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Bulls free agency rumors: A list of players the Bulls could acquire using their soon-to-expire Traded Player Exception

pointless wishcasting

Philadelphia 76ers v Chicago Bulls
memba him?
Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images

As part of last offseason’s flurry of moves, one under the radar transaction was a sign-and-trade of Daniel Theis away from the Bulls to the Rockets. The Rockets gave back nothing so a Traded Player Exception of exactly $5M was created for the Bulls to use.

They had a year, but it’s going to expire on July 7th. The exception can be used in a trade or a waiver claim, the latter being pretty rare so it was newsworthy that The Spurs claimed Isaiah Roby from the Thunder on Tuesday. The exception cannot be used on a free agent, it cannot be combined with other exceptions or a player. It doesn’t follow the ‘simultaneous’ trade rules of 150% or 175% of outgoing salary. The incoming salary has to be the amount plus $100K.

Altogether it’s not the most potent weapon out there for player acquisition, but it’s something.

Now, we’ve all seen the informed reporting and Bulls history saying that the Bulls are ‘done’ this summer and won’t add to payroll over the luxury tax threshold. Which is total garbage and bullshit from ownership, and a telling admission of poor performance by the front office given they knew they’d have this self-imposed limitation and came up with a pretty unbalanced and flawed roster.

But to dare and dream, here are some forwards making under $5,100,000 this season (too bad that’s a firm rule, as Taj Gibson makes $55K too many) that theoretically the Bulls wouldn’t have to give up much of an asset for and just instead be the checkbook team for once.

  • Moe Harkless (Hawks)
  • Justice Winslow (Blazers)
  • Sterling Brown (Rockets)
  • Trey Lyles (Kings)
  • Kenrich Williams (Thunder)

Right...so, not the most inspiring list. Maybe you can find someone else, but many perhaps-available-for-free players are guards or non-shooting bigs, both of which the Bulls already have in abundance.

Speaking of, last week I was kicking around the idea of packaging two of those guys, Tony Bradley and Marko Simonovic, to aggregate salary. As of last week that was enough to acquire Rudy Gay! But as the Bulls are now so close to the tax, they can only take back 125% of outgoing salary, which is less than $5M they have available in this TPE anyway.

(also worth noting that Bradley and Simonovic, as they are on minimum deals, can be dealt or waiver-claimed one-off in a standard minimum exception)

Altogether, I want to believe in an upcoming trade, but Bulls cannot make a good one. They do not have assets (picks gone, Coby White has neutral value at best, Patrick Williams is overvalued internally), which isn’t a death sentence in itself, except...they also refuse to take on money. Perhaps there’s a trade out there where Coby White gets shipped out for a better fitting player (big forward who can shoot), but those guys are probably making more money than Coby, maybe even ‘bad’ money for a rebuilding or poor team, and the Bulls are also (acting like) a poor team! Also, should be mentioned that this roster has an immense weakness in 3-point shooting, and White is one of the few volume shooters remaining.

I do think they’d do a trade where they’d take on more money for Kevin Durant (that sells tickets bay-bee), but pretty much only him. But with a player of that caliber they’re back to the asset-poor problem.

That doesn’t absolve the Bulls from doing more. For one thing, the reason they are in this tax-line and asset-poor bind is because of the moves they’ve already made themselves, not due to the prior regime. I wish coverage of the team put more context around these self-imposed limitations. Matter-of-factly describing the roster as ‘having 15 contracts’ or ‘$1.5M under the tax line’ shouldn’t come across as rules, they’re choices. Saying “underscores the desire for core continuity that management has espoused since standing pat at the trade deadline” should be followed with “which, of course, is total garbage”.