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Don’t be so sure the Bulls will keep their restricted free agents

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talk seems strangely assured

Chicago Bulls v Cleveland Cavaliers Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

It’s a time-honored Bulls tradition, to the point where it was added to press conference bingo: The Bulls will say they ‘value’ their impending free agents. The Bulls have 2 significant contributors hitting restricted free agency on July 1st, Nikola Mirotic and Cristiano Felicio. All reporting I’ve seen to this point has been the banal interpretation of that even more banal ‘value’ statement that the Bulls intend to keep both.

There’s even this, which I just found weird.

Does a workout with the team actually mean anything? Instead, were the Bulls supposed to lock the doors to their practice facility to guys who are still under contract?

I think instead nobody really knows. Because this speculation on Niko and Felicio from Sean Highkin of The Athletic is hilariously matter-of-fact:

the only way either of them isn't back is if another team signs either one of them to an offer sheet the Bulls deem too big to match.

Oh, so just that way? The definition-of-restricted-free-agency way?

I think the Bulls actually do ‘value’ Mirotic and Felicio. However, the Bulls are also dumb and cheap, so what they consider ‘value’ may not be in alignment with the rest of the league.

We already know that the Bulls do truly ‘value’ not offering long-term, big-money deals. Any restricted free agency offer has to be at least 2 years, and given the age of the players in question (Mirotic is 26, Felicio turns 25 in a few weeks) I don’t think a team will hesitate to give a 4 year offer.

The Bulls, meanwhile, are holding onto this ludicrous ‘plan’ where they want cap space in 2018 to...I don’t know, ‘create opportunities’, something they should’ve been doing since last offseason. How does, let’s blindly speculate, $7m for Felicio and $14m for Mirotic (and that may be conservative) fit into that direction?

We’ve seen it before with the Bulls being pantsed by people who knew the salary cap better in the Omer Asik free agency, and even E’Twaun Moore walking last year. The Bulls beat media had a similar mindset then as they do now:

The Bulls seem to genuinely think that this 2-year cap spike has made free agency money ‘too crazy’ for them to participate in long-term deals (short deals overpaying faded stars, that’s sensible). Rumors came up today that the Atlanta Hawks may let Paul Millsap walk instead of offering a max deal, and if that held it’d open up a suitor to get a young starter-quality power forward in Mirotic (yep, I still think he’s that). An even more obvious suitor would be the Brooklyn Nets, who have gobs of cap space and last year showed a willingness to put pressure on teams with ‘too big’ offer sheets, though in their case last year the offer was matched.

I’m not so sure the Bulls match, and given their history and professed mindset don’t get the consensus in reporting that they will.