Bulls keep Javonte Green in the mix, signing him for rest of the season

It wasn’t just an under-the-radar Bulls transaction on a slow news day.

The team announced early Thursday afternoon that Javonte Green was signed for the remainder of the season, waiving reserve Terry Taylor.

A sneaky deal that was not only expected but sorely needed.

It not only gives Billy Donovan a versatile player that he knows very well after several seasons of coaching him, but it shows exactly how Donovan knows this roster has to play if they want to get out of the play-in portion of the postseason and reach a playoff round.

It’s a choking defense.

It’s Green in the mix.

The numbers don’t lie when it comes to the 6-foot-5 guard/forward. Since inking him to a 10-day contract in late March, the Bulls are 2-1 in the three games Green played in, he’s third in defensive efficiency (113.6), and he’s a plus-22.

Sample size too small?

Of course it is, but Green has always been a difference maker for Donovan since coming over in a trade with Boston back in the 2020-21 season. He was a plus-20 in 65 games back in the 2021-22 campaign and followed that up last year with a plus-48 until a knee injury sidetracked his season.

His defensive efficiency last year was also third best on the team with a 108.9.

But why go with Green now?

First, the Bulls had to get him off a 10-day contract and onto a regular deal if they wanted him eligible for any postseason play, but it also shows just how concerned the front office and coaching staff are with the depth situation.

Guard Jevon Carter has fallen out of favor as a bench option, getting four DNP (Did Not Play) Coach’s decision in the previous seven games, and the games he did get in was short minutes or mop-up duty.

Executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas doesn’t like to admit his mistakes, but inking Carter to a two-year deal is playing out like another error. Carter, who made $6.1 million this year and will make a guaranteed $6.5 million next season, also has the player option for the 2025-26 season at $6.8 million.

That’s a lot of money for a veteran being treated like a deep-bench towel waiver.

The other issue that Green fixes is the on-going concerns with Torrey Craig’s knee. Craig has returned from the injury and has been playing, but Donovan admittedly feels the knee sprain is still an issue.

“He’s not on a minutes restriction,” Donovan said of Craig recently. “I’m not a doctor but I do know he has stiffness (in the injured knee). To me he’s just not himself. He’s just not. That doesn’t mean he isn’t cleared to play, he is, and he wants to play as well. I don’t think even going back to the plantar fasciitis (from earlier in the season) and then the knee injury over All-Star break, he’s not moving prior to the way he was prior to those things, he’s just not. He feels like the more he plays the better he gets.”

The Bulls have six games to hold off Atlanta and stay locked into the No. 9 seed of the Eastern Conference. If they can do that they will then host the Hawks in the first play-in game, and with a win get the loser of the No. 7 vs. No. 8 game.

Whether that’s Miami, Indiana or Philadelphia, Green gives Donovan another look late in games that he’s always liked to have in his pocket and that’s the small-ball lineup. Because of his physicality, Green can guard fours and even some fives.

Is the Green signing a game-changer in the big picture of the Eastern Conference? Absolutely not. But he could be the difference between play-in failure or first-round playoff appearance. That carries weight with this Bulls front office.

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