Zach Lowe and Kevin Arnovitz are always entertaining and informative when they get together on The Lowe Post, and in their most recent episode they previewed free agency and talked about their most interesting teams to watch.
Arnovitz had the Bulls on his list, and he seems to be quite pleased with how the Bulls are approaching their rebuild after all the heat they have taken in the last few years:
“I want to give a lot of praise to a franchise that’s taken a lot of abuse the last few years from a management standpoint, and that’s the Chicago Bulls ... I’ve been part of the peanut gallery on them, but they’re doing everything right ... They’ve been disciplined ... They’ve cleaned up their act and they’re doing it intelligently.”
Lowe wasn’t quite as sold, and both guys brought up the Cristiano Felicio deal as a misstep, but later Lowe also gave them credit for not handing out big deals in 2016 and being ahead of the curve on that front. Of course, that money went to Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo instead, which Lowe noted as ugly, but at least the books are mostly clear of any crap right now. I’d also take issue with Arnovitz saying they’ve done basically everything right given some of their draft decisions and how this last season played out, but I agree that they are interesting and seem to have bought into a patient approach to rebuilding.
The Bulls have flexibility now and in the future, plus some intriguing young players who may or may not be worthwhile cornerstones. Zach LaVine is one of those players, and there was a discussion about how his restricted free agency may play out.
Lowe and Arnovitz didn’t seem too sure about what kind of contract LaVine will get because of what appears to be a cool market. Arnovitz initially said four years and $75 million as an offer, but Lowe wouldn’t go there and said the Bulls have him by the “proverbial you-know-whats” so they should play hardball:
“I think he’s underrated as a 3-point shooter. He makes very difficult 3s at a high rate. He can shoot them off the dribble. Off the ball he’s a very dangerous player. His feel and IQ are just so bad, particularly on defense, it’s unclear if he’s more empty calories than impactful when it comes to helping your team win games. I’m not going $20 (million) a year. I’m playing hardball. I don’t think he’s taking his qualifying offer ($4.3 million).”
A totally fair assessment, and I’d be pretty happy if the Bulls got LaVine at less than 4-for-$75 million like they were suggesting. A smaller deal would only help with flexibility in 2019 and beyond.
For now, the Bulls likely won’t be making much noise in free agency. Lowe talked about how the Bulls, along with the Hawks, are “in the catbird’s seat” when it comes to acquiring bad money with assets attached since they’re not necessarily interested in winning now. They could have the opportunity to squeeze teams a bit and extract value, which is what I’d prefer they do rather than adding any more veterans to the roster.
Lowe summed up the Bulls’ situation like this:
“They’re either, in a year, they’re either going to look like a sleeping giant with all these interesting young players. We haven’t even mentioned Markkanen; they just drafted Carter, who everyone loves. They’re going to stink another year or be bad enough another year to get another good pick. They’re either going to be a sleeping giant or we’re going to watch all these guys play another year and think, ‘Eh, they’re all okay, they’re all pretty good. They don’t have a straw that stirs the drink. Where are they going to get The Guy?’”
It’s hard to disagree with any of this. The Bulls have an important year ahead when it comes to their internal development, and the progress of their young players in 2018-19 could shape their long-term future.
When discussing that long-term future, Arnovitz went 0-100 by bringing up the “elephant in the room” of Anthony Davis, a hometown guy.
Davis isn’t going anywhere now but can opt out of his deal in 2020. If things go well for the Bulls and things go south for the Pelicans, perhaps Chicago will be positioned to make a run at Brow via trade or free agency. John Paxson has talked about “increasing their asset base” in order to be opportunistic in the future, and maybe Davis is one of those big opportunities. But that’s way down the line.