Chicago Bulls

Chicago Bulls strengthen connection to Toronto Raptors with offseason additions

There's a strong connection developing between the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors organizations, and it's more than a mere coincidence.

It began last year, when the Bulls appointed Canadian Marc Eversley as their general manager, making him the first NBA general manager to hail from the Greater Toronto Area. Eversley, who has been a mainstay in NBA front offices for the last 15 years, got his start as the Raptors assistant general manager in 2006, a post he held for seven years.

During Eversley's time as Toronto's assistant GM, the franchise used the No. 9 overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft to select DeMar DeRozan from USC. Fast forward 12 years and Eversley played an instrumental role in DeRozan's decision to join the Bulls franchise via sign-and-trade.

DeRozan will forever be known for his influence on the Raptors franchise, a fact pointed out by one LeBron James, who thinks the franchise 'absolutely should' retire DeRozan's No. 10 jersey. For the first time in his NBA career, DeRozan will be wearing a different number, suiting up as No. 11 for a Bulls franchise that looks to advance to the postseason for the first time since 2017.

MORE: Examining DeRozan's fit with the Bulls

It starts with upper management in Eversley and a franchise player in DeRozan, but Chicago has recently made some additions that strengthen the Toronto connection.

On Monday, Sept. 6, three separate reports surfaced, linking three players to the Bulls who have Raptors ties. First, it was The Athletic's Shams Charania reporting that Stanley Johnson had reached an agreement with Chicago.

Johnson, 25, is a former lottery pick that appeared in 86 regular-season games over the last two seasons with Toronto. He had his fair share of ups and downs during his time with the Raptors, but a highlight of Johnson's tenure was a 35-point, 10-rebound, five-assist performance in a road loss to the Bulls on May 13, 2021.

Shortly after the reports of Stanley Johnson joining Chicago surfaced, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Bulls had reached an agreement on a two-year $3.6 million deal with Alizé Johnson, a player whose time with the Raptors organization was relatively short-lived.

Alizé Johnson joined Toronto on an Exhibit 10 deal in December of 2020, sticking with the team throughout training camp before he was one of the final roster cuts ahead of the 2020-21 regular season. He spent the entire 2021 G League Bubble with the Raptors 905, averaging 16.6 points, 13.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists over 15 games before landing with the Brooklyn Nets.

In Chicago, both Johnsons provide much-needed frontcourt depth, with Alizé having a sneaky opportunity to earn a solid spot in the rotation with his size and athleticism.

Rounding out the trio of Sept. 6 moves is sharpshooter Matt Thomas, who, according to Spotrac's Keith Smith, is signing with the Bulls.

Over two seasons, Thomas appeared in 67 regular-season games with Toronto, including a 22-point performance in a win over the Milwaukee Bucks at the NBA Restart in Orlando, FL. Thomas' non-guaranteed contract and defensive limitations may make his path to the 15-man roster tougher, but his ability as a knockdown shooter is something that teams can never have enough of.

At the very least, the Bulls should have three players with Raptors ties on their opening-night roster, but when training camp opens, there will be four former Raptors suiting up in Chicago.

The Bulls and Raptors will meet for the first of four times in the 2021-22 season on Oct. 25, 2021, at Scotiabank Arena.

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