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It's NBA Draft day, and the Bulls don't have a pick
the front office IS working today, sources indicate
It’s one of the big days in the NBA transaction calendar, and fittingly the Bulls find themselves out of the conversation. We did get one juicy rumor that the team is actually working despite currently having no selections in tonight’s draft, but also a lot of indications that the team is going to (gag) re-sign all their free agents leaving no room under the tax and (barf) run this back again.
Interestingly, team PR did notify the local reporting beat that there will be press availability from ‘executives’ (note the plural: the biannual Marc Eversley proof of life incoming?!?!) following tonight’s draft. I credit them for doing the bare minimum and having any appearance, and not in the GarPax fashion where it occurred while the draft was going on. Sadly, ‘better than GarPax’ is a low bar that AKME has struggled to clear recently. I find it interesting that a team source today indicated to Darnell Mayberry that ownership is not meddling, implying this current cap and roster mess is all AK’s doing.
That mess was tidied up a bit in the past few days, but only in very small amounts.
The overall cap and tax lines came in a bit higher than previously estimated, though that also increases the value of cap exceptions.
Derrick Jones Jr. declined his player option, which was a bit of a surprise in that it goes against what Jones said a couple months ago. The difference between that player option and the veteran minimum is around $1M, and though I think Jones is “worth” more than the minimum this roster all needs new, better-shooting, guys. Throw out the minimum and see who between Jones and Javonte Green takes it.
As you can tell, none of this really gives the Bulls much breathing room under the tax when it comes to doing all of retaining Nikola Vucevic, Coby White, Ayo Dosunmu, and using the full non-taxpayer mid-level exception or bi-annual exception. There are upcoming deadlines with Andre Drummond’s player option on June 29th (listen to Stacey King and KC Johnson, Andre! You’re phenomenally underrated and should get another big contract somewhere else) and then a team decision on Marko Simonovic (7/7), but both are making near minimum so there isn’t much to be saved on either.
I see fellow ‘independent Bulls observers’ with state-funded media all detailing this cap crunch Arturas Karnisovas put this team in heading into free agency next week, and making assumptions that they’ll behave like a dumb team in addressing it. Like I heard KC on the radio this week (won’t bother finding it, I’m paraphrasing) suggest that the Bulls won’t want a pick in this draft because of the guaranteed salary, and they can treat Dalen Terry like a first round pick because he was effectively redshirted last season.
I get that these assumptions are made because all AK has said and done has been dumb, but maybe if we are going to make subjective assumptions anyway let’s dream what a smart team would do: and then it doesn’t look so scary.
Let’s assume instead of giving Vuc a raise (god, why?) and hoping for a medical miracle with Lonzo Ball, they instead immediately waive-and-stretch Lonzo (cap number this year goes down to $8.3M) and that they give Vuc barely over the MLE since he is not beating that anywhere else and isn’t worth more anyway. Boom, that frees up $17M under the tax. Even more if Vuc walks.
It’s a much simpler way of gaining some flexibility than a bad LaVine or DeRozan trade.
I’ve opted out of draft research due to laziness. I hear it’s a great class, and those guaranteed contracts for late first and early second-round picks are very valuable with more CBA restrictions on actual big-market franchises coming in. The Bulls can find a way into a selection, whether that’s trading a far-off future pick (Denver did this during The Finals), or simply purchasing one. The Sixers leaked that their ownership is willing to do that, and I don’t know what The Bulls in comparison would distaste more: spending cash or leaking any activity. For what it’s worth, the league year doesn't reset until July, so the Bulls still have their full available cash (over $6.3M) to send in a trade on draft night.
There’s no excuse not to do something today. While technically the Bulls could make a major trade in July with outgoing sign-and-trades, tonight is when a lot of teams use picks to move a lot of salary around. And if AK was actually serious about wanting to be a “player development” franchise and didn’t just say that because it means “low payroll”, he should want to get a pick to use tonight.
If the draft night comes and goes and AK sits and sighs at the podium, the first question should be “what exactly do you do, here?”. And if he says - like after the trade deadline - that he wanted to make a deal but couldn’t find a good one, the follow-up should be “why not? are you admitting you’re not good at what you do?”