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Free Agent Big Men Will Dictate How Bulls Proceed In Offseason, Per NBA Insider

For the second straight season, the Chicago Bulls ended disappointingly, as they were ousted in the final game of the NBA Eastern Conference Play-In tournament. Just like following last year’s conclusion, the Bulls have lots of decisions to make.

Some of the decisions in front of Chicago were the same as those faced by the Bulls a season ago. Should the Bulls extend DeMar DeRozan? Should they trade Zach LaVine or Nikola Vucevic? What to do with Patrick Williams? A new decision popped up at the trade deadline: What about trading Lonzo Ball?

Chicago has at least a half-dozen decisions to make this offseason.

Young Free Agent Big Men Will Dictate How Bulls Proceed In Offseason, Per NBA Insider

Chicago has 11 players under contract for next season and is $11 million under the salary cap. Ball has a $21.3 million player option, and Torrey Craig has a $2.8 million option. Ball is all but guaranteed to exercise his option, while Craig may or may not.

But the Bulls could catch a break in terms of the salary cap; if Ball’s injury is ultimately ruled career-ending, then they can wipe off the $21.9 million from their ledger.

Furthermore, only $3 million of Alex Caruso’s $9.8 million deal is guaranteed. The Bulls are sure to guarantee the remainder of his contract, but Caruso is widely thought of around the league, and maybe the Bulls could get an offer they can’t refuse. Caruso is also eligible for an extension for up to four years and $78.8 million.

Onrulip Bitim also has a nonguaranteed deal, though he will be back unless someone beats him out in training camp.

However, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the Bulls’ most pressing issue is DeRozan, Williams (restricted), and Andre Drummond‘s upcoming free agency.

“The futures of DeRozan and Williams dictate what flexibility (or lack of) the Bulls will have in the offseason. Including their first-round pick, the Bulls have $134 million in salary, well below the $171 million luxury tax threshold. The Bulls could have cap flexibility if they do not re-sign their own free agents and Ball’s salary is removed. Ball, who has missed the past two seasons with knee issues, has until June 29 to opt in to his $21.9 million salary. “

In-Depth Look At Bulls Free Agency

Chicago finished ninth in the East with a 39-43 record, marking their second straight losing campaign and third in the last four. While the Bulls get credit for turning their season around despite all their injuries, after starting the year losing 19 of their first 24 games, they went just 14-16 following the trade deadline while posting the 27th-best defensive rating.

“The front office now has hard questions to ask on how a “competitive” team can compete for more than a play-in spot, said Marks. “There are decisions on the future of free agents DeRozan, Drummond and Williams. The Bulls could let all three walk and embrace a full-scale rebuild.”

But as Marks said, rebuilding is not in general manager Arturas Karnisovas’ DNA.

“Since I came here to Chicago, I wanted to have a competitive team,” Karnisovas told Marks. “We came up with a formula in 2021. We had somewhat of a success, took a step back with some injuries. My objective doesn’t change. I’d like to compete and I’d like to compete with the best teams.”

However, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago believes that the Bulls “roster needs change. It needs more size, more shooting, and more urgency.”

If the Bulls re-sgn DeRozan and Drummond, they would end up paying the luxury tax for the second time since 2002-03. In this scenario, the Bulls could avoid tax by unloading LaVine.

DeMar DeRozan

DeRozan has been good since coming to Chicago, playing in 92% of the Bulls games. The Bulls have a 117-112 record with DeRozan in the lineup and 8-9 without him.

DeRozan is one of the best scorers in the league and extremely clutch. However, he is 35 and eligible for a three-year, $129 million extension.

Patrick Williams

Karnavious has said he wants to keep Williams, who has a qualifying offer value of $12.9 million. But the soon-to-be 23-year-old has battled injuries throughout his short NBA career, and his numbers were down this year from a season ago, though a foot injury cut short his season.

More importantly, if the Bulls allow Williams, DeRozan, and Drummond to walk, their frontcourt would be in shambles, with Vucevic being the only big on the roster. Adama Sanogo, who was on a two-way deal a year ago, is also a restricted free agent.

Andre Drummond

Drummond is one of the league’s best rebounders and a pretty efficient scorer in the low post. More importantly for the Bulls, he provides depth and insurance at the center position. The Bulls own the 30-year-old’s early Bird rights, though he is expected to be a hot commodity on the free agent market.

Other Decisions

Javonte Green is the Bulls other main free agent. Green likely won’t be back, as he has played sparingly over the last two seasons, though he has been productive when given the opportunity.

Additionally, Chicago projects to own the No. 11 overall selection in the 2024 draft. The Bulls can trade this pick starting draft day.

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