I was cautiously optimistic heading into NBA Free Agency, figuring that the new Bulls front office actually seems to want to do their jobs.
It’s only been a few days, and the Bulls only had their cap exceptions to use, but so far it’s been a big nothing. I don’t think anybody should be looking at the 2019-20 disaster and figure “just swap out Kris Dunn for Garrett Temple and draft a 19 year old” and that’s set. Sure, the coaching upgrade will be massive, even if it’s to merely an average level. But there is also a lot of known dead weight on this team that the new front office should be using this coming season to try out new players.
And a real point guard would be huge too. Not only to help the team win, but aid in that evaluation of the young pieces where “we don’t know what we have”. Lauri Markkanen could improve if out from under the thumb of the thumb-headed prior coach, but it’s likely even more beneficial if they have somebody better at getting him the ball. There were rumors around the draft that the Bulls were looking for a veteran in that role, so it looks like the Bulls know this about themselves.
There is a problem in how the Bulls look to be constraining themselves currently with their longer-term aspirations. They are clearly aiming towards having a lot of cap room next summer. It’s likely hard, even with the full non-taxpayer Mid-Level Exception, to outright sign a quality veteran point guard for only a 1 year guaranteed deal. Thus why you instead carve $5m out of it for Garrett Temple.
This looks to be an aim towards mediocrity. The odds of getting a top 2021 free agent are helped by being a better team and attaining the designation of ‘attractive destination’, simply having the cap space isn’t enough. It is possible to generate the cap space later once your target is actually interested in joining. So this wouldn’t suggest doing a huge money acquisition now, like a sign-and-trade for Gordon Hayward, but you would try to get the best player possible now with the tools you do have, figuring the player is good and will be attractive to trade when under contract.
(or you give up early on the latest 20XX plan, gain assets by taking on multi-year contracts. Maybe even a few tank moves. But I don’t want to see that and don’t think the Bulls want to either)
So I think it should be possible to serve all the team’s goals in a trade. At least it will do a lot better than rolling out this same roster, which looks destined for about 31 wins and likely more unhappiness from the players.
It is more difficult to find guys that are on expiring deals themselves, but not impossible. The benefit to the other team could simply be saving 2020 payroll. George Hill has been passed around and no doubt his current team in Oklahoma City doesn’t need him. The Spurs are looking to shed salary and Patty Mills could likely be had.
What about Mike Conley? the Utah Jazz are creeping into the tax with their summer moves, and Bulls could help give them breathing room by taking in Conley’s $34.4m while sending out $27.5m. Tomas Satoransky could fill Conley’s role with the Jazz, or they work out a third team and bring in a mid-level player (like aforementioned George Hill). The Bulls have several permutations for salary filler that they don’t really need to evalutate: Thaddeus Young, Cristiano Felicio, Luke Kornet, Ryan Arcidiacono, Chandler Hutchison. It’s a lot simpler to just include Otto Porter, but dealing him somewhat negates the purpose of bringing in Conley (be better at the hooping).
Could also address point guard by pivoting to a younger player who may have had their replacements drafted and could use a change (Lonzo Ball, Devonte’ Graham).
If just looking to do something, anything, could try and snag a 2nd round pick from a taxpaying team for taking on larger salary. Unfortunately my idea of Luke Kornet to the Warriors for Kevon Looney and Minnesota’s 2021 2nd doesn’t have enough outgoing salary, but that’s the concept.
The point, as always: we don’t have to sit back and say this is all according to plan because the Bulls aren’t under the cap, don’t want to reduce 2021 cap, and, Karnisovas seems like a patient and deliberate guy. This roster needs a lot of work! And if Karnisovas wants to do some work, with this league the time is always now.