There are legitimate questions about the Bulls’ decision to give Jabari Parker a two-year, $40 million deal (second-year team option) to be their starting small forward for the 2018-19 season. NBA analyst, long-time Bulls observer, and cap guru Mark Deeks outlines those questions in his lengthy piece (over 3500 words) about the deal at GiveMeSport, but he also explains the logic in a rebuilding team like the Bulls taking a chance on a talented young player on this type of deal.
One of the ways Deeks frames his justification of the deal is by examining recent criticisms of the Bulls’ front office and explaining how this specific contract addresses them. The three criticisms:
One long-standing criticism of the Bulls historically is that they could not acquire big names after the Michael Jordan era, be it by free agency or by trade.
Another criticism of the team has been a confused value of ‘assets’ (both draft and financial) in the player movement market.
And the third main criticism, also one made by myself among others, has been an inconsistency when it comes to planning for the short, medium and long-term futures of the franchise.
When it comes to the first criticism, while Parker may not be a true star, Deeks argues he’s still a player of some status who wanted to play for the Bulls, and that’s a start and perhaps helps them attract other players in the future. He also notes that the Bulls’ hopefully fun style of play will be attractive to not only other players but other teams perhaps making trade offers.
For criticism No. 2, the fact that the Bulls signed Parker to this short-term deal with a team option means they signed a potential asset. The Nikola Mirotic contract is referenced, and he wound up helping the Bulls get the 2018 first-round pick that became Chandler Hutchison.
As for the third criticism, Deeks says signing Parker instead of taking on bad salary to acquire assets has the Bulls staying “true to their plan” by adding tangible talent rather than simply trying to be as bad as possible again while touting flexibility and assets. While tanking for stars for multiple years is tempting, the Bulls aren’t really in a position to do that because of what they have on the roster already. “Kicking the can on good young players who did nothing wrong except not have superstar potential” isn’t a realistic option, and instead they’re going to have faith in developing this group for at least a bit.
Ultimately, “the idea behind the contract is to be able to cater for all of the eventualities of Parker’s career,” per Deeks. If it doesn’t work out, the Bulls can cut bait after one season. If it kind of works out, perhaps he can be traded. And if he breaks out, the Bulls could have a franchise cornerstone and could work out a new deal at some point:
This thus explains the number of years involved. This deal keeps open the 2019 cap space aspirations Chicago still seems to foster, keeps open the 2020 ones they may end up having to default to, and also sees Parker re-enter free agency before his maximum salary spikes. Maybe he never even approaches becoming a maximum salary calibre of player; he certainly hasn’t gotten close so far. But if a team is to back itself to develop and/or redeem talents, as it should, then it must account for the eventuality.
Now we just have to see what kind of player Parker becomes with the Bulls. He’ll officially be introduced as a Bull at 11 a.m. CT on Wednesday. The press conference can be viewed on NBC Sports Chicago or streamed from their website.