We’re over a week into NBA free agency, already past the point where the organizations who want to be active in competition are making moves, and moved on to the teams that probably shouldn’t be active being that way against their own interest.
And then you have the Bulls, who are being patient if you’re thinking kindly...or being lazy if you’re aware of how they typically operate.
And they’re waiting out on their main restricted free agent, Nikola Mirotic. There isn’t much activity at all, though here’s the latest from the Tribune’s KC Johnson:
Since the Bulls can match any offer Mirotic receives, they appear to be taking a hard line on salary and length of deal. Basically, the Bulls are negotiating with the philosophy that if Mirotic wants a higher salary, he needs to sign an offer sheet from another team.
That said, sources on both sides of the negotiations have described them as cordial and the gap to be bridged not that large. According to sources, Mirotic has drawn preliminary interest from at least two teams but has no visits scheduled.
The problem from Mirotic’s perspective is that there aren’t many teams left with remaining cap room. It’s not that dire, though. Per Nate Duncan, here are teams left with over $12m (just an arbitrary benchmark): Brooklyn, Atlanta, Indiana, Lakers, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Utah
Brooklyn has long been the most reasonable suitor, but they’re busy with max-level restricted free agents. They just signed Otto Porter to an offer sheet, and it could still be a few days with that space tied up before they know if Washington matches. They’ll likely then move on to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who may be on the way out of Detroit as they’ve spent on other players into a hard-capped situation.
You could see the other teams, even ones in rebuilding mode, making a 4-year contract offer to Niko. He’s still only 26, so you’re buying his prime years. He’s also, even as an inconsistent shooter, a floor-spacer, which is a good attribute to complement young lineups with.
The Bulls could use it too. Now, I understand (yet shake my damned head over) the notion that the Bulls shouldn’t try to get assets because it’d harm the other asset of 2018 lottery balls. But I’m in favor of retaining Mirotic if the contract signed is tradeable. If you hang our in NBA wonk circles (and god help you...) it’s known as ‘the Nene test’, where the Denver Nuggets once gave Nene a huge contract only to trade him at the next deadline.
Not sure what that number would be, I’d think $12-15m is pretty reasonable. Niko would play a lot and get a lot of shots, and I think when given a bigger role (like he should’ve been given last year instead of Wade+Rondo) would retain value.
There’s also the idea that the Bulls need to stop bleeding away talent for nothing. Though yet to reach his potential, Niko is one of the few talented players they have left. It was more of a concern before the front office decided to save their jobs by punting a couple seasons, but they need to acquire assets and Mirotic can still be one with the right price.
(use this thread for any Bulls rumors)