Bulls land Ball, Caruso as NBA free agency begins

  • It appears Lonzo Ball, left, and Zach LaVine will be teammates next season. Ball on Monday reached an agreement to sign with the Bulls.

    It appears Lonzo Ball, left, and Zach LaVine will be teammates next season. Ball on Monday reached an agreement to sign with the Bulls. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 8/3/2021 7:34 AM

The Bulls wasted no time making their first move of the NBA off-season.

Roughly a minute after the negotiating period began at 5 p.m. Monday, Twitter reports had the Bulls agreeing to a four-year, $85 million deal with New Orleans point guard Lonzo Ball.

 

For their next move, the Bulls agreed to terms with Lakers guard Alex Caruso on a reported four-year, $37 million deal.

Shams Charania was first to report the Ball deal, but it had been predicted by a number of sources throughout the weekend. Charania wrote that Garrett Temple, Tomas Satoransky and a second-round pick will be going to New Orleans in the sign-and-trade agreement.

Ball is a fifth-year pro, the No. 2 overall pick of the 2017 NBA draft by the Lakers. After two years in his hometown of Los Angeles, Ball was sent to the Pelicans as part of the Anthony Davis trade.

Last season in New Orleans, Ball averaged 14.6 points, 5.7 assists and 4.8 assists. His 3-point shot has improved but was still just 37.8% last season. He shot a career-best 41.4% from the field overall.

The Bulls' first two signings seem like an upgrade. But a Ball, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson team in New Orleans finished with the same record as the Bulls. Will a Ball, Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic squad be able to make the playoffs in the East?

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Ball gives the Bulls the facilitator they've generally lacked in recent years. But he has never appeared in a playoff game, so he won't do much to teach the Bulls how to win.

Caruso, on the other hand, has spent all four of his NBA seasons with the Lakers, so he has won an NBA title, in the bubble in 2020. LaVine has finished seven seasons in the NBA without making the playoffs, so the Bulls need as much winning experience on the roster as they can get.

The 6-foot-4 Caruso, 27, is one of those players who does a little bit of everything well, including defense. He averaged 6.4 points and shot 40 percent from 3-point range last season. Caruso and Ball were teammates for two seasons with the Lakers.

The next question for the Bulls is what happens with Lauri Markkanen. He's a restricted free agent and the Bulls extended a qualifying offer, which allows them to match an offer from another team.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

There's been talk about San Antonio having interest in Markkanen, but they signed ex-Bull Doug McDermott and former Blazers big man Zach Collins on Friday. Minnesota is also a team to watch for a sign-and-trade with Markkanen. Less likely is the Bulls keep Markkanen and try to trade him later.

Another report had Thad Young's contract for this season becoming fully guaranteed at $14.2 million, which means the Bulls are out of cap room. They appeared to use the midlevel exception to sign Caruso.

The Bulls' roster is shaping up with Ball, Caruso, LaVine, Vucevic, Young, Coby White, Patrick Willians, Troy Brown Jr., Al-Farouq Aminu, draft pick Ayo Dosunmu and last year's second-rounder Marko Simonovic. They reportedly gave a qualifying offer to guard Javonte Green.

The Bulls had been linked to veteran center JaVale McGee, but he agreed to a deal with Phoenix.

One other Bulls player made news early in the night. Daniel Theis reportedly agreement to a four-year, $36 million deal with Houston. So the Bulls probably are seeking another backup center-power forward type. The Theis deal is actually a sign-and-trade, according to multiple reports, with the Bulls getting some cash in return and creating a trade exception.

Derrick Rose reportedly agreed to a three-year, $43 million deal to return to the New York Knicks.

Besides Ball, the most notable players to change teams in the opening minutes of free agency were Kyle Lowry, using a sign-and-trade to go to Miami; Boston's Evan Fournier to New York and Houston big man Kelly Olynyk to Detroit.

Phoenix's Chris Paul and Cameron Payne, Milwaukee's Bobby Portis, Dallas' Tim Hardaway Jr., Utah's Mike Conley, Miami's Duncan Robinson, Denver's Will Barton and JaMychal Green, New York's Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel, Cleveland's Jarrett Allen and Indiana's T.J. McConnell were some of the players agreeing to deals with their current teams.

Signings can't be official until August 6.

• Twitter: McGrawDHSports

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