The Bulls were probably not expecting to focus on next season just as the 2020-21 Play-In Tournament games officially tip-off, but here they (we?) are. Preventing a fifth straight season without showing face in the playoffs starts now. And a key part of that process will include filling the team’s current hole at point guard.
Coby White has proven to be more of a combo threat (though, he did show some encouraging play toward the end of the season), while Tomas Satoransky appears nothing more than a serviceable rotation player. The Bulls simply need a more obvious lead guard and facilitator to pair with its two All-Stars. And that’s why we’ve already seen the organization connected time and again to Lonzo Ball.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski added more fuel to the Ball-to-Bulls fire in a conversation with Zach Lowe on The Lowe Post Podcast earlier today. While he didn’t necessarily add any new groundbreaking information, he did reaffirm the Bulls’ expected interest this summer, as well as mention another team who will likely have their eyes on Ball.
The Bulls, there is a lot of interest there. That deal could have happened at the trade deadline. I think Lauri Markkanen if Chicago is willing to maybe do more with [the] draft, throwing a pick in the deal might have happened then, but they did the deal with Orlando. They had sent picks off in that, and they knew they had cap space, and they knew they had the summer. But there will be teams. Let’s see, we got Chicago and we got New York, and we got restricted free agents in Lonzo Ball and we got an unrestricted free agent in Dennis Schroder potentially with the Lakers. And Spencer Dinwiddie … But I think Ball in Chicago will be an interesting one to watch.
We meet again, Knicks.
We wrote the other week about New York possibly throwing a wrench in Chicago’s plans to land the 23-years-old. The organization may not have the two All-Stars to flaunt, but they do have a recent trip to the playoffs as a No. 4 seed and a potential All-NBA breakout big man in Julius Randle. Not to mention, the Knicks are sitting on a handful of draft picks and a boatload of cap space. The ability to add more impact talent via trade or free agency is alive and well.
Wojnarowski mentioning the Bulls first in the Ball discussion, however, still bodes well for the organization’s chances. Perhaps the previous conversations at the deadline could have a positive impact on how discussions go this summer, especially if the two front offices already had a potential sign-and-trade deal in the mix (which ESPN’s Brian Windhorst did throw out as a possibility earlier this year).
“They knew they had cap space,” is also a rather interesting line by Wojnarowski. He isn’t necessarily wrong, but the addition of Nikola Vucevic did shorten the Bulls’ flexibility a bit. NBC Sports Chicago’s Kevin Anderson broke down the Bulls’ current salary cap situation well, currently projecting them to have roughly $24 million to operate with.
For those wondering, here is what the roster would look like to get to $24m in cap space. Basically cut the roster in half and renounce all FA's. If Aminu declines his option it would add flexibility but that's very unlikely pic.twitter.com/q9ov7lct8l
— Kevin Anderson (@Kevin_NBCS) May 17, 2021
The Bulls are truly a wild card when it comes to their spending power, though, and that is in large part thanks to the partially guaranteed contracts of Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky. For example, if the Bulls keep Young, who feels the most likely of the two to stay, they would owe him roughly $8 million, which would drop the Bulls projected cap to about $16.5.
The reason I find Woj’s comment interesting is that it might allude to the fact that the Bulls are willing to open up as much cap space as possible this summer. Karnisovas did tell reporters in his end-of-season press conference that he will continue to be aggressive this offseason to improve the team. More specifically, he said his unit will discuss what this team needs and will “attack it during free agency.” So Karnisovas sees a player he wants – like Ball – he appears prepared to do what he has to do to make the money work, and that’s good news because Wojnarowski sees a sizable payday coming Ball’s way.
“I think Lonzo will get a pretty good number, whether it’s Chicago, whether it’s New York, and some other places with a younger point guard that might want to bring in a little more of a veteran.”