When the NBA Finals conclude this week, the offseason comes in rapid fashion. The NBA Draft is on July 29. Free agency opens on Aug. 2.
Do you know where your Chicago Bulls roster is?
It could, and should, look significantly different once the music stops and the musical chairs game of free agency ends. Seven to nine new players could be on the 2021-22 Bulls.
The safest bets to return are Zach LaVine, Nikola Vučević, Patrick Williams, Coby White, Troy Brown Jr. and one of Thad Young or Tomáš Satoranský. All signs point to 2020 second-round pick Marko Simonović having a role.
Beyond that, everything is up for grabs.
“We’ll have a ton of roster spots,” Artūras Karnišovas said at his end-of-season media session in mid-May.
There are myriad paths which Karnišovas and his staff can travel this offseason.
They can renounce the cap holds on some or all of their own free agents — that list is, deep breath here, Lauri Markkanen, Daniel Theis, Garrett Temple, Denzel Valentine, Ryan Arcidiacono, Cristiano Felicio, Javonte Green, Adam Mokoka and Devon Dotson — and waive or try to trade one of Satoranský or Young to clear enough salary cap space to make a run at someone like Lonzo Ball.
They can try to sign-and-trade Lauri Markkanen for a preferred target and operate as an over-the-cap team, using exceptions and minimum salaries to round out the roster.
They can renounce the cap holds on some or all of their own free agents, waive and stretch Al-Farouq Aminu’s expiring contract (freeing up about $6.8 million in additional room) and waive or try to trade both of Young and Satoranský to max out their salary cap space for a run at someone like Ball and potentially a re-negotiation of LaVine’s deal.
They can also keep both Young and Satoranský, add their 2021 second-round pick and round out the roster using exceptions and minimum salaries.
In his first offseason as lead executive, Karnišovas added Temple with part of the team’s mid-level exception and used the fourth overall pick to draft Williams. Instead of a major shakeup, his biggest surprises were opting to retain Valentine over Kris Dunn — a prudent decision, given Dunn’s injury woes — and not addressing the point guard position, setting the stage for what he called at the time an evaluation year.
But Karnišovas saved his boldest move for the March trade deadline. He shipped Wendell Carter Jr., Otto Porter Jr. and two protected first-round picks to the Orlando Magic for Vučević and Aminu, who, with an expiring salary, also could be a moving part this offseason.
In a separate, three-team trade, Karnišovas then added Theis, Brown and Green while shipping out Daniel Gafford, Chandler Hutchison and Luke Kornet.
For the second straight offseason, there is considerable talk around the league that the Bulls plan to add a point guard. Given management’s attempt to trade Markkanen for Ball at the trade deadline, not to mention the background that sources said management is performing on myriad options, this time it seems inevitable.
Indeed, the Bulls already have been linked to Ball, Dennis Schröder and Spencer Dinwiddie via the rumor mill. Under-the-radar options like Jalen Brunson, who would have to be acquired via trade, Reggie Jackson and Derrick Rose aren’t out of the realm of possibility.
The contracts of Satoranský and Young become fully guaranteed on Aug. 1 unless management takes action. That will obviously serve as a significant signal for how aggressive of an offseason this plans to be.
When John Paxson succeeded Jerry Krause in 2003, he completely flipped the roster save for Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry by the end of his second season. Paxson, too, initially began this process with a significant trade in his first season, sending Jalen Rose to the Toronto Raptors for Antonio Davis in a six-player deal.
In just a few weeks, Karnišovas could be headed down a similarly aggressive path to reshape the roster in his and his staff’s preference.