In the game of free agency, you can’t lose if you don’t play.
As the National Basketball Association is using the offseason to improve (or at least try), the Eastern Conference, aka the E-League, is celebrating the move of LeBron James to the West.
That includes the Bulls, who may bumble their way towards a ‘push’ into the E-League playoffs while NBA teams actually trying are shut out of the postseason. There isn’t much going on at all from their standpoint. Per KC Johnson, Chicago is ‘playing the long game’ with non-moves like ‘committing to Cameron Payne at backup PG’. If you have no imagination and are totally impotent on the trade market, you can figure the roster is full!
But, things still may work out due to their ‘smart’ play of ::squints:: having no good players outside of rookie contracts. Their one long-term salary play since embarking on the path is already ‘a bad deal’.
Zach LaVine will possibly make it two for two in that category, but though there was possibly more free agency moves in the first 2 days in the NBA than expected (even E-League teams got involved, like the Pacers signing Doug McDermott) the available cap space is only tightening. Per Nate Duncan (I just paid for this information, I would NOT cut it in the Bulls org.), only the Sixers, Kings, and Hawks have the requisite room above the suggested $15m starting salary that Zach LaVine is laughing at on Twitter.
The Bulls still have around $24m left themselves while using LaVine’s cap hold. That not only helps facilitate re-signing LaVine, but more importantly keeps them open as a dumping ground for the big league teams to move money towards. The Thunder, Raptors, and Nuggets all spent a lot in the first few days (yeesh guys, don’t you know it’s best to stay flexible for when all the super-teams retire?), and the Lakers are likely still looking to free up more space, meaning all could provide picks to entice the Bulls to take on bad contracts.
Then again, the Bulls are reportedly only interested in expiring money, so that they have the maximum possible cap room in 2019-20. Problem with that plan is that a lot more teams are also going to have cap room. And Chicago only has the combined star power of The Paxson brothers, with Forman and his Gar Scouts, to try and recruit, whereas the Lakers can just use Magic Johnson and the promise of a major media market. Wish we were in one of those!
So signings should slow down fairly soon, as the Bulls continue to hold out both against LaVine and other teams looking to shed money. The luxury tax isn’t calculated until the end of the season, though money paid out in salary over the course of the season counts instead of just the cap figure, so the earlier the dumpage, the better for the dumper. The Bulls are the perpetual dumpee, which is a smart play yet also cause for derision.