So Which Centers Are Hitting the Free Agent Market This Summer, Anyway?
NBA Free Agent Centers — Realistically, we’ll have to have a more in-depth conversation (about the Bulls and their options at center next year) when the NBA season actually comes to a close. We still have three weeks before the start of the NBA Finals. And there’s still over a month before the NBA Draft. With that being the case, a handful of teams have yet to put their focus on the impending NBA free agents.
Still, with the Bulls likely out of a draft pick and on the verge of a pivotal offseason for the organization, it can’t hurt to at least familiarize ourselves with the market. This is particularly true when it comes to the options underneath the basket.
Bulls Options, Financial Flexibility
While it remains likely that the Bulls try to re-sign Nikola Vucevic this summer, a deal is hardly guaranteed. The big man is an unrestricted free agent, which means he has complete freedom to find a new home. And, if he were to walk, that would leave the Bulls with a massive hole at center (and little money available to patch it).
Indeed, we can’t fall into the trap of thinking that a Vucevic departure means gobs of cap space for the Bulls. The fact of the matter is that even if Vucevic leaves, and they re-sign guys like Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu, they’re going to have only the non-taxpayer mid-level exception (roughly $11.3 million) and the bi-annual reception (roughly $4.4 million) with which to work. You’re not signing a player of similar value to Vucevic with that money.
Even if the Bulls were going to decide to act as a cap space team, the max amount of cap space they can create is $16.3 million, per Spotrac. Once again, you likely aren’t signing a player of Vucevic’s caliber with that money. It also wouldn’t be nearly enough to fill all the other holes that would be created.
So, again, re-signing Vucevic to a multi-year deal somewhere near the $20 million mark should be considered the most likely outcome. But for the sake of covering all our bases, I’m going to drop a list of notable free-agent centers below. I can then link back to this whenever we have the Vucevic discussion over the next couple of months. I’ll also include their salary for this past season and any brief thoughts.
NBA Free Agent Centers
- Jakob Poeltl, UFA ($9.3 million): He’ll likely receive a big contract from the Raptors this summer, who acquired him at the deadline.
- Brook Lopez, UFA ($13.9 million): A pivotal piece of the Milwaukee Bucks’ puzzle who finished second in DPOY voting this season, I have to imagine he sticks around.
- Naz Reid, RFA ($1.8 million): A restricted free agent with the Minnesota Timberwolves, he’s in for a big pay raise. The expectation should be that the franchise tries to keep him around, but he could be a name to watch with the team also fully invested in Rudy Gobert as the starter.
- Christian Wood, UFA ($14.3 million): I don’t know why, but this feels like it would be a Bulls move to me. Wood offers the kind of stretch capabilities the team tends to like at the position. With that said, he isn’t a strong rim protector and struggled to make much of a winning impact this past season in Dallas.
- Dwight Powell, UFA (11.0 million): Powell is a fine rotational piece who has played at least 76 games the past two seasons, but it would be hard to see him as a starting-caliber replacement.
- Mason Plumlee, UFA ($8.5 million): Acquired by the Clippers at the deadline, I wouldn’t be shocked to see them try to lock him for another year. He’s likely nothing more than a decent backup on a winning team at this point in his career.
- Paul Reed, RFA ($1.8 million): A restricted free agent for Philly, Reed is just 23 years old and could be a worthwhile pursuit. He’s a bit undersized at six-foot-nine and can’t be trusted as a full-time starter, but he’s the kind of young talent that’s worth a gamble.
- Thomas Bryant, UFA ($2.2 million): Bryant showed some promise during his stint with the Lakers before being traded to the Nuggets. And, at 25 years old, there is still room for him to grow into a solid rotational big man.
- Drew Eubanks, UFA ($1.9 million): Appearing in 78 games for the Trail Blazers this season, Eubanks likely played himself into a new contract somewhere in the NBA. Trusting him to be a big piece of the puzzle on a winning team, though? Eh.
- Jaxon Hayes, RFA ($6.8 million): A former top-8 pick, Hayes has struggled to find his footing on and off the court while in New Orleans. A fresh start could very well be what the springy six-foot-eleven big man needs. With that said, he undoubtedly feels more like a target for a rebuilding team at just 22 years old.
Other names include: Mike Muscala, Jock Lanadle, Bismack Biyombo, Mo Wagner, and Chimezie Metu. As you can surely see, though, there is a pretty significant drop-off in serviceable starting-caliber talent after Dwight Powell.