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Bulls free agency: aiming low, maybe fans won’t be disappointed

small expectations from the big market

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NBA: Indiana Pacers at Detroit Pistons Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

There’s good to be seen in the Bulls acquisition of Coby White: all the draft ‘spurts think it’s a perfectly cromulent pick at number 7, and White seems to be a fun and fun-styled player to root for.

But nothing tempers enthusiasm for the Chicago Bulls like listening to the people in charge. At the draftees introductory press conference Monday, You had Jim Boylen’s first press availability since he inconceivably was given the full-time job for multiple seasons, and he promptly kept up his doofus act (hey, maybe it’s not an act!).

And you also had John Paxson, who if seeing him preside over his 17th draft wasn’t depressing enough, there was this comment on next week’s free agency:

There’s a lot of money out on the market this summer and a lot of teams are going to be out there spending. They’ll be a tier that goes and then there will be some fallbacks. We have a very good idea of what we want.

Now by rule he can’t speak further into detail, but that is not an encouraging sign. And it likely ‘informed’ the Bulls beat media when they wrote their post-draft analysis on Free Agency.

KC Johnson:

The Bulls will now enter free agency with roughly $23 million of salary-cap space and looking to add big-man depth, shooting and likely a lower-cost point guard. Cory Joseph, Ish Smith and George Hill are among those who fit that description. Ricky Rubio, Darren Collison, Patrick Beverley, who would cost more, also remain possibilities.

Darnell Mayberry:

So much for Malcolm Brogdon and Terry Rozier. Good luck this summer, Patrick Beverley and Ricky Rubio.

The Bulls no longer need them. After selecting UNC product Coby White seventh overall in Thursday night’s NBA Draft, it would be a shock if the Bulls still go shopping for one of those free agent point guards. In fact, it’d be a mistake. Why splurge when you just used a top-10 pick to fill your playmaker need?

Emphasis mine, because that’s what this is about: they don’t want to spend. They’re already recycling the same talking points from 2016 where their spendthrift ways was going to position them better, then turned out that it was just not to spend. (side-note: 2018 cap year is over, and Bulls couldn’t take in more cash on draft night but noticeably didn’t send out any all year)

It apparently will take a lot more than originally thought to get even a pretty good fit in Patrick Beverley. I’m more skeptical of even Beverley due to his injury history, and then when going to that next tier of ‘possibilities’ you get more red flags.

Because, really: what more perfect player is going to take less money, for fewer years, to play for this coach, on a bad team?

As to if this is all not just being cheap but also sound strategy, like Mayberry suggests, I’m not so sure. White is a top-10 pick, yes, but this was by all accounts not a star-laden draft class. And he’s 19 years old. There’s a lot of learning to go to get White to a 6th-man level (and heck, Zach LaVine may be that, ultimately) let alone “point guard of the future”.

Remember, John Paxson said he learned a lot about point guards after 7 years of screwing that up.

So we have to see how ‘important’ it is after all, if using a different metric than John Paxson’s words like actual money spent on the role. It’s tough because the Bulls are always changing directions. After acquiring Otto Porter midseason and saying they’re serious about being ‘in the hunt’ , you’d think they’d get a point guard who is guaranteed starter-level for next year. If it’s one that’s at a lower level, or just keeping the Kris Dunn experiment going, that (plus keeping worst+cheapest coach in the NBA) means they’re looking to be lottery-bound again.

I can reconcile that it’s best not to spend all your cap space (and note they’re already using it on questionable decisions like not stretching Asik’s contract, extending Arcidiocano a qualifying offer, picking up Valentine’s option) on a single position, even one in such dire need on this squad as the point guard. But there’s something to be said for trying to get very good basketball players even if they cost a lot and play similar positions to ‘our guys in the building’. And I still find it notable that the Bulls, who are a major market team with a lot of cap space, look to not only be excluded from rumors of chasing those very good players, but already bowing out of the possibility.