In case you thought the Bulls were going to get Kyrie Irving this year, I hate to tell you: it’s probably not going to happen. However, before the free agency extravaganza begins every offseason, it’s always fun to at least dream about possible additions to the Bulls roster.
And thanks to the website BetOnline, we now have a better idea of what free agents might be worth dreaming about. Obviously, gambling odds don’t always reflect real world outcomes – let alone any actual rumors – but they can often reveal some broader, behind-the-scenes or fan sentiment. And, at worst, they’re fun to talk about.
Especially when, somewhat surprisingly, the Bulls are on the list of possible landings spots for three big-name players… one of which is very familiar.
Jimmy Butler (10/1) – 7th best odds
Kemba Walker (14/1) – 6th best odds
D’Angelo Russell (10/1) – 4th best odd
Now, for any of those moves to actually happen, the Bulls would have to open up much more cap space (… or the players can accept less money out of the goodness of their hearts … but I don’t see that happening). Indeed, the team is currently projected to have right around $21 million in cap space this upcoming offseason, which isn’t nearly enough to go out and sign one of these players.
With that said, NBC Chicago Sports Kevin Anderson recently mapped out how the Bulls could expand their cap. The moves took into consideration the Bulls getting the money owed to the injured Omer Asik voided ($3 million) and then stretching out the 4 yr/ $32 million owed to center Cristiano Felicio over the next several years, bringing the Bulls up to roughly $27 million this offseason.
Because my good friend @cbefred asked, here is what the Bulls 2019 cap situation looks like if Bulls get an exemption on Asik and stretch Felicio. $27m is likely enough to max a 0-6 year free agent. (exact amount based on real cap when announced in late June) pic.twitter.com/TUm1RH2Wev
— Kevin Anderson (@Kevin_NBCS) May 28, 2019
If the Bulls pulled off something like that, the most realistic sign (of the players listed above) would probably be D’Angelo Russell. He’s a restricted free agent with the Nets, so it’s always possible they try to match whatever the Bulls would offer to keep him around, but according to the New York Post, league sources back in April believed that Russell would be looking for exactly around $27 million per year during his next contract, and the Brooklyn Nets weren’t sure if he was worth that much.
With his breakout season just wrapping up, the first-time all-star looks like he’s really figured out his place in the NBA after being traded by the Lakers (who are probably kicking themselves over that). He averaged 21.1 ppg with 7.0 assists per game (11th best in the league). He has proven that he can step into the facilitator role while also being a massive scoring threat. If in some world the Bulls were actually able to bring him to the United Center, this starting lineup would almost immediately become playoff-caliber.
After Russell, laying out an actual situation where the Bulls can sign one of the other two free agents is tough. Kemba Walker’s chance of landing with the Bulls is his 6th best odds, and Chicago probably made the list solely because they’re in desperate need of a point guard. He’s also up for a super max contract with the Hornets now after landing all-NBA honors, so that organization is now easily the favorite. Adding Walker would be a lot of fun, but isn’t necessarily the most realistic fit for the Bulls. He is obviously a score-first dominant point guard on the offensive end and could take away shots from some of the team’s young scorers, but nonetheless, the guy is a superstar and that always helps the team.
Jimmy Butler, on the other hand, would be an interesting homecoming. Obviously, the guy started his career here and really took off in his quest toward becoming the top-15 players he is today. He was seen speaking with head coach Jim Boylen recently at a Chicago restaurant (yummy), and the two are rumored to have a pretty close relationship (yummier). I’m not going to lie, seeing him in a Bulls jersey again and playing alongside Markkanen, LaVine and Wendell Carter Jr. would be all kinds of fun.
Alas, it feels like a pipe dream.