The free agency flood gates will open up on August 2nd. The team will be able to meet with free agents, and after a moratorium period that will last three days, players will officially be able to sign new contracts on August 6th.
Even with the 2021 NBA Draft on the horizon, this first week of August will hold the biggest impact on the 2021-22 season. However, before the Bulls can even think about how to maneuver this stretch, they must get their finances in check.
One of the most impactful decisions Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley will make this summer will happen the day before the chaos. Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky are both on partially guaranteed deals, and the Bulls must decide whether or not to fully guarantee those deals by August 1st. The Bulls will owe Young $6 million if they decide to waive him and $14.2 million if they decide to keep him around. Big difference. As for Satoransky, his situation is a bit less steep, as he will receive $5 million if waived but an extra $5 million if kept ($10 million total).
Now, to be clear, if the Bulls decided to waive Satoransky and/or Young, they could also stretch both of their contracts. This means they can pay both what they are owed over the next three seasons, thus giving the front office even more cap space to work with this offseason. Of course, a move like this would also slightly limit future flexibility, but it could be worth it IF the Bulls believe they have a shot at landing significant upgrades in the free-agent market.
Moving off one of these two fully-guaranteed contracts would be vital in opening up enough cap space to make a convincing run at a guy like Lonzo Ball (think roughly $23-25 million). Keep in mind, this could also happen via trade, which would likely be where Karnisovas looks first so he can avoid eating any money at all. Additionally, there is a world where the Bulls can keep one of Satoransky and Young for quality depth while also opening up the necessary cap space to sign a big free agent, which would come via stretch-and-waiving Al-Farouq Aminu’s $10.2 million.
Also impacting the Bulls’ spending power this summer would be any decision on a qualifying offer or team option. The Bulls will be able to extend an offer to both Javonte Green and Lauri Markkanen.
According to Spotrac, Green’s qualifying offer would sit at roughly $1.8 million. Markkanen’s qualifying offer is set to be $9.0 million. Extending the qualifying offer is how the Bulls can ensure they have the right to match any contract sheet thrown the player’s way. Good business says they will extend Markkanen the offer (which he will decline), so they can potentially pursue a sign-and-trade or match if the offer is low enough (can always trade him later). Green’s situation is a bit different. While the fact the organization traded for him could suggest interest in keeping him around, they could very well want to leave that roster spot open for other options and not run the risk of him accepting the QO.
Lastly, the team option the Bulls have to consider is Ryan Arcidiacono. The 27-year-old would be owed $3 million if the team chose to keep him next season. With such a minor role, I don’t think anyone would be surprised if this new organization decided to part ways. Every little bit of extra money can help when you’re trying to navigate the open market. At the same time, the team knows what it is going to get from Arcidiacono, which is not a bad thing when you’re talking about a back-of-bench guy.
The moves made on or by August 1st should tell us quite a bit about how the team plans to attack free agency. I’m not quite sure what path is best to take, but (fortunately) that is not my decision to make. All I can do is hope that Karnisovas and Eversley know what they are doing, and the team we see on the floor next season reaches a new level.