The Chicago Bulls have had a splashy offseason to this point.
In adding Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso and DeMar DeRozan during free agency, they have created headlines and hope.
Once they officially announce deals for Tony Bradley, Marko Simonović and Ayo Dosunmu, they’ll be at 12 contracts. And Devon Dotson is signed to one of the two two-way deals, with one to come.
With the trade exception created by the Daniel Theis sign-and-trade, the Bulls could enter next season with 14 contracts and a roster spot open. Or perhaps sign a 15th player to a non- or partially guaranteed deal for flexibility.
Either way, work remains. And no piece of unfinished business looms larger than Lauri Markkanen’s status.
The operative word in Markkanen’s situation is restricted — as in restricted free agency. At this point, with no team but the Thunder possessing cap space, which is a team not yet linked to Markkanen, his option of signing a lucrative offer sheet and forcing the Bulls into a decision has fallen by the wayside.
Now, he’ll need the Bulls’ cooperation to find a new home. Which, between his comments following the season and, more recently, to Finnish journalist Antti-Jussi Sipilä, he has made clear he wants to happen.
But the Bulls can be selective. For now, they’re asking for a first-round pick and indicating they’re not interested in cumbersome long-term deals in return for any sign-and-trade scenario.
They could stick to that stance in the hopes it comes to fruition — or that Markkanen plays this season on his qualifying offer of close to $9 million. A 7-footer who shot 40 percent from 3-point range last season at that price would be a nice cherry on top of that offseason sundae.
But given all the positive momentum this offseason has created, bringing back a player who has made it clear he’d like to be elsewhere seems less than ideal. So perhaps the Bulls lower their asking demands to accept second-round picks or a first-round pick with a long-term contract for a player they don't love attached.
The Bulls also could revisit extension talks that stalled before last season. But, again, Markkanen told Sipilä he’s seeking a fresh start elsewhere. That doesn’t sound like a player who would entertain such discussions.
Teams with trade exceptions, like the Pelicans and Mavericks, are also logical landing spots. With the league investigating tampering charges on the Bulls’ acquisition of Ball, it’s unlikely those teams would be allowed to discuss sign-and-trade negotiations right now.
So Markkanen’s holding pattern continues. Free agency always is a game of musical chairs, fluid and fast and furious. The music hasn't stopped, but it's slowing.