Firstly, WSCR reported this afternoon that the Bulls have picked up the option on Malik Allen's contract. I'm guessing it's a little over $2m, based on last season's money. (I'd check Hoopshype but they just updated their salaries page to wipe out the 05/06 season). So after that, the Khryapa acquisition, and the sure-to-sign-soon draftees, here's the roster status:
(Can we set this straight right away? Tyson Chandler is Ty1, not Tyrus Thomas. I know 80% of Bulls fans hate Chandler, but he was here first)
Songaila, Pargo, Piatkowski, Livingston, Schenscher, Harrington, Basden
(I'm hoping Harrington had a team option for next season, but nobody seems to know for sure)
That's 11 spots. The Bulls may not necessarily carry the full 15, so there's not many spots out there for returning free agents. I think everyone on the free agent list will be gone, except for Pargo and perhaps (ugh) Schenscher. There may be an undrafted free agent who'd be an upgrade over Pargo, but he seems pretty entrenched with the team and the system, I doubt they'd want yet another rookie. At least two free agents will sign, and both likely will be big men. I'd like Songaila to be the secondary target (after signing one of the big names like Wilcox, Nene, AlHarrington, Przybilla, Mohammed, etc.), however I'm guessing he'll price himself out in this market.
It's a deep squad with a lot of options, especially at the swing spots, where you could easily go small or big depending who you put in at 2/3/4. For a tactician like Skiles it's a nice situation to be in.
But this team is very very young. Even considering the likely free agents to be signed, check out the existing roster's age and experience (and this is 11 guys!).
You can't win with a team this young. If you think about it move-for-move, Sefolosha replaces Pike and Khryapa replaces Harrington, which would seem to be an upgrade in each case. But when you step back and look at the whole team you realize how young and inexperienced it still is. It's been said here for a while, one of these days Paxson will have to decide which star veteran to target and consolidate some of these assets.
Luckily, there doesn't need to be a decision this summer. The only one on that list with a long-term deal is Chandler, and Hinrich will likely sign one before the season. And it's after their 3rd season that players are even eligible for extensions on their own team, and all these guys on their rookie contracts have to wait until playing 4 or 5 seasons before they are unrestricted free agents, so nothing needs to be done hastily.
And so Paxson waits. In the next year we'll know a lot more: If Chandler will ever be worth the money (I think he will). If Thomas is just a trading chip or a fast-rising star. If Gordon and Deng are long-term options and deserve near-max extensions. In the meantime, don't be surprised if Duhon, Sweetney or Khryapa are part of a deal to get a mid-level veteran talent.
The Bulls will be better this season simply by staying together, but they are not ready to contend. That was true before and after the draft, no matter who Paxson picked. Sefolosha should help the guard rotation, but I'm not expecting him or Thomas to help too much right away. It's lost in the pre-draft hype that these guys are, after all, rookies. The real difference between the Bulls roster Tuesday and today is Pax has even more assets and options to work with while he waits for the big strike. They may never have as much cap room as they do this offseason, but as long as they don't make a completely bogus signing they'll have a flexible roster and therefore plenty of trade options. There was talk of a Garnett trade centering around this season's draft picks, but Paxson denied any such conversation has taken place yet. And maybe the stars like Garnett are truly not available right now. But watch out for this season's trading deadline.