I feel like I should start off by saying that I’m not a huge fan of the Chicago Bulls front office. Every article that gives any praise to the much-maligned GarPax is labeled as propaganda without that disclaimer, so there it is. I think they lack a lot of creativity that’s needed in the NBA today, and they overvalue financial flexibility (that’s a whole different tangent–good NBA teams can offload any contract to create cap space, you don’t need to hoard it). But, that’s not the point of this article. There’ll be countless billboards and op-eds telling you that sign of the coin.
No. I’m going to tell you why this has been a good offseason (so far) for your Chicago Bulls.
The draft’s up first. Luck is luck, and the Bulls had the 7th pick in a draft with 2 great players and a lot of unknowns. There was a lot of movement right before the draft, teams were moving up, and it seems like everyone wanted the Bulls to move up and grab a player like Darius Garland. I was one of those people, too. Then I sat and thought about it. Look at what Atlanta gave to move up to 4: the 8th, 17th and 35th pick in this latest draft, a 2020 protected pick from Cleveland, and they also had to take on Solomon Hill’s bloated contract (from Bleacher Report). The Bulls didn’t have that kind of draft capital to just give up, and do you really want to give up future picks for someone is this historically underwhelming draft?
So, after staying put, and just missing out on Jarrett Culver, Coby White is sitting there in the green room, and the Bulls just so happen to have a huge need for a point guard. Coby was consistently put at around seven on big boards (see here, here, and here). The Bulls did the easy thing and took the best available player at a position of need. Then, in the second round, they took a flier on a flier and spent the 38th pick on Arkansas’ Daniel Gafford, an über athletic big man who, oh yeah, fills another position of need at the backup center as Robin Lopez heads to Milwaukee. Nothing special in the draft, but there wasn’t much room to do anything special. GarPax just took who they thought were the best players, and if history is any indication, they might be good at drafting 7th.
Free agency is up next, and the Bulls have around $23 million to play with after the NBA struck Omer Asik’s contract from the books. There’s a lot of stars on the market, but $23 million isn’t enough to offer one max player a contract. So what does GarPax do? They sign the veteran Thaddeus Young to a 3 year, $41 million contracts with some sort of partial guarantee on the last year, according to K.C. Johnson. Young, a defense-first swingman who’s best suited at the 4, immediately becomes the oldest player on the Bulls and gives a little dose of that coveted veteran leadership (Young was a finalist for the NBA teammate of the year award). Young’s most likely position is coming off the bench, but don’t be surprised if he plays a decent amount with Lauri Markkanen. He can bridge the minutes between the first and second unit, and give Lauri some time to play the 5 when Wendell Carter Jr. needs a break. Having Young pick up the tougher of the two frontcourt assignments, provide leadership, and give good minutes off the bench is all positives, and getting him on a deal cheaper than Julius Randle or Bobby Portis is another plus.
Oh, I can hear it now. “Why didn’t the Bulls spend big in free agency? Why didn’t they use all their cap space on one big fish?” Yeah, they could’ve got former Buck Malcolm Brogdon, for a first, two seconds and $21 million a year. That’s probably the best player on the market who signed for the upper echelon of the Bull’s budget, but then what? There’s no room to sign a back up big man, and you’re giving up future assets. There’s a lot of money being thrown around this year, but getting two contributors, while not as high of a level, is better than getting one. The Bulls have too many holes to fill at this moment.
That Thaddeus Young signing leaves $10 million for a point guard to supplant Kris Dunn, and the Bulls decide to use it on Tomas Satoransky. He’s a 6′ 7″ guard coming from the Washington Wizards, and you’ve got to love this signing. Sato won’t wow anybody, he’ll just show up, hit 38% on 3 point attempts, and give good defensive effort. Maybe he’ll start while Coby gets acclimated to the NBA, or join a bench that, for the first time in a long time, looks like a real bench. Sato-Valentine-Hutch-Young-Gafford as the new bench mob isn’t half bad, and it’s a lot better than what we had last year.
One move that hasn’t been made yet, and hopefully won’t, is stretching Cristiano Felicio‘s contract. If you don’t know what the stretch provision is, here’s an excerpt from Hoops Rumors Glossary:
“The stretch provision ensures that any player waived with at least $250K in guaranteed salary remaining on his contract will have the payment schedule of that money spread across multiple years. That schedule is determined as follows: If a player is waived between July 1 and August 31, his remaining salary is paid over twice the number of years remaining on his contract, plus one.“
Felicio is due around $16 million for the next two years (yikes). Stretching him turns that number into $3.2 million for the next 5 years. Stretching him this year will give an extra $5 million to the Bulls this offseason, but why? Why would the Bulls need that extra space? If they were at $28 million and wanted to go after a max player and just needed a little more cap space, then I can see it, but what player do fans so desperately want for $15 million that won’t take $10 million? Why not just eat the last two years, and completely wash our hands of Felicio’s horrid contract instead of seeing that infectious smile at the bottom of every cap sheet until 2024?
So yeah, decent offseason for the Bulls so far. Have a healthy summer league, don’t stretch the Felicio contract, and it might be the best offseason in a while. At least this year there’s no Jabari Parker deal.
Ethan McDougall is on twitter as @mcdougiee1. He’s not a GarPax fan but gives credit where it’s due. Don’t hate too much.