Tristan Thompson's Contract Implications, Future Big Man Market, and Other Bulls Bullets

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Tristan Thompson’s Contract Implications, Future Big Man Market, and Other Bulls Bullets

Chicago Bulls

A small yet somewhat significant piece of news about the Bulls’ recent midseason signing appeared on Monday. According to Bleacher Reports’ Eric Pincus, Arturas Karnisovas and Co. opted to use their bi-annual exception to sign veteran big man Tristan Thompson, thus removing it as an option this offseason.

Is that a problem? Eh, I’d say it depends on how you want to look at it. And to understand why that is … let’s rewind.

•   In its simplest form, the BAE is an extra wad of cash teams can use to sign free agents. The total is more than the veteran minimum ($774,289) but less than what a tax-payer or non-tax-payer midlevel exception would offer. This season it appears the BAE checked in at roughly $3.7 million (h/t Hoops Rumors). To be clear, Thompson is not receiving the entirety of that sum but rather $1.0 million for the remainder of the season, per Pincus. The reason it’s called the “bi-annual” exception is due to the fact that it can not be used two seasons in a row. In other words, since the Bulls activated this pile of cash for Thompson, they will no longer be able to access any of it this summer (even if, technically, they didn’t use all of it on Thompson). So, yes, if there is any gripe to have with this decision, it would likely be that.

•   We all know the Bulls are not the most flexible team, and the BAE is something that can provide non-flexible teams with much-needed wiggle room. Opting to use this cash now with only 23 games left in the regular season is a near-sighted point-of-view, especially in the wake of an offseason where plenty of money will have to be spent to retain emerging superstar Zach LaVine.

•   With that said, the LaVine situation might also be exactly why the team did choose to take advantage of this exception sooner than later. Using the BAE hard caps a team, which might be something the Bulls want to avoid next season when they give LaVine his payday. The Bulls are also already hard-capped this season thanks to their sign-and-trade deals this offseason, so using this exception now doesn’t change much for the front office. Additionally, it’s possible the Bulls run into a situation where LaVine’s deal is the first line of business and thus pushes the organization over the tax apron (h/t @RyanBorja on Twitter – follow him for great salary cap info). If this happens, the BAE wouldn’t even become available to them (organizations must be above the cap but below the apron to activate the exception).

•   Did your head stop spinning yet? Mine hasn’t. While I know this is a lot of information to take in, it’s this kind of stuff that is considered behind the scenes when making what feels like even the smallest move. At the end of the day, I don’t think this is a particularly ideal situation, but I also don’t think it’s worth a slap on the wrist. The Bulls already played the long game at the trade deadline, so I think they have earned the right to make a more immediate move, especially considering their need at the position.

•   This whole situation also goes to show how aggressive this front office continues to be to land the talent they want. The fact they had to go over the veteran minimum and into the BAE to sign Thompson is likely because that’s what the free agent asked for. We know he was a coveted midseason target for contending teams, so by limiting their own flexibility a bit further, it showed a desire to ensure no one else landed the big man.

•   Speaking of big men, do the Bulls want to keep Thompson beyond this season? The need for a more reliable backup big to take some rim-protecting pressure off Nikola Vucevic isn’t going away, so I have to imagine the Bulls will try to be active in the big man market this summer. Again, they may not have the most flexibility, but there will be a number of interesting big men available, including … Mitchell Robinson, Mo Bamba, Bobby Portis, JaVale McGee, Thomas Bryant, Nicolas Claxton, Ivic Zubac, Andre Drummond, and Derrick Favors. For a more complete look at this summer’s free-agent class, check out Spotrac’s list here.

•   The Bulls’ six games after the trade deadline: Hawks, Grizzlies, Heat, Hawks, Bucks, 76ers. Unfortunately, this slate is indicative of the entire 23-game slate that stands between the Bulls and the postseason.

•   I go back and forth between frustration that this Bulls team can’t catch a break and loving the lessons this adversity should teach a new group. The team has responded so well to all the bumps in the road, and the fact they have had to rely on talent across the roster this season should only make them more well-rounded come playoff time. The minutes for guys like Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu due to these injuries could pay off big-time if/when they are asked to play key postseason possessions. Yet, at the same time, I hate the idea of tired legs. LaVine, DeRozan, and Vuecvic have all had to clock substantial minute totals over the last month, and we’ve already seen it cause LaVine some issues.

•   Ben Simmons is supposed to ramp up his activity this week, pushing him closer to a potential debut for the Brooklyn Nets. Even though this team may currently sit 8th in the conference, they still have the potential to run the table, especially if Simmons looks like his non-playoff self.

•   I made myself laugh with this one:

•   You love to see it.

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.