 inches, Giddey is a good rebounder and has strong court vision. His passing ability can be sublime. Thunder executive vice president and general manager Sam Presti, generally regarded as one of the league’s best executives, drafted Giddey with the sixth overall pick in 2021 and remains high on him. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s ascension and usage rate negated some of Giddey’s strengths.

But Giddey isn’t just an inconsistent 3-point shooter; he can be a reluctant one at times. And when you pair that with his inability to get to the line often with just 1.7 career attempts per game, he has room to grow.

Like Caruso, Giddey also will need an extension past the 2024-25 season. Due to make $8.3 million, he’s eligible to sign an extension off his rookie contract until opening night of next season or else he’ll be a restricted free agent in 2025.

That the Bulls started the contract clock so quickly when finally deciding to part with Caruso, and not getting any picks added to the deal from a franchise swimming in them, raises an eyebrow.

The Bulls rebuffed significant interest in Caruso at the last two trade deadlines, most notably from the Golden State Warriors, because they wanted to make playoff runs. Those failed.

Whether this trade is pass or fail may need larger context to be fully judged. But it’s a start on change, even if it cost such a fan favorite and a player who should be appreciated in Chicago for what he gave.

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