After an uneventful NBA trade deadline for the Chicago Bulls, their attention now shifts to the buyout market.
Here is a guide consisting of a list of guys who are available, some realistic options the Bulls could pursue, and names they are already linked to.
First, let’s take a look at all the free agents who were waived yesterday to make room for trades, plus those likely to be available soon as they’re on non-playoff teams. John Hollinger compiled an early list and placed them into tiers. There seems to be an even split between backcourt and frontcourt players who will be available, and it would make sense for the Bulls to target a power forward or a backup center but they can also potentially go after a guard given their current injury situation.
Below is a list of guys who could make sense for Chicago, some of which the Bulls have already been linked to in rumors.
This would be a reunion signing as RoLo played in Chicago for three seasons. He was solid on the boards during his time with the Bulls, averaging 10.5 points and five rebounds while shooting 52 percent from the field. Lopez has only appeared in 25 games for Orlando this season so his stats for this season have dipped. Obviously he wouldn’t be averaging the same amount of minutes as he did during his first stint with the Bulls but Lopez could be a useful option off the bench at the center spot. He’s a solid rebounder and even when he isn’t rebounding the ball, his boxouts are effective enough to allow his teammates space to grab the missed shot. On offense he would be available for put backs and dump off passes in the lane. However, he isn’t the fastest defender so he’s going to be an easy target for teams when they start hunting for switches. He will be a force in the paint and will alter shots at the rim due to his size. This also removes him from running the floor effectively as well, which is something Chicago loves to do on offense. From a purely defensive rebounding and veteran presence standpoint, Lopez makes sense.
Millsap was a name which the Bulls were linked to last summer before he ultimately decided to sign with the Nets. Now on the 76ers due to the James Harden trade, he could be available again for Chicago to sign. Johnson on Wednesday reported that Millsap was one of the options who could be available for them. He hasn’t played much this season, appearing in just 24 games. Millsap was productive in 2019-20 and 2020-21 as he was a contributor off the bench for the Denver Nuggets. He averaged 11 and 9.1 points in both of those years while also shooting 48.2 and 47.6 percent from the field. He can score inside while also being able to provide some shooting in the mid-range at times. Millsap is only 6’7, so he won’t be a force on the boards but he should be able to help out on the glass. Like Lopez though, Millsap is getting older so his speed will be an issue for Chicago on both sides of the court.
Thompson was the second name that Johnson mentioned as a potential option for Chicago as well. After spending time with the LeBron James led Cavaliers teams, he’s now playing on the Sacramento Kings. Thompson has appeared in just 30 games this year but could be a defensive big option for a playoff team. While it feels unreasonable to expect him to still be the rebounding machine he was a couple of years ago, he can still crash the glass as needed. He’s had a defensive rebound percentage (percentage of available rebounds a player got while playing) of 23.5 and 21.2 in the past two years. Thompson as also shown to be a force on the offensive glass, generating extra possessions by his positioning or scoring second chance points off missed shots. The downside would be that he still struggles to give anything else on offense outside of that. Defensively he does struggle to protect the rim but can still hold his own when switched out onto the perimeter.
Unlike these other names, Eubanks was actually released already, by Toronto after being acquired in the Thad Young trade. Chicago played against him recently when he was with the Spurs. Eubanks was a role player for San Antonio, averaging just 12 minutes and scoring 4.7 points and grabbing four rebounds. His efficiency numbers look good at over 50 percent from the field and a 58.8 true shooting percentage. Eubanks per 36 minutes averages of 13.8 points and 11.9 rebounds does offer some insight that he could be a productive role player for Chicago even as a reserve. Eubanks is not only younger but also quicker than the previous big man mentioned so he can run the floor with the Bulls when they push the pace and can also be a presence inside. He’s not particularly strong on one side of the court over the other but he doesn’t really need to be in this role for Chicago.
Dragic was the player the Raptors back in the Young deal and is reportedly going to be bought out. Chicago was mentioned by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski as a potential destination for the point guard. He has barely played at all this season, showing up in just five games. In fact, the last appearance he had for Toronto was on November 13th. He’s going to be 36 in May but Dragic has shown over the years that he can still be a solid point guard option for any team. He’s an immediate fit for the Bulls as they are short on depth at the moment with the long term injuries they have sustained at that position. Dragic would give backup help to both Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu. He can still run an offense, getting everyone in the right spots while also finding open teammates for shots. Dragic can provide spacing for Chicago with his shooting as teams can’t help too much off him. Defensively he can provide toughness but there are questions about how he will match up on ball against quicker guards. Signing Dragic wouldn’t address Chicago’s most glaring need but he would be someone would fill an immediate help at the guard spot. His playoff experience and veteran presence could also help out down the road as well.
Schroeder has been linked with Chicago in the past couple of weeks by Matt Moore of the Action Network and Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, though KC Johnson said the opposite in that the “Bulls’ reported interest in Dennis Schröder is overblown, if not completely inaccurate”. He was traded on deadline day, but to the rebuilding Houston Rockets who may buy him out and the Bulls wouldn’t have to trade anything for his services. Like Dragic, Schroeder would be immediate point guard relief. He’s currently averaging 14.4 points and 4.2 assists per game so he would provide some scoring pop on offense. The question comes with his efficiency however. Schroeder this season has been an average shooter, hitting 44 percent from the field and has a 54.4 true shooting percentage. If he does sign with Chicago, he’ll have to be more effective in his limited minutes off the bench. There is also a worry about his defense given he’s been in the negatives in terms of defensive box plus/minus his entire career. One thing worth noting is that when playing under Billy Donovan, Schroeder enjoyed some of the best seasons of his career while being a sixth man. The hope for the Bulls if they pursue him in the buyout market would be to recreate some of that form he showed with the Thunder.
Some of the names Hollinger suggested that aren’t technically available yet include Gary Harris, Mike Muscala, Tomas Satoransky, and Cory Joseph. Other names, including a trio of former Bulls in D.J. Augustin, E’Twaun Moore, and Michael Carter-Williams have already been waived. A player Hollinger didn’t identify was DeAndre’ Bembry, who was cut by the Nets to facilitate their blockbuster trade.
Reminder, the Bulls are at a full roster right now and would have to waive somebody to sign a free agent. They have more than the minimum available to give to a free agent (not having used their offseason cap exceptions), and technically could use their $5M traded player exception to claim someone on waivers before they hit free agency. Though there are usually very few waiver claims, since from the player+agent standpoint it’s better for them to pick where they play and get another contract they can effectively double-dip.