Amidst another sea of turnovers and ill-advised shots from the perimeter, the Chicago Bulls‘ need for a point guard was again present on Wednesday night in Cleveland as the team fell to 24-34 on the season after a 121-105 loss.
The Bulls desperately need a point guard this offseason in the draft or free agency, and a recent Bleacher Report article from Greg Swartz offers a strong suggestion. Swartz discusses a few options, but of particular note is the Charlotte Hornets’ Devonte Graham.
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Devonte Graham Has Put Together Two Strong Years of Play
Here’s what Swartz offered as his rationale for the Bulls potentially targeting Graham or the Indiana Pacers’ T.J. McConnell in free agency this summer.
Lonzo Ball is probably out of Chicago’s price range now, but Graham and [T.J.] McConnell are good options. Graham, 26, has one of the best on/off ratings in all of basketball (plus-9.8, 13th overall) and is a good passer and three-point shooter (37.4 percent). With Zach LaVine, Coby White and Vucevic, the Bulls wouldn’t need Graham to be a big-time scorer, but rather a table-setter for others.
Graham is potentially the more dynamic of Swartz’s suggestions. He had a fantastic 2019-20 season averaging 18.4 points and 7.5 assists per game while nailing a career-high 38% of his attempts from three-point range. With the emergence of LaMelo Ball this season, Graham saw his minutes and opportunities dip a bit.
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However, he’s still scoring 14.1 points per contest and dishing 5.2 assists while making 37% of his threes. Graham would easily represent an upgrade over Tomas Satoransky and White.
Graham Would Be an Upgrade
Satoransky struggles mightily on the defensive end against most good-to-great point guards. He doesn’t have the dexterity to stay in front of his primary defensive responsibility, and it can break the Bulls’ already suspect defense down from the outset of a possession.
White is quicker, but he lacks the physical strength and basketball IQ to defend on many nights effectively. These deficiencies have been evident with his abundance of fouls against three-point shooters this season, as well as his struggles defending players like the Atlanta Hawks’ Trae Young, who are adept at working the pick-and-roll game.
Graham would be better than both as a defender, and he’s a competent three-point shooter. He doesn’t penetrate and finish as well as White. At 6’1″, he’s much shorter than both of the Bulls’ point guards.
Even still, Graham’s most significant contribution might be on the defensive end. According to NBA.com, Graham ranks seventh in the NBA among guards in defensive win shares. The Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons, who is a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year, is the only point guard who has played regularly this season that ranks higher.
Swartz believes Lonzo Ball’s strong play this season might have pushed him out of the Bulls’ range, and he might be right. However, is it possible Graham could be a more economical option that still provides the same upgrade Ball would if the Bulls signed him?
We still have a ways to go before the end of this tumultuous season for the Bulls, but in a few months, expect Graham’s name to come up in association with Chicago.