The NBA offseason officially began Monday, a mad dash that started with the league lifting its moratorium on trades and includes Wednesday’s NBA draft and the start of free agency Friday.
And the Bulls made one of the more surprising roster decisions to start the week when they extended a qualifying offer to forward Denzel Valentine but declined to do so for guard Kris Dunn, according to multiple reports.
Extending the $4.7 million qualifying offer to Valentine, who turned 27 Monday, will make him a restricted free agent, as first reported by the Athletic.
Dunn, 26, was eligible to receive a qualifying offer of about $7.1 million, but instead he will become an unrestricted free agent — as first reported by NBC Sports Chicago — and should garner interest on the open market.
The Bulls were hoping Dunn would be their long-term answer at point guard when they traded for the former No. 5 pick in the 2017 draft-day deal that sent Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Ultimately Dunn’s shooting struggles doomed him from realizing that potential. He averaged 10.7 points and 5.1 assists and shot 43% from the field and 31% on 3-pointers in his three seasons in Chicago.
The Bulls reimagined Dunn’s role last season, shifting him from a primary ballhandler into a ballhawk perimeter defender, a move he embraced and a role in which he excelled.
He led the NBA in steals per 36 minutes (minimum 50 games) and was second in the league in defensive box plus/minus — which measures the points a player adds on defense compared with the league average — behind league MVP and defensive player of the year Giannis Antetokounmpo.
A sprained MCL in Dunn’s right knee ended his season after 51 games.
The Bulls decided $7.1 million was too high a price for a backup guard who likely would serve as a specialist.
Allowing Dunn to walk could be a prelude to the Bulls’ plans for Wednesday’s draft and the offseason. Speculation has increased they will look to add another guard. Holding on to Dunn could have created a logjam.
Valentine received a qualifying offer after an up-and-down season in which he was limited to 36 games after coming off ankle surgery, including a stretch when he could not get on the court under then-coach Jim Boylen.
But after falling out of favor with the last regime, the No. 14 pick in the 2016 draft seems to have found some favor under the new Bulls front office. Even coming off a down shooting year, Valentine is one of the Bulls’ better outside shooters (36.6% on 3s in his career) and fits into a system with multiple ballhandlers and ball movement that the new front office has envisioned.
The Bulls installed new decision-makers at the start of their offseason to direct the course of the franchise, and this week will be the first opportunity for the new executives to make an impact on the roster. It also could serve as a window into their priorities and what direction the team might take.
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