The season might be over, but it sure won’t feel like it over the next two weeks.
As we discussed in Sunday’s bullets, the rumors are only going to come in bigger waves with the 2022 NBA Draft scheduled for this Thursday night and with free agency less than two weeks away. Not only will certain players become increasingly connected to certain teams, but hypothetical trades are about to bounce off the walls more than the Tasmanian Devil after a couple of Four Lokos.
Things are seriously about to get wild, and if you don’t believe me, I present you with this:
Bring on the chaos, NBA!
- If the Chicago Bulls drop the bag on Zach LaVine (as we expect them to at the start of free agency), it will serve as the exclamation point on a new era of Bulls basketball. While LaVine may not be a new face or bring a new skillset, retaining him will speak volumes about the organization on several levels, demonstrating that the Bulls are serious about (1) building a winner and (2) taking care of their players. As different as the two situations might be, when the Bulls opted to trade Jimmy Butler in 2017, it left a bad taste in our collective mouth. They gave up on an All-Star just entering his prime in favor of a full-fledged rebuild. Regardless of what we think about the logistics of a Butler trade, that’s not normally the kind of decision you want to see a big-market franchise make.
- Keeping LaVine in town – whom they received back in that Butler deal – would almost be righting the previous wrongs. And it would also likely indicate ownership has been convinced to step into the luxury tax. I would expect a handful of fans on the outside to believe the big-city Bulls have dipped their toe into the tax several times. But those are probably the same fans who would be shocked to walk into a bar and see the majority of Chicagoans eating tavern-style thin crust. The fact of the matter is the Bulls have only entered the luxury tax once in franchise history (h/t K.C. Johnson), which still gives us reason to question how far the Reinsdorfs are willing to go when it comes to exceeding the cap.
- If we’ve learned anything from Golden State – winners of four rings in the last eight years – it’s that you have to spend big to win in this league. Not only does retaining star talent take aggressive spending, but acquiring the right pieces around that star does too. The Bulls simply have to take a page out of that handbook. The longer they are scared to open up their wallet, the longer they will come up short of being a legitimate Finals contender.
- Also, let’s not forget about the new TV rights deal heading the NBA’s way in a couple of years. The salary cap is expected to jump to an unheard level, which means many of the contracts we see today aren’t going to look nearly as significant as the ones handed to players moving forward. But, regardless, SPEND YOUR MONEY, OWNERS!
- I’m listening, Will.
- According to Kelly Iko of The Athletic, Kenyon Martin Jr. recently went to the Rockets front office to ask for a trade. While Martin is a 21-year-old with plenty of 3-and-D upside, his position in the Rockets rotation remains hazy with so many other high-upside youngsters on the roster. Owed a non-guaranteed $1.8 million next season and a restricted free agent next summer, Martin feels like an inexpensive gamble for a team in desperate need of shooting depth. He’s shot 36.0 percent from behind the arc for his NBA career, and he possesses great size at the wing with a six-foot-six, 215lb frame. He may not be the proven veteran Karnisovas likely wants to add to the bench, but he’s someone to consider.
- Speaking of high-upside youngsters, should the Bulls also consider Nic Claxton? Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle has reported that the Nets are “unlikely to match a mid-level offer” for the 23-year-old big man. I know the Bulls have been rumored as a team willing to make a big splash to fix their rim-protecting issues, but targeting someone like Claxton is far more realistic. He’s an athletic lob threat on the offensive end and a sturdy shot-blocker on defense. He’s finished a plus-defender the past two seasons and recorded a +1.5 estimated defensive plus-minus this year, which ranked in the 85th percentile, per Dunks & Threes. If another team doesn’t swoop in to overpay, I’d love the Bulls to give him a closer look.
- An old friend is headed back overseas.
- Alex Caruso wants you to know he’s a hooper and golfer.
- Don’t mind if I do!
- Please … don’t let the Pirates beat you.