The Chicago Bulls were a complete mess this year, finishing with a record of 27-55 and missing the playoffs. This was the second time they have missed the playoffs in the past three seasons, and it was obvious the team was looking to tank and compete for the number one pick. Before the season began, the team traded star player Jimmy Butler for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn, and the 7th overall pick, which the team used to select Lauri Markkanen.
The team obviously tanked, and was actually called out by the NBA, in an attempt to get the number one pick in the upcoming NBA draft. They didn’t win the lottery, instead landing the 7th overall pick. That’s in addition to the number 22 pick they obtained in a trade deadline deal with the New Orleans Pelicans.
Yes, the two first round draft picks are nice, but the Bulls also have something that most other NBA teams don’t: salary cap space. Unlike their roommates at the United Center (the Blackhawks), the Bulls have the second most practical cap space, just behind the Los Angeles Lakers. That’s quite a bit of money stored up to make a splash in free agency.
This year’s free agent class seems like it’s stacked at first, but when the player options are factored out, the biggest names out there are Chris Paul and DeMarcus Cousins. Then there are players like DeAndre Jordan and Aaron Gordon. Either way, there are some big names on the market this year, but don’t expect Chicago to chase after any of them. They’re still a year or two away from serious contention.
K.C. Johnson, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, was doing a Q&A session for Bulls fans, and one of the questions was about if Chicago was going to go after any of the big name players and offer a max-contract. He said, “Beyond due diligence to make sure all superstars aren’t interested in coming to Chicago, I don’t see the Bulls as major players this summer in free agency.”
The biggest goal for Chicago this year is going to be resigning LaVine, a restricted free agent in his own right. Assuming that deal gets done, which the Bulls are going to do everything in their power to get done, the team will continue to focus on their rebuild. Whoever they pick with the seventh-overall selection is going to be another important piece to add to their young core of Dunn, LaVine (hopefully), Markkanen and Bobby Portis.
According to Bleacher Report, the most realistic “dream” player that Chicago should attempt to target in free agency would be Kyle Anderson of the San Antonio Spurs. He’s a 24-year-old winger who averaged nearly 27 minutes a night, almost eight points, five rebounds and three assists a game.
But what makes him valuable is his age and his defense. Anderson’s size helps him defense against three positions in the NBA, and he can take pressure off of Dunn, which in turn would give him the ability to attack the basket more. Anderson isn’t the best shooter around, but that would be covered by Markkanen and Portis.
Is this a good option for the Bulls? Yes, but there are some challenges. First and foremost, he is a restricted free agent. That means that even if the Bulls were to offer Anderson a deal, the Spurs could turn around and match that deal. If the deal is matched, then the Bulls are out of luck.
It doesn’t sound like the Bulls are going to be big playmakers in free agency this year. The attention is going to be focused on making sure that Chicago continues to develop their young players, and when the time is right, make a big splash in free agency and compete with teams like Cleveland, Boston and Washington.
For right now though, expect the Bulls to continue to hoard some of their money. They will most likely only have a couple of depth piece signings with some of the lesser-known free agents. When Chicago is ready to compete with the likes of Golden State, Houston, and Philadelphia, then they will make a splash in free agency. It’s doable; just look at the Celtics.