It has been a quiet free agency so far for the Bulls. They’ve signed their two rookies but have done nothing else, with one measly rumor about David Nwaba’s negotiations being at a “stalemate” the only notable bit of news heading into the holiday.
The Fourth of July brought us a pseudo-update on the Zach LaVine situation from Adrian Wojnarowski, who said on his podcast that the Kings have been “pretty serious” about going after the restricted free agent. K.C. Johnson initially reported possible Kings interest before free agency opened, but then he reported right on the eve of free agency that “after internal discussions, the Kings appear less inclined to sign LaVine to an offer sheet.”
Johnson did note that the Kings would continue to monitor negotiations, and now, at least according to Woj, it appears they may still have interest and could make an offer up to around $20 million annually if they wanted to use the rest of their cap space on an offer sheet. The Kings do have Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic already on the wing, but that might not stop them from taking a chance on LaVine’s potential.
If the Kings don’t make that offer sheet, we may be waiting on a new LaVine deal for a while. There doesn’t appear to be any other interest with all the money drying up (Hawks and Bulls are the other teams with significant cap space left), and the Bulls will likely play hardball. LaVine laughed at Nick Friedell on Twitter when Friedell suggested a four-year, $60 million deal is what the Bulls preferred and that they might not to make a bigger investment than that, but at this point that seems like a reasonable deal.
It still would be a surprise if LaVine took his $4.33 million qualifying offer in order to hit the market as an unrestricted free agent next summer, but it’s not totally far-fetched if there’s no offer sheet and the Bulls/LaVine don’t come close on terms. A bigger short-term deal could also be an option so he could get paid now and then perhaps get a much more lucrative contract in the next few years when the cap rises and more teams have money to spend.
Other than the LaVine situation, the Bulls should be monitoring the trade market for salary dumps into their cap space. The Nuggets already dumped Wilson Chandler plus a 2021 second-round pick and 2022 pick swap into the 76ers’ cap space, but Kenneth Faried, Mason Plumlee and Darrell Arthur are other dump candidates as they try to get under the tax or at least get closer to the tax line. Faried and Plumlee are both making eight figures, though Plumlee has an extra year on his deal and is making over $14 million in 2019-20. Getting Faried (expiring) and a first-round pick would be a no-brainer for the Bulls, but the Nuggets may not be willing to part with a first unless it was for more money (like that extra year of Plumlee).
There are a host of other teams who could be willing to dump contracts, including the Thunder (historic tax bill), Trail Blazers, Wizards, Pistons, Raptors and Heat, among others, though the Bulls seem hesitant to take on any money that goes into 2019.