Dalen Terry poses with his new jersey (#25) standing next to Billy Donovan and Arturas Karnisovas

Dalen Terry introduced to the media, Karnišovas gives offseason Bulls updates

The Bulls this season are seeking a seat at the table with the NBA’s elite, though Vice-President of Basketball Operations Artūras Karnišovas Monday admitted it still will be difficult to find a comfortable position.

“We got 46 wins, which is great, had some playoff experience,” Karnišovas noted about last season during Monday’s introduction for first-round draft pick Dalen Terry. “But we need to build on that, and it’s not going to be easy next year to come back and do the same.”

So the Bulls add Terry, a precocious 19-year-old athlete, and then hope to step aggressively into free agency, which begins 5 p.m. Thursday when team can begin communicating and make deals with free agents. Official signings begin July 6. Karnisovas, like General Manager Marc Eversley told the media Thursday when the Bulls drafted Terry, said the Bulls remain consistent about their desire “that we hope Zach is here for a long time; nothing changed.”

LaVine as an unrestricted free agent is eligible to sign a five-year contract with the Bulls.

So the Bulls are keeping his seat warm.

But when the music stops and the next season begins one question is who’ll be without a seat in the team’s musical chairs perimeter roster squeeze.

Bulls players currently under contract for next season are DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vučević, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, Patrick Williams, Coby White, Javonte Green, Ayo Dosunmu and Marko Simonović. Tony Bradley can opt into one more season. The Bulls have the option to make qualifying offers to Troy Brown, Tyler Cook and Malcolm Hill or they become unrestricted free agents.

So there probably is half a roster still to organize in the weeks ahead.

Dalen Terry meets head coach Billy Donovan in his office for the first time.

With the addition of Terry, it’s for now a guard-heavy roster with the assumptions that Ball and Caruso will be healthy for training camp. The Bulls have said Ball is progressing well from his knee problems of the previous season. There was no additional detail. He is perhaps the most crucial current question mark for the team because of how well the team played before he was injured and out for the season.

The Bulls were in first place in the Eastern Conference on Jan. 14, the last day Ball played for the Bulls last season. The Bulls then lost four of five and fell out of first, but regained first amidst the historic shooting prowess of DeRozan. Miami passed the Bulls before the All-Star break to place its coaching staff in the All-Star game. But the Bulls still climbed back into first in the East after the All-Star weekend. They last were in first place Feb. 25 before the continued impact of the injuries sent them to sixth place for the season.

“The start the season last year was positive and exactly how we want to play,” said Karnisovas. “The goals is in September for all the roster to be healthy and ready for the season.”

The Bulls with Ball healthy played an uptempo offensive game with more movement thanks to Ball’s tendency and tenacity to push the ball and throw ahead. No one else on the Bulls roster proved capable of that kind of play. By the end of the season the offense slowed to a walk and became isolation-oriented. The defense of Ball and Caruso also was vital in causing turnovers for transition scores, which diminished with their injuries.

Dosunmu and White each played some point guard, but neither were true point guards in the style of Ball. DeRozan and LaVine, while never called point guards, probably played lead guard/ball handling roles more than Dosunmu and White.

Which also is one question for draft pick Terry, who played point guard in high school and at the University of Arizona last season when there were injuries. Like Dosunmu and White, it was perforce rather than innate.

The Bulls discovered there’s a big difference between players who can play point guard and players who are point guards.

There’s much discussion these days in the NBA about so called “positionless” play and a surfeit of “small ball.” But the Bulls have identified a prime offseason personnel priority of acquiring a “rim protector” big man for interior defense. One of the more intriguing questions about the roster is how and if all those guards are going to be utilized with the addition of the uber athletic Terry.

Although Terry is listed as a small forward/guard, the 19-year-old weighs 195 pounds, which for now likely is too thin for forward play in the NBA.

Billy Donovan, Dalen Terry, and Arturas Karnišovas smile during Terry's introductory press conference.

“He demonstrated he does a lot of things well, from rebounding to playmaking to steals,” said Karnišovas. “He’s a high motor, energy, 6-foot-7, 7-1 wingspan, good defender, versatile guy and when we worked him out loudest guy in the gym. Even talking about his shooting, he shot 36 percent (on threes) and at the end of the season he shot even better. I think he has a lot of room for growth. He has the physical tools to do it; we’re excited to see him out there.”

Terry will play for the Bulls Summer League team in Las Vegas starting July 7. Bulls coach Billy Donovan said both Williams and Dosunmu will work with the team at an Advocate Center pre-Summer League camp, but will not play in Summer League games in Las Vegas.

So it will be an opportunity for Terry in what seems like a competition among he, Dosunmu and White for the precious playing time behind primary point guards Ball and Caruso. 

“What stood out was his (Terry’s) athleticism, his energy, his motor, his competitiveness,” said Donovan. “His skill set will continue to grow. You always feel good about a player’s skill set based around the fact of what kind of worker they are, and he’s a great worker. Everything will get better, ballhandling, passing, shooting. He’s obviously got great ability defensively. He’s long. You can feel his intensity. 

“I do think with (Terry’s) versatility and competitiveness, it’s finding a way that he can get that into the game,” said Donovan. “Ayo in college was kind of a combination guard. At the point guard position, he began to play that full time and we feel confident he can continue to play that position. Coby my first year he shifted to the point guard position full time. Alex has really played one through four for us. The versatility and the fact Dalen can play multiple positions and so can Ayo and so can Alex Caruso is beneficial. Coby last year coming off the shoulder surgery, sometimes he started, sometimes he came off the bench, on the ball sometimes, off the ball. He handled himself well. The thing I like about our backcourt players is Artūras has (acquired) a lot of guys who can play multiple positions. Before we got injured we were closing with Alex Caruso at the power forward spot. The same with Patrick Williams. He can slide around. That’s what Artūras has looked at besides the competitive piece, the versatility of putting different combinations of players on the floor together. I think that will be true of Dalen. He can play a lot of different positions. We have flexibility to see how these guys work and play with one another.”

Like the coaches always say, they welcome competition to see who performs. But there really aren’t that many chairs, as it turns out, at this Bulls table.