Chicago Bulls Offseason Notebook Volume 7: Can Torrey Craig challenge for a starting spot?

The Chicago Bulls made one of the best veteran minimum signings of the offseason when they agreed to a deal with Torrey Craig. The team has lacked depth at the forward position over the last couple seasons. A big reason why the Bulls have relied on lineups with 3 or 4 guards out there is because the forwards the Bulls had often weren’t cutting it. It made sense for the Bulls to rely heavily on their guard rotation which was strong and got stronger in the offseason with the addition of Jevon Carter. The Bulls struggled with teams that could play with a lot of size because of these heavy guard lineups though. Torrey Craig gives the Bulls a forward they should be able to rely on.

Craig started 60 games for the Phoenix Suns last season, a team that hosted a first round series in the playoffs. Craig proved to be an effective fit alongside Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, two stars that play on the wing, handle the ball a ton, and like to operate in the midrange. This is crucial because the Bulls happen to also have two guys that play on the wing, handle the ball a ton, and like to operate in the midrange. Their names are Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan, and they aren’t as good as a duo of Booker and Durant, but the Bulls prioritized finding better fits around them with the signing of Craig. 

Craig can guard multiple positions and is a great option to throw at big wings and forwards. The Bulls have often had to rely on guards such as Caruso guard up against these types of players. This isn’t a great solution because it is crucial for the Bulls to try to keep Caruso healthy and not have him banging down low with bigger bodies. Craig is a legit forward sized player that will help here. He is also a caple defender, the Bulls’ own DeMar DeRozan have talked about how hard it is to have Craig defending him. He won’t have to worry about that anymore.

Craig is more than a player with forward size for the Bulls, he was also an effective 3 point shooter last season at 39.5%. He is much more likely to punish a team from deep that is swarming LaVine and DeRozan defensively than the likes of Derrick Jones Jr. and Javonte Green.

Another important thing to consider with this signing is that Patrick Williams seemed to look more comfortable in a bench role last season. Williams had a solid year for the Bulls and I don’t think him being to the bench was a direct reaction to his play, I think it was more so that Williams is more comfortable acting off the bounce and trying to get to his spot in the midrange than he is shooting off the catch from 3. The Bulls’ 3 best players all like to operate in the midrange, so they need guys that can catch and shoot from 3 playing around them. After being moved to the bench, Williams got to play more of his minutes with 1-2 of the LaVine, DeRozan, and Vooch trio which allowed him to play to his strengths more. He also showcased some awesome chemistry with Coby White in these lineups. 

Now even with all of that, I still think the best version of the 2023-2024 Chicago Bulls has Patrick Williams in the starting lineup and that involves him taking a big leap offensively. On the other hand, it might be safer to keep Williams where he is most comfortable and play a better fit in the starting lineup. 

It will be up to head coach Billy Donovan to figure out the forward rotation, I’m sure we will still see plenty of lineups with 3 guards and DeMar DeRozan out there as well. Another option is something I wrote about in Volume 3 of this Offseason Notebook, and that’s giving Williams some run at the backup center. That would allow Craig and Williams to play on the court together and it would give the Bulls a lineup that could switch a lot on defense. That is actually a lineup I’m very much looking forward to seeing the Bulls throw out. They could play Caruso, LaVine, DeRozan, Craig, and Williams all together. I see that as a very switchy lineup that isn’t even that small even though there isn’t a true center out there. Caruso would be the smallest guy out there at 6′ 5″. 

There’s a big positive in all of this even if you aren’t the most confident in Billy Donovan, and it’s the fact that the Bulls have options, something they didn’t have much of last season. The Bulls can play big, they can play small, and they can play almost anywhere in the middle of big and small too. Torrey Craig’s ability to shoot from deep and guard multiple positions will help the Bulls, whether he’s coming off the bench or not.

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Reilly is from Naperville, IL and is a big Bulls and Michigan State Spartans fan. He enjoys spending time with loved ones, watching movies, and coaching Water Polo when he isn’t watching basketball or deep diving Basketball-Reference and Follow him on Twitter at @McDReilly97!