The Chicago Bulls did a thing.
Patrick Beverley is coming home to Chicago.
After standing pat at the trade deadline, the Bulls have entered the buyout market, signing Beverley, 34, to a rest-of-season contract, details yet to be reported.
In order to execute the signing, the Bulls will need to cut someone from their roster, which is currently at the maximum capacity of 15. Presumably, one of Tony Bradley, Marko Simonovic or Goran Dragic will be the one to go.
As it stands, the Bulls are roughly $1.7 million under the luxury tax. After they clear a roster spot, they will give Beverley some portion of a prorated veteran’s minimum to sign him for the rest of the year, allowing them to stay under the tax without any trouble.
Beverley is averaging 6.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 0.9 steals in 26.9 minutes per game. He is shooting 40.2 percent from the field, 34.8 percent from three and 78 percent from the line. His 55 true shooting percentage is slightly below league average and his -1.5 Estimated Plus-Minus is in the 48th percentile.
With Russell Westbrook signing with the Clippers earlier Monday morning, the Bulls swiftly moved in on the three-time All-Defensive Team player, an addition that adds several layers of complexity to this bizarro 2022-23 season.
Basketball fit and rest of season outlook
A much more seamless fit into the Bulls ecosystem than Westbrook would have been, Beverley’s reputation precedes him. He is the ultimate heel, an antagonist 3-and-D off-guard, who can knock down open shots and hound ball-handlers without eating into the usage of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic.
He makes the Bulls better.
Beverley started all 45 games he played in for the Lakers and it would be surprising if he joined the Bulls to come off the bench. He likely moves Ayo Dosunmu into a reserve role, which deepens the Bulls bench and gives the Bulls volume three-point shooting, additional point-of-attack defense and that dawg in ’em.
At 4.7 threes attempted per 36 minutes, Beverley would be the fourth-highest volume shooter on the team. This should really help the Bulls, who are last in threes attempted, well below the 29th-ranked team.
Beverley is experiencing a dip in corner three-point percentage (39 percent) compared to previous years (47 percent in 21-22 and 49 percent in 20-21). Perhaps some positive regression is coming for him, which could really open up the floor for the Bulls.
What Beverley won’t do is help them fill their needs of rim pressure, transition attack and floor organization. That’s not his type of pointguardsmanship. But he does add another body that fills a few areas of need for the Bulls and provides a different type of leadership than the other Bulls veterans.
The most likely outcome is that he stokes some fire under a team that looks ready for summer break. It may result in an extra win or three, and that’s the problem.
Was this the right move?
If the Bulls would have signed Beverley at the start of the season or at any point before their most recent six-game skid, I would have been on board. But given where the Bulls are in the standings and what’s at stake with the fate of their draft pick, signing Beverley is a short-sighted decision that will likely further dismantle the Bulls potential to be competitive in the near future.
After losing six in a row, the Bulls are 26-33, the 11th seed in the East. They’re two games out of a play-in spot. 538’s projection model gives them an eight percent chance of making the playoffs.
At 26-33, the Bulls own the 7th-worst record in the league. They’re two games out of a top-five spot in the lottery. They currently have a 32 percent chance to keep their pick and a 7.5 percent chance of winning the number one pick in the draft.
The Bulls chance to draft Victor Wembanyama is about the same as their chance to make the playoffs.
Chicago should be aggressively tanking.
Instead, signing Beverley signifies another attempt to make the play-in tournament at all costs rather than starting to dig themselves out of the hole they’re in.
In his latest availability, Arturas Karnisovas claimed he wanted the final 28 games of the season to evaluate the group. Lineups with LaVine, DeRozan and Vucevic are -0.6 points per 100 possessions this year. They were -1.1 last year. It’s abundantly clear what they are. The players he should be evaluating: Patrick Williams, Dalen Terry, Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White.
It’s understandable that Karnisovas doesn’t want to gift the Magic the fifth pick in the draft. The better the player the Magic draft, the worse the Vucevic trade looks in retrospect. But the opportunity cost of not clearing the way to evaluate the young talent the Bulls have in higher usage roles could be even more damaging.
Regardless of what happens the rest of the way, the Bulls need to make changes this summer. It becomes difficult to do so when there is no data on how those young players perform in larger roles. How can they make decisions about their future if they don’t know what they have in their young players?
They need to start looking toward the future, more intentionally fostering the development of their younger players and giving themselves the highest possible odds at keeping the draft pick they owe, top-four protected, to the Orlando Magic. That’s the one possible avenue to get the Bulls out of the wrong side of the treadmill of mediocrity.
The Bulls are not a good team right now, nor are they trending the right direction. Missing the play in tournament would be painful, but it could be the one opportunity for the Bulls to get themselves back on course. Beverley inches them closer to .500 and the play in, and that means they are more likely they are to keep on this same track.
And we all know where that track is headed.