In the midst of 400 teams playing pickup basketball, a dunk contest, three-point shootout, combine testing, an art gallery, and Bulls players and legends meeting fans at the second annual Bulls Fest, GM Marc Eversley was kind enough to take some time away from the chaos to join the CHGO Bulls Podcast.
Eversley shared some insights into the offseason plan, the team’s goals and his experience as the general manager.
This offseason commenced with the three-year extension of Nikola Vucevic, the Bulls number one priority.
“Obviously getting back Vooch was really important, probably the number one thing we had on our list,” Eversley said.
“There’s just not a lot of starting centers in the NBA and Vooch brings some special things to the table, in terms of stretching the floor. He’s a plus wingspan. He’s not the best rim protector in the world, but he takes up a lot of space.”
The Bulls are also clearly invested in retaining and developing their young players, returning Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu as restricted free agents.
“I think he’s on a path to being a really, really solid, key contributor in the NBA,” Eversley said of White. “He had a terrific year last year, he finished the season incredibly well.”
Despite non-linear progress during Dosunmu’s second season, the Bulls are still high on him as well.
“Ayo’s a local kid obviously,” he said. “A second round pick and I think he’s still got that chip on his shoulder. We’re excited to bring him back as well.”
Even rookie Julian Phillips, who the Bulls moved into the second round of the NBA Draft to acquire, fits the mold of the type of player the Bulls are looking to develop.
“He’s your typical 6’8″ wing profile that we really like,” Eversley said of the 35th pick. “He’s an athlete, he’s long. He’s got a pretty good stroke. It’s going to need a little bit of tweaking to it. We’re not expecting a tremendous amount from Julian this year, but as we project him out, he’s a piece who we want to grow within our program.”
Though there was disappointment in the results last season, the Bulls front office is determined to find ways to improve on the group rather than tear it down to the studs. They’re committed to building through the program they have created and developing talent and bringing in high-level role players to compliment their core three.
Whether or not you agree with that direction, it’s impossible to argue the Bulls free agent acquisitions, Jevon Carter and Torrey Craig, don’t markedly improve the team around them.
“Defensive versatility, three-point shooting. Bringing an element of toughness and grit. Defensive-minded players. I think [Carter and Craig] check a lot of those boxes,” Eversley said of his prized free agents.
“We talked a lot about three-point shooting at the end of the year and how we wanted to address it,” Eversley said. “We talked about having a defensive identity. And I think both of those guys bring those two things to the table. Whatever their minutes look like in terms of playing those guys, when they’re on the floor with [Vucevic, DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine], we envision the team having a lot of success.”
If the roster moves weren’t enough to convince you that there is no appetite for a rebuild, just wait until you hear how those losses affected the Bulls GM.
“Every year, I say to myself, I’m not going to live and die by the losses,” he confessed. “I’m just not. I’ve been in this thing way too long and you’ve got to be even keeled throughout the whole year. But I can tell you guys, when we lose games, it’ hurts. If we lose a game here, we walk over to the Advocate Center and we don’t leave until 12 o’clock, 12:30 because we’re watching the game again.”
“I never thought, going into this that it was that deep. But it is. We live and die by every win, by every loss.”
He explained that they take a long time to get over, especially the Play-In game in Miami.
“We want to remain competitive,” he said of the Bulls 2023-24 season goal. “We want to get into that top seed and really compete. The Play-In was fun last year, but it’s nerve-wracking and I don’t want to go through it again.”
There’s no doubt the Bulls have talent on their roster. Now, the hope is that the new acquisitions and potential development of the young players can coalesce around Vucevic, DeRozan and LaVine.
“What that does is it fuels us to work that much harder. To put a plan together. Shooting, defense, versatility. And then execute against them. I think we’ve done a really good job, to date, in building out our roster. And we feel we’re going to put a really competitive group back on the floor this year.”
If those stars align, the Bulls like their odds in what they see as a wide-open Eastern Conference.
“From the top of the East to the bottom of the East, there’s parity,” Eversley stated. “And I feel on any given night we can compete with the best teams in the NBA and that’s going to be the challenge for this group.”
We’ll see if they’re up to the task in the coming months.