Ho Ho Ho – The Bulls are making their list and checking it twice. One day before the start of NBA free agency, the Bulls are trying to figure out how to keep one of its superstars — Zach LaVine — while simultaneously adding to a roster that made the playoffs for the first time in five seasons.
Bulls 2022 Offseason Wish List
Locking Up LaVine
The #1 priority for the Bulls is to resign Zach LaVine — there’s no doubt about that. Bulls GM Marc Eversley made that crystal clear:
“We’re prepared to do what it would take to bring Zach back.” Marc eversley, bulls general manager
It will take $212 million over five years for the Bulls, assuming LaVine won’t be taking a hometown discount. That’s the max the Bulls can offer LaVine — more than any other team. After averaging nearly 25 PPG for a third straight season while holding a 3pt% near 40%, the 27-year-old is in the prime of his career – assuming that he’s healthy. If knee issues persist after an extension, the Bulls will be severely handicapped with limited cap space and draft picks.
The Bulls Salary Cap Situation
The salary cap for the 2022/2023 NBA season is $149 million. Right now, the Bulls have just over $103 million committed to 11 players:
DeMar DeRozan $27.3M
Nikola Vucevic $22.0M
Lonzo Ball $19.5M
Alex Caruso $9.0M
Patrick Williams $7.8M
Coby White $7.4M
Dalen Terry (R) $3.1M
Tony Bradley $2.0M
Javonte Green $1.8M
Ayo Dosunmu $1.6M
Marko Simonovic $1.6M
Doing the math, a $149 million salary cap minus $103 million in salary = $46 million in cap space. Assuming that LaVine is resigned for the max of $212 million over five years, at an average salary of $42.4 million per season, that leaves the Bulls with less than $5 million (minus exceptions) to work with in free agency.
The signing of DeMar DeRozan by Eversley and Arturas Karnisovas, Bulls Executive VP of Basketball Operations, turned into one of the best moves of the entire season. DeRozan averaged career highs in points (27.9) and 3pt% (35.0) while coming up insanely clutch in the fourth quarter. After resigning LaVine, the Bulls retain their top 2 scorers, team leaders, and hopes of winning a championship. Now the Bulls need to shore up their defense and continue to surround DeRozan and LaVine with facilitators and three-point shooters, as Karnisovas said in a recent interview on 670 The Score.
Bulls get Rudy Gobert from the Jazz, sending Vucevic, Coby White, and a 1st Round Pick to the Jazz
The Bulls get their rim protector and big (French)man in a league-altering trade. The three-time Defensive Player of the Year immediately puts the Bulls in contention in the Eastern Conference, where he can go head-to-head with former MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Joel Embid, who I think should have won the MVP this year. From a cap standpoint, absorbing Gobert’s 38.1M dollar contract that only increases over the next three years – with a player option in the final year – is the definition of going all in. After shipping out Vucevic and White, the Bulls would be over the cap by about $5 million.
And What if the Jazz Say No?
The Jazz turning down that trade altogether remains entirely possible. The Jazz could seek more in return despite the rumored friction between Gobert and teammate Donovan Mitchell. If that’s the case, the Bulls can tinker with the roster by supplementing the DeRozan/LeVein core with veterans.
Finding Another Facilitator
The Bulls were rolling in the first half of last season. Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and DeRozan added offensive punch — and just as significantly — basketball IQ to the roster. Ball and Caruso’s ability to push the fast break and create easy buckets changed the dynamic of the Bull’s offense. But injuries sidelined both of them in the second half — and in Ball’s case — kept him out of the playoffs. The Bulls hope he returns healthy, but getting a backup plan at the point guard position is essential. Ideally, that player can mimic Ball’s skillset — play-making, defense, and 3pt shooting.
Bulls Sign Point Guard Patty Mills To 2-Yr, $16M Contract
The 33-year-old veteran spent the last two seasons in Brooklyn. He shot 40% from three and added a steady hand to the point guard rotation. Mills and DeRozan played together in San Antonio, so transitioning to the Bulls should be easy. Plus, he can start if Ball is sidelined to start the season.
Three-Point Shooting & Defense
Nikola Vucevic is a 2-time All-Star because of his offensive prowess, not his defense (though he puts in the effort.) Karnisovas said the Bulls need to protect the rim better and find more shooters:
“WE NEED SOME RIM PROTECTION, WE NEED SOME SHOOTING.” Bulls Executive VP of Basketball Operations
Bulls Sign Center Mo Bamba to 3-Yr, $45M Contract
The ironic part about this deal is that it costs slightly more per year ($15M) than former Bull Wendell Carter Jr. got from the Magic ($14.5M). But the Carter trade brought over Vucevic, who will be reunited with his former teammate in Bamba. The 7-foot center is an athletic freak, a trait that Bulls management desires. His ability to protect the rim and board on the offensive end fills another Bulls need.
Bulls Sign Nicolas Batum to 2-Yr, $15M Contract
The Bulls sign their 2nd Frenchman and career 40% shooter from 3. Batum provides the Bulls with instant offense off the bench and a perfect spot-up shooter to compliment slashers DeRozan and LaVine.
Bulls Lure J.J. Redick Out Of Retirement For 1-Yr, $5M
The 38-year-old sharpshooter has a career average of 41.5% from 3pt. He provides more instant offense for a Bulls team looking to make the NBA Finals.
Rudy Gobert Or The Field?
Which would you prefer? The 30-year-old, 3-time Defense Player of the Year with 4-years left on his contract at an annual average salary of ~$40 million. Or putting veteran pieces around the core of LaVine, DeRozan, and Vucevic? Adding the list of vets above would also require the Bulls to dump Coby White’s salary, so there’s some collateral damage there too.
Which direction Karnisovas and Eversley ultimately go will begin to take shape tomorrow at midnight.