With the season winding down to its last handful of games, the Bulls are already looking towards what sure is to be an important offseason. The team is looking at a monumental draft and also assessing how this current roster fits the future blueprints of the rebuild.  VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson and GM Gar Forman, I believe, have three major questions they need to address:

  1. Who will the Bulls take in this summer’s NBA Draft?
  2. Is Zach LaVine worth a max extension?
  3. Which role players from this year are sticking around for the long haul?

While it’s too early to tell who the Bulls will take in the draft, it looks like Bulls fan can start to get a picture of who from this year’s team will be back, at least for next season . With that, we’ll go player-by-player to see who will continue to “See Red” and who is out the door.

Lauri Markkanen

This is about as sure of a bet as there is on the roster. Trading for and drafting Lauri signified a new direction for the Bulls. Any future plans the Bulls envision will have “The Finnisher” right at the forefront. Expect big minutes and big numbers for the Bulls big man next year. Verdict: STAYS

Zach LaVine

Though this may seem like a no-brainer to many Bulls fans, it may not be as simple as everyone thinks. LaVine will be a restricted free agent this summer and will be looking for BIG money. The max deal for a player after their rookie contract is five-years, $146.5 million, a deal both Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins got last year. So Bulls execs have one question, is LaVine, who by all accounts is still trying to regain his form from the ACL injury, worth that kind of money?

If the Bulls don’t believe he is, they can gamble and let LaVine hit the open market and match the offer sheet any other NBA team gives him. But do the Bulls want to run the risk of turning LaVine into the Allen Crabbe situation? Remember what happened there? Yikes. Beside the point, LaVine and Paxson have been very optimistic about getting a deal done so for now; I’ll trust that they’ll keep their word. Verdict: STAYS (And with a very handsome deal)

Kris Dunn

Dunn is another one of those, “not as simple as you think” situations. Kris has had a monster bounce back year, averaging 13.5 pts/6.0 ast/42.5% FG and has created a tremendous amount of value for himself as a potential two-way point guard. But a question the Bulls front office and Bulls fans need to answer is, “Is Kris Dunn the point guard of the future?” I don’t think GarPax can definitively say “yes” to that question right now.

We hear the rumors of Kris Dunn being used as a potential trade piece to bring in a big name, say, Anthony Davis (The guy is a 40pt/15reb machine, I’d trade my entire roster for him, but c’mon, he’s not going anywhere) and I think the Bulls see that too. For now, Dunn has a controllable contract and can continue to develop. Unless something drastic happens, he’s not going anywhere. Verdict: STAYS

Robin Lopez

It’s no secret Robin, as good of a player that he is on and off the court, has no place on this team in the future. Unable to move him at the deadline, Lopez is now in street clothes for the rest of the year as the Bulls go into tank mo……err I mean “player development.” Lopez is on the books for $14 million+ next year but has value as an expiring contract and savvy veteran. While I do think the Bulls will try to move him this offseason, I believe they can maximize his value if they play it the same way they did this year. Meaning, start him at center for next year playing starter minutes and have an ailing contender overpay for his services. So yes, that means he’ll be sticking around, but Bulls fans need to be patient here. GarPax flipped Niko Mirotic when his value was at its highest, they can do the same with Robin. VERDICT: STAYS (but not for long)

Justin Holiday

Holiday is an interesting piece because of the absolute bargain of a contract he signed. A volume scorer at only $4 million a year, Holiday would be a big help for any contender. Though because he wasn’t dealt at this year’s deadline, I think this will turn into another Robin Lopez situation where his value won’t be at its  greatest unless he’s a deadline move. Maybe I’m being greedy but I’d hate to see players like Lopez and Holiday be dealt this offseason for, say, a second round pick or cash considerations. There’s a lot of value to be had and I think the Bulls will find minutes for Holiday next year to maximize it. VERDICT: STAYS (but not for long)

Bobby Portis

It may be a little early, but with Niko punched out of town, Bobby has shown he can carry the offensive load for the second unit. His 38-point outburst against Embiid and the 76ers sent a message to Bulls fans, “I can do everything Niko did, and do it better.” Though I HATE that he even put up 26 shots in a game, it was refreshing to see Bobby come back to playing like he did in the beginning of the Boston series last year. BP will get his chance as a starter in this next slate of games so we’ll see how he plays with the young core. Like Dunn, he’s controllable for this season and next, but the Bulls will have questions moving forward as to whether he’s worth an extension or is just trade bait for a superstar. VERDICT: STAYS

Cristiano Felicio

Let’s be honest with ourselves, this was a horrendous deal. As much fun it was to see D-Wade throw oops to Felicio last season, that’s all he can really do. He’s not a back to the basket scorer, he doesn’t have a jump shot, he’s not a versatile defender, he’s just….a body. And unfortunately, the Bulls are stuck with him. No one in their right mind would pay for Felicio’s services and the Bulls have too much pride to eat his money at this point in the contract. Let him be the 13th guy on the bench until you can get rid of him. VERDICT: STAYS (unfortunately….)

Denzel Valentine

Not a lot of Bulls fans talk about Valentine, and for good reason. He’s had a slow year by all accounts. In 27.6 mins/gm on average, he brings in 9.8pts/5.4reb/41.1%FG. Considering he had some time as the starter and being the first man off the bench, it’s not farfetched to expect more out of the second-year man from Michigan State. The Bulls added more salt in the wound when it was announced after the All-Star break that David Nwaba would get the starting nod after Holiday was benched. It’s hard to tell what the Bulls think of Valentine. He should get more run for these last couple games, but it’s hard to see him making an impact at any level. VERDICT: STAYS

Cameron Payne

Do I need to say anything more than his name to know the answer to this? He’s owed $3 MILLION next year. Yes, $3 MILLION. This circus act is over, the Bulls need to bite the bullet and get the kid out of here. VERDICT: GOES (THANK YOU!)

Paul Zipser

Like Felicio, Zipser was a beneficiary of minutes when the “Three Alphas” fiasco was going on. But this season he’s done absolutely nothing. Averaging just 3.9pts/36% FG, he’s another project gone sour for the Bulls. Trade him for some cash and send him along to another team.  I’d much rather see a low-cost veteran mentor in his roster spot then a flat-lined prospect. VERDICT: GOES

Jerian Grant

Considered a project piece for the Bulls in the Derrick Rose trade a few years back, I think Bulls fans have seen enough to know he won’t be here much longer. Inserted as the starter when Dunn went down via the concussion, it was painful to see Grant dribble aimlessly into the paint and turn the ball over. His point guard skills resembled that of a Cam Payne, unable to get the Bulls into sets, unable to recognize defensive tendencies, and unable to make the right passes. Luckily, he’s able to score a bit (just a bit…) easier than Payne so he’s played. But this “project” is over. If the Bulls can flip him for ANYTHING, it’s a win. VERDICT: GOES

David Nwaba

Personally, I’m most interested to see how this unfolds for the Bulls. I LOVE David Nwaba. A man who once paid his way through a G-League tryout is now starting for the Bulls. He represents the grit and grind this Bulls team lacks. In eight starts, Nwaba is averaging 11.1pts/7.6reb/1.9ast/1.6stls and shooting a blistering 57.8 percent from the field, all while guarding the opposing team’s best player. Cut down because of a suspect shooting stroke, Nwaba has been able to hit the open shot, run the fast break, and create for his teammates. He broke out in his first start for the Bulls when he scored 21 points and had 9 rebounds against the Sixers. Like LaVine he’s slated to hit the market as a restricted free agent this summer.

The Bulls will undoubtedly send out a qualifying offer, but Nwaba and the Bulls know that the value for the defensive wing has skyrocketed. I expect Nwaba to test out the market to see what he can get, it’s just up to the Bulls to man up and match it. It would be a punch to the gut if GarPax let’s another team reap the rewards of THEIR reclamation project. Imagine also, if the Bulls lock up Nwaba and get him to work with famed shot guru Fred Hoiberg, Nwaba can become a real focal point of this core group. I have nothing but good things to say about David Nwaba and I like to remain optimistic. GarPax, get a deal done please. VERDICT: STAYS

Noah Vonleh

This was a low-risk trade for the Bulls when they acquired Vonleh for cash and the rights to Milocan Rakovic (don’t ask, I don’t know who he is either). Vonleh has shown spurts in his limited playing time for the Bulls and is young enough to continue to see what he’s really made of. Problem is he has RFA status this summer like LaVine and Nwaba. Do the Bulls really want to send a qualifying offer his way? I see Vonleh’s roster spot opening up for the draft picks coming in this summer so unfortunately; he’s going to miss the cut. VERDICT: GOES

Omer Asik

Omer “Salary Dump” Asik was signed to an awful contract by the Pelicans and was the price the Bulls had to pay to get that first rounder for Niko Mirotic. He hasn’t played a minute this season and I don’t see that changing. With his addition though, I think it makes the Bulls more willing to move Lopez as Asik can be plugged into the “vet big man role.” Like Lopez and Holiday, if he somehow got some backup minutes next year, with his contract, I can see him as a possible trade piece. Of course, that’s best-case scenario. If Lopez sticks around, the Bulls keep Vonleh, or draft a big man; he is staying on the bench. When the time is right, they’ll get him out of here. VERDICT: STAYS (Non-existent anyway…)

Photo via Associated Press

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