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How the Bulls should approach upcoming contract decisions on DeRozan, Patrick Williams, and Dalen Terry
there's some urgency here, whether the Bulls acknowledge it or not
I keep coaching in the intros to these posts, perhaps to lower expectations but raise a sense of scarcity? As much as I was raised on old-school ‘blog blog blog’ multiple times per day I pretty much always default back to fewer, more thematic posts. I don’t want to assume how the season will go just yet, but as you can all tell I will certainly not be recapping individual preseason games.
So instead looking at the themes of preseason and training camp, we’ve heard how they want to change their offense, but now have seen it’s not really working. The Bulls, unsurprisingly as they’ve only added a couple role players, are not playing much differently than the last season and a half.
Last night versus Toronto was hopefully the nadir but part of an overall trend: 2nd percentile in FTA rate, 23rd percentile in transition frequency, and 1st percentile (that’s bad, by the way) in three point attempts as the Bulls took a mere 26 attempts from distance in the game. Nikola Vucevic was <AK voice> double-double machine </AK voice> with 20 points and 10 rebounds in 27.5 minutes, but the team posted a 94.1 ORtg with him on the court. I’d say that’s the way Vuc prefers it, but it wasn’t looking like a concerted team effort to “work through Vuc”, and thattraining camp trending topic that looks to have been totally overblown (to be fair, mostly by Vuc himself).
I want to look at 3 specific players with the added (though not totally informative) context of preseason as the team has contract decisions this year on them.
In order of importance, though reverse in urgency:
1. DeMar DeRozan
DeRozan, entering the final year of a 3-year signed-and-traded contract, is eligible for a veteran contract extension. The good news is that this can be done all the way up until free agency next summer, which is what occurred with Vuc this past summer. And that DeRozan himself doesn’t look to be sweating it and delivering even an implied ultimatum.
The Bulls front office showed zero sense of value and leverage when it came to Vucevic, so it’s looking likely they’ll make the wrong choice here too.
And that wrong choice would be to do any extension now.
I was previously couching that opinion in saying that perhaps there’s a team-friendly number that makes DeRozan more tradeable. But looking at the rules here, where going above 105% of the final-year salary would make a trade deadline move of DeRozan impossible, there’s no need to do anything now.
The Bulls can wait and see how DDR performs at age 34, and if the team is not even at their low bar of ‘on par with other cruddy East teams’, at the deadline work it out with the traded-to team what extension is desired from their perspective. For example, we know from many rumors that the Sixers (a plausible if not-rumored destination) are not interested in multi-year contracts, so they would do a midseason trade preferring DeRozan stays on his expiring deal.
You may notice this proposed strategy somewhat cuts out DeRozan of his own agency, but I think an upper-bound of $30M starting next year is a pretty good deal, even if he has over-performed his salary to this point.
2. Patrick Williams
I regret to inform that the Patrick Williams breakout is not happening, again.
Last night saw Williams getting yanked for Torrey Craig and Billy Donovan citing the usual ‘lack of aggression’. Also usual is Williams only scoring when not playing with anybody else, and then not doing much else.
In the entirety of preseason, 87.6 minutes: 10 rebounds (1 offensive), 1 steal, 1 block, 8 turnovers to only 5 assists.
His one assist last night was after passing up a three, an example of decision-making that Bulls management spent all offseason imploring publicly (and Donovan had just benched him last half) for him to improve at:
Maybe next year we won’t get another veteran saying that they’re going to unlock some entirely different on-court personality out of Williams. Or another round of discourse where you benching him to lead the second unit, something he hasn’t shown he has the skills for either.
Those are examples of a team motivated to develop Williams. But we know that holistically the team is less interested in that than they are in ‘being competitive, or at least duping management into feeling they are competitive, against the actually-good teams’. And that motivation may actually mean that (exactly like last season) Williams should start and the team can use what he is good at. That means less than 4th overall pick future star stuff, but a solid frontcourt defender with actual size plus providing accurate, if low-volume, three point shooting (he’s 8/16 from distance in this preseason after hitting 41.5% of his triples last regular season).
What kind of contract is that player worth? Williams is up for a rookie-scale extension that he and the Bulls can come to agreement to up until the day before the start of the regular season. The actual contract would kick in following this season.
There have only been 7 players who’ve signed one already, 3 of which were at the maximum and Desmond Bane getting close at nearly $200M for 5 seasons. Williams is a tough player to project in value, but we know that he’s not worth anywhere near that. He’s likely between Devin Vassell (5 yr, $135M) and Isaiah Stewart (4, $60M) and that’s a huge range.
Lack of production and improvement aside, Williams does some things well and is only 22. Maybe the Bulls can use his lack of aggression to their advantage off the court and lock him in on a long, cheap, tradeable deal now instead of waiting for restricted free agency next summer.
3. Dalen Terry
As rare as it is for a first round pick to not re-sign with the team eventually (thus why I expect Williams to stick around for a while), it’s even more rare for that player’s early option years to be declined.
But Dalen Terry may just be that special.
After drafting Terry 18th overall just a summer ago, the Bulls have until October 31st to exercise the 2024-25 option of $3.5M.
Terry has gone through the AKME Bulls prospect process of being drafted as a project then languishing on a ‘
win competitive now’ team that has stated they do not believe in in-season improvement versus what you can work on in the offseason. And Terry has had an offseason to come into Summer League and the preseason so far and…has shown nothing. He’s certainly not in the current 10-man rotation, and even in the junk game (aka Patrick Williams time), Terry was brutally ineffective.
As mentioned above, for all his faults Patrick Williams gives some production and shows skills. Terry, in contrast, can’t do anything well because his positive traits can’t overcome his negative ones: On defense, his slight build and inexperience belies his aggression and length. Offensively, he may have playmaking instincts but without threat of shooting or dribbling he can’t draw defensive attention to make plays.
He’s not an NBA player, and though he’ll only be 22 in that option year next season, it’ll still be an overpay even at a very cheap $3.5M. As stated already, the Bulls do not believe in in-season development, so it’s not like Terry will have increased his value by the trade deadline to where a multi-year contract would be desired.
Terry very well could simply become a contract to aggregate this year in a trade. If the option is declined, the traded-to team is restricted in offering him more than the option the Bulls declined. Somehow, I think that receiving team would be OK with that.
And if the Bulls still believe, or simply do not want to admit a mistake, they have the same restriction in potentially re-signing him next season too. Terry would be more properly evaluated alongside undrafted minimums and two-way contracts. That’s a far fall from first-round pedigree, but it happens more and more lately. From Terry’s class we’ve already seen the 29th overall pick (TyTy Washington) outright waived, and from the season prior the 19th, 23rd, and 24th picks are currently unrestricted free agents.
4. Alex Caruso
I don’t think this has any chance of happening, but is technically possible in the same way DeRozan’s is. The Bulls shouldn’t want to buy in on Caruso’s over-30 seasons (he’s already dinged up in preseason), and seem to enjoy their win of MOST UNDERVALUED CONTRACT EVAR instead of starting or trading him because he really is good.
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