The Chicago Bulls offseason priorities take shape with coach hirings and pre-draft workouts

The NBA Finals are underway, as is the Chicago Bulls offseason.

There's been new blood added to the coaching bench, as well players Bulls executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas is beginning to target in the pre-NBA Draft process.

Here's what to make of some developments the Bulls have made so far this offseason.

What the Bulls' assistant coach hirings mean

Karnišovas hired two assistant coaches to fill the voids left by Josh Longstaff and Chris Fleming. Fleming had been with the Bulls since 2019, while Longstaff has been with the Bulls since 2020.

New to the Bulls bench are Dan Craig and Wes Unseld Jr. Craig comes to Chicago from Los Angeles as the Clippers' associate head coach. Unseld was the head coach of the Washington Wizards from 2021 to Jan. 25, 2024, when he was relieved of his head coaching position and moved to the front office.

Bulls assistant Maurice Cheeks also elected to step back from his lead assistant coach spot, but the Bulls promoted John Bryant to that position.

Hiring Craig and Unseld speaks to two things the Bulls can bring to their bench. The first is familiarity. 

Unseld has worked with Karnišovas previously. The two overlapped for six seasons in Denver while Unseld was an assistant coach under Nuggets coach Michael Malone. Unseld is credited with being the architect of the Nuggets' defense and the development of NBA MVP Nikola Jokic. 

While in Denver, Unseld's tutelage helped the Nuggets skyrocket from 28th in defense in 2017–18 to 10th in 2018–19.

Craig also has a defensive background, but is also familiar with building a team culture. He spent 17 years with the Miami Heat which boast the famed "Heat Culture." That camaraderie could be key if the Bulls make massive changes to their roster. 

The bottom line between both Craig and Unseld: the Bulls hired two respective coaches as lead assistants who will serve as a change of pace on the Bulls staff while also helping structure a Bulls' defense that ranked No. 22 in the NBA with a 115.7 defensive rating.

Bulls and potential pre-draft trends

The Bulls' pre-draft process is well underway, too. The team recently brought in Nebraska sharpshooter Keisei Tominaga for a pre-draft work-out this week, his agent told FOX 32.

The Bulls have a need for a 3-point shooter. Tominaga was exactly that last year for Nebraska. He averaged 15.1 points per game, and shot 37.6 percent from 3-point range while becoming a Cornhuskers basketball legend under former Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg.

Tominaga might not be a player the Bulls select in the 2024 NBA Draft – they pick No. 11 overall, and Philadelphia owns the Bulls’ 2024 second-round pick – but he could be a player the Bulls sign after the draft and work with throughout the offseason.

It has to be one avenue the Bulls can explore, mainly because the Bulls absolutely need to improve their 3-point shooting. 

Last season, they made 11.5 3-pointers per game, tied for second-to-last in the league with the Raptors and Trailblazers. Adding a shooter or two, maybe even three depending on the roster shake up, could help space out the floor for players like Coby White, who improved as a finisher at the rim in a massive way last season.

Tominaga is one of the first known pre-draft workouts the Bulls have conducted. Another is Lithuanian 6-foot-10 wing player Matas Buzelis, whom the Bulls privately watched work out according to ESPN. Buzelis scored 14.3 points per game and grabbed 6.9 rebounds per game in the NBA G-League.

Buzelis isn't a shooter, but he's a versatile player that could guard multiple positions while bringing explosiveness on offense. He's not a heralded shooter, but the trend to watch is versatility.

As more pre-draft workouts come to light, it's worth monitoring to see what trends begin piecing together as the Bulls aim to re-tool their roster. That was a promise Karnišovas made at season's end in April.


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