NBA free agency is about to open its doors and the Chicago Bulls have some cash to throw around during the impending spending spree. And while it’s unfortunate that none of it will go to the big fish in the pond, the Bulls can still be thrifty with their existing capital.
To that end, Keith P. Smith of RealGM has a rundown of each team’s current cap space, and you’ll want to give it a read to get a full grasp of not just what the Bulls are doing, but also their peers. For now, let’s stick in Chicago.
With a projected salary cap of $109 million, the Bulls have $23,838,161 million in projected cap space this summer. That’s not just a decent number for a team that isn’t positioning itself to land stars in the free agent market, it’s also the 10th most among teams right now. It’s not much, but it’s a start! And how is this for a push: Smith projects the Bulls’ cap number could grow to a maximum of $28,253,523 before all is said and done. That would be the 13th most in the league if all cap spaces were maxed out, just behind the Lakers ($32,005,199 in max cap space).
Of course, the path to $28 million means the Bulls would have to do some tough swallowing. Among other moves, they’d need to dump point guard Kris Dunn for pennies on the dollar, trading him for a future second-round pick.
Dunn is slated to collect $5.3 million next season. And while the Bulls wouldn’t get to recoup all of that cap space, they would stand to save at least $4 million. I can’t imagine it would be easy for Chicago’s front office to part ways with Dunn after pushing him out there as a core piece of the Jimmy Butler trade, but good front offices can’t look at situations in that light if they want to build winners.
From there, the next move toward creating more cap space is a two-step process that starts with waiving big-man Cristiano Felicia, then “stretching” his contract out over several years. It’s a move that allows for teams to soften the blow of letting a player go, while also creating cap space. Should the Bulls decide to go this route, they could open up $5 million in cap space for this summer.
If the Bulls were to get to $28 million in cap space, they would be in a position to offer a max contract that would start at about $27,285,000 (as described in this from salary cap/NBA CBA analyst Larry Coon).
The idea of handing that type of deal to someone like D’Angelo Russell or Malcolm Brogdon is, off course, enticing. Adding a player with upside could do wonders for a franchise if it wants to accelerate its rebuild. And players of this caliber are not always readily available. Sometimes, you just have to act when an opportunity presents itself.
On the other hand, there’s at least an argument to be made that the Bulls would be wiser to add the sort of roster-filling role players (like Darren Collison), with which they’ve been connected in rumors for a while now. These types of players could provide depth and plug holes at positions that would allow for its young core of Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr., Zach LaVine, and Coby White to grow. And then, after demonstrating some competitiveness and building back greater salary cap ammunition, the Bulls can sign an impact player or two when the time is more appropriate.
I tend to think that’s probably a safer, more appropriate route (to say nothing of it being the route I think the Bulls are going to take (especially given the Collison rumors)) – but it’s obviously not a lock. And let’s face it, the NBA is a star-driven league and the Bulls are starved for star-power. Using their available cap space to land a player who could be added to the core who has tremendous upside and potential isn’t too crazy, even if finding that sort of player with a little more than $23 million isn’t going to be easy.
I just want to point out that there *is* a path to grabbing more cap space for that kind of move as the fun gets set to begin.
Michael Cerami contributed to this post.