With one half of the season still to go and the trade deadline a little under two weeks away, now is a good time to do a quick salary cap check.
Over the past two seasons, there has been a consistent emphasis on the 2021-22 offseason. Not only was this initially going to be a stacked free-agent class, but the Chicago Bulls were also positioned to have a relatively significant amount of money to spend. The former has changed a bit, as a bulk of the most highly-coveted free agents have signed extensions with their respective teams, but the latter is still set to occur.
But determining exactly how much the Bulls will have in their pocket is still pretty difficult. While we know players like Otto Porter and Cristiano Felicio will finally be off the books, there are possible moves the Bulls can make between now and the offseason that can greatly impact their spending power, which is why we saw ESPN’s Bobby Marks list the Bulls as a “wild card” team this offseason when it came to projected cap space.
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) March 12, 2021
Chicago can move up to as high as Marks’ 40+ million tier depending on what they give up ahead of next season. For more context, here are the guaranteed salaries for the 2020-21 season:
Zach LaVine: $19,500,000
Patrick Williams: $7,422,000
Wendell Carter Jr.: $6,920,027
Thaddeus Young: $6,000,000*
Tomas Satoransky: $5,000,000*
Coby White: $5,837,760
Chandler Hutchison: $4,019,459
*guaranteed portion of partially-guaranteed contract
Total guaranteed: $54,699,246
Expected salary cap: $112,414,000 (via Spotrac)
Expected salary cap space: $57,714,754
We then have to factor in the Bulls first-round draft pick, which right now would be in the mid-lottery and thus somewhere around the $5 million range. Add that to the total guaranteed and subtract it from the salary cap, and the Bulls are looking at up to roughly $52 million in cap space.
All things considered, that is the highest number we can expect to see this offseason, but I doubt we’ll actually see it. We have to take into consideration a number of other factors, including Lauri Markkanen’s $20 million cap hold and whether or not the Bulls will hold onto Young and Satoransky, which could boost their combined $11 million guaranteed to $24,190,000 guaranteed.
Ryan Borja on Twitter does some great work displaying all these possibilities in an easily digestible chart. So rather than write it all out, which I think can be hard to follow, I recommend you check out the chart he made below.
Updated Chicago Bulls Cap Sheet
– I finally included the 2021 1st round pick salary.
– For now I project the Bulls with the 7th overall pick(currently they have 5th worst record).
– The 7th pick will have a 5.4mil hold.
More in thread… pic.twitter.com/Yb5VYbZpFA
— The Bulls GM (@RyanBorja) February 6, 2021
Note: Basketball-Insiders also does a great job mapping out the finances.
So basically your main takeaway should be that the Bulls are looking at a range of $14-52 million dollars in projected cap space … which is pretty crazy.
My guess is that we find the team somewhere in the middle, especially when we consider the aforementioned point about how most of the high-profile players are now off the market. But the broader point is that Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley have many options and many different ways they can open up more money. With that in mind, the trade deadline can become that much more interesting. Could we see them move on from someone like Young or Markkanen to guarantee that extra spending power? Could we see them become more comfortable taking on a player’s salary because they could have the space open up anyway?
My best guess remains that they keep things conservative mid-season and wait to consider all their options after their last game. But the Bulls have flexibility right now, and that does add an even greater element of excitement to the future.