The Bulls have just over $81 million in guaranteed money for 2019-20 and roughly $23 million in cap space. By operating as a cap space team, they will also have the room mid-level exception worth up to $4.76 million (reminder: they had this last year too and didn’t use it).
As we look ahead to free agency, let’s take a look at the current state of the roster. This does not include the recent additions of White and Gafford, who have a cap hold associated with their draft slot but likely won’t sign actual contracts until the initial free agent frenzy is over.
Guaranteed Contracts for 2019-20
Otto Porter Jr. ($27,250,576)
The Bulls acquired Porter midseason for Jabari Parker and Bobby Portis, and he immediately stabilized the lineup at the small forward spot with his 3-and-D presence, though he could stand to play better defensively. Porter has a player option worth $28,489,239 for 2020-21.
Zach LaVine ($19,500,000)
Speculation erupted before the draft about the possibility of the Bulls trading LaVine. Nothing happened and that speculation was shut down, and LaVine will look to build on a career season in 2018-19. He still has his flaws, but his $19.5 million annual salary over the next three seasons doesn’t look all that bad if he continues to improve as an high-usage offensive player with stellar efficiency and budding playmaking skills.
Cristiano Felicio ($8,156,500)
Felicio is likely a lost cause at this point, but he’s still under contract for next season and 2020-21. The Bulls could look to salary dump him, but it would require at least one asset to do it. They could also waive him and stretch the $15-plus million over five seasons, but that should only be done as a last resort if it’s the only way to clear cap room for an important acquisition.
Kris Dunn ($5,348,007)
The Bulls are claiming that Dunn and White will do battle in training camp, but it still wouldn’t surprise me if they try to trade him after a disappointing 2018-19 campaign. Of course, the problem is he has little value at this point. The Bulls shouldn’t just dump him to dump him unless they really have to, so he could very well be back as he heads into a contract season.
Lauri Markkanen ($5,300,400)
It seemed like Markkanen was primed for a breakout sophomore campaign, but an elbow injury hurt those chances. Markkanen showed flashes of brilliance, especially in February, and now we need to see him play a full season and show the consistency needed to be a star player.
Wendell Carter Jr. ($5,201,400)
Carter had his rookie season cut short by a thumb injury. The big man showed promise as a defensive anchor and had a few big offensive performances, and this season will be an important one as he works to gain chemistry with Markkanen. Carter is very skilled for a center, so hopefully we see that put to good use in order to diversify the offense. And, again, that whole defensive anchor thing is pretty important for a team that stunk defensively this past season.
Denzel Valentine ($3,377,569)
When healthy, Valentine is a solid shooter and capable secondary ball handler. But after the Bulls picked up his contract option he missed all of 2018-19 with an ankle injury, and he had surgeries after each of his first two seasons in the NBA. He’s fine as a bench player, but the Bulls shouldn’t be relying on him.
Chandler Hutchison ($2,332,320)
Hutchison also had his rookie season cut short by an injury. Hutch has the tools to be an impact defender, but he needs to rework his jumper and show more assertiveness offensively. He’ll be a key member of the wing rotation and can also play some backup 4.
Antonio Blakeney ($1,588,231)
It’s easy to forget that Blakeney has a guaranteed contract for some reason. I’d think about just waiving him, but I guess you could do worse as an end-of-the-bench player.
Omer Asik’s decayed body ($3,000,000)
UPDATE: Shams just reported Wednesday morning that the NBA has granted the Bulls request to remove Asik’s cap number
Asik was waived last October, reducing the guarantee from $11m to $3m. Though Asik was not going to be able to play and was taking up a roster spot, this was still an interesting call. That difference in guarantee was a trade chip grandfathered in from prior CBA. And the Bulls elected to take the remaining cap hit all this season instead of using the stretch provision. They’ve asked the NBA to get the $3 million off the books because of his health situation, so they would have a bit more money to play with if the league rules in their favor.
Harrison is a bulldog defender and an aggressive slasher with a broke jumper. His $1,588,231 for 2019-20 is non-guaranteed until Aug. 15 and then $175,000 guaranteed until Jan. 10, 2020. The Bulls might wind up picking between Shaq and Ryan Arcidiacono, and these guarantee dates give them some flexibility when it comes to making that decision.
Walter Lemon Jr.
The Bulls picked up Lemon, a Chicago product, at the end of last season, and he had a few fun performances. His $1,588,231 is non-guaranteed until Jan. 10, 2020. He probably won’t be back.
Ryan Arcidiacono (restricted)
Arcidiacono played pretty darn great relatively to expectations, delivering endless hustle, smart point guard play and solid 3-point shooting. He’s obviously still limited, but the Bulls apparently like him enough to extend the $1,818,486 qualifying offer. The Bulls have Early Bird rights and now can match any offer sheet, but since they have the option to also just bring back Harrison, they may move from Arch if he gets a decent offer elsewhere.
Robin Lopez (unrestricted)
After a sluggish start, Lopez turned it on and had some of the most productive months of his career. By all accounts, everybody loves him and he’s a good veteran presence in the locker room. The Bulls should talk to him about returning in a backup role, but he may be looking for a bigger role and more money than they should be looking to offer.
Wayne Selden Jr. (unrestricted)
While the Bulls will give Arcidiacono his qualifying offer, Selden isn’t getting his $1,931,189 qualifying offer and will instead become an unrestricted free agent. Selden had his moments after coming over in the Justin Holiday trade, but he’s nothing special and may only return on a cheap deal if the Bulls don’t find any better options to fill out the roster.
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (unrestricted)
The Bulls acquired TLC from the Oklahoma City Thunder, and while he has some intriguing physical tools, he’s just not very good at basketball. There’s little reason to expect him back.
JaKarr Sampson (unrestricted)
Sampson’s 10-day contract technically expired a few days before the season ended, but I’m going to include him here. While he had a few nice games with the Bulls, there likely isn’t roster space for him.
Rawle Alkins and Brandon Sampson
These guys didn’t play too much with the big club but were solid with the Windy City Bulls, with Sampson posting better stats. Perhaps they’re back as two-way players again, but the Bulls could easily move on to other options.