Let’s just get one thing straight. These two potential free agents are not sexy picks. They are not going to come in and transcend their games into immediate success for the Chicago Bulls. They are going to be the necessary stepping-stones for the Chicago Bulls to be on the righteous path for the future.
Unfortunately, this dismal season impedes top free agents from considering Chicago as an advantageous landing spot for next season. So with that, you can forget about the marque free agents from even thinking about accepting any pitches that the Chicago Bulls may construct for at least the next two years.
That does not mean this free agency should be all for naught. There are two guys that can fit in right away with the Bulls’ system, thrive, and hopefully influence future star-caliber free agents to signing with Chicago in the future: Courtney Lee and Evan Fournier.
Courtney Lee is an unrestricted free agent who may need a little persuasion to leave the up-and-coming Charlotte Hornets. Lee would cater to some of the Bulls’ needs, particularly in the defensive department. The Bulls were actually pretty efficient at guarding opponents’ three-pointer attempts this past season. Opponents only shot 34% from three-point land against them; however, this is a healthy identity to sustain as more teams are resorting to the three-point shot as a focal point of their offense. Courtney Lee provides exceptional perimeter defense, as he contains the essential tools of quick lateral speed, fast reflexes, and a long wingspan.
Lee can also provide a little bit of everything on the offensive end. He shoots the ball well from the outside and has no issue finishing in transition, which will fit right in with Coach Hoiberg’s system. He is not an isolation player, so Jimmy Butler can still thrive in that area of the game without any clashing with Lee. He is also a guy who adds zero drama in the locker room; he knows how to go with the flow. That would be a breath of fresh air for this histrionic Chicago Bulls organization as of late. According to David Baumann of Basketball Insiders, “[Lee] could garner somewhere around to $11-14 million per year on the open market.” If the Chicago Bulls do pursue Courtney Lee, it is vital they do not low-ball him.
Evan Fournier is in a much different situation being a restricted free agent of the Orlando Magic. The Magic can match any offers made to Fournier by the market, but how much are they willing to pay to have him return?
Fournier had a breakout season this year for the Magic averaging 15.4 PPG and shooting 40% from beyond the arc. The Magic obviously want to continue their chemistry with a young core, and Fournier fits that bill being only 23 years old. However, the Chicago Bulls could offer an amount in the range of $17-20 million a year that could make the Magic hesitant on matching that offer. Should the Chicago Bulls put a lot of their eggs in one French basket or should they wait to spend that money on a more proven, experienced player in free agencies down the road? It is a tough question to ponder.
Evan Fournier could be a big part of the future core of the Chicago Bulls. He has great scoring and shooting ability, he has the size to play either the shooting guard or small forward position, and has improved upon his finishing through contact near the rim. He also has the upside of being an above-average perimeter defender.
The Orlando Magic have made it known that they are making it a priority to bring Fournier back, but things can change from now, into the draft, and into free agency. The Magic are interested in spending big money in free agency this year and into next, so it’s a possibility that they may save their money for a star free agent or two for next year and let Fournier walk. It is a small possibility, but still a possibility.
Adding either of these players would put the Bulls in the right direction for future success. Both can shoot the ball well and can provide energy on the defensive end. Courtney Lee is the more realistic option. He is an unrestricted free agent and the Charlotte Hornets may part ways with him in search of a younger shooting guard. However, Fournier is coming off a great season and still has room to grow. The only issue is he is a restricted free agent, so the Magic can match any offer from opposing teams and they have a ton of cap space. These aren’t big time names, but that doesn’t mean free agency still can’t be fun.