A lot of the questions I get from Bulls fans are about the front office’s plans for free agency this summer. Well, the truth is the mid-season trade that brought Omer Asik’s contract from New Orleans and Zach LaVine’s restricted free agency will limit what the Bulls might be able to do. And, John Paxson has been clear in various media sessions that the Bulls do not plan to overpay veteran free agents just because they have money to spend.
But the trade that brought Asik to Chicago (along with Tony Allen, Jameer Nelson and a 1st round draft pick for Niko Mirotic) provides the blueprint for a strategy that could come into play in early July.
Lakers’ President Magic Johnson has not been shy about telling reporters he’s hoping to sign two major free agents this summer, with LeBron James and Paul George the obvious targets. Problem is, the Lakers don’t currently have cap room for 2 max contract offers, and they’re limited in what they can do to create more space.
For much of the 2017-18 season, the assumption was the Lakers would let forward Julius Randle walk when he became a restricted free agent in July, but the 4th year player had his best year as a pro and has a unique skill set the Lakers would like to retain. They’re already worried about a team with cap room like Dallas making Randle a big offer that would complicate their payroll even further.
The Lakers have been trying to move the contract of former Bull Luol Deng that has 2 years and about 36 million dollars remaining, but not surprisingly, they haven’t found any takers. Deng was basically in exile last season, watching most of the games from the bench in street clothes.
So, given the fact the Lakers already have Randle and rookie sensation Kyle Kuzma at the forward spots and hope to make a run at LeBron and George, would they consider including former #2 overall pick Brandon Ingram in a trade to unload Deng’s contract?
The Bulls have the cap space to absorb Deng’s deal and they could offer the Lakers something in return for Ingram like the 1st round pick they acquired from New Orleans (#22 overall) and a useful, low-salaried player like Justin Holiday.
The Lakers would get the cap space they need to make an all-out run for 2 superstars and the Bulls would have their small forward of the future in Ingram. Granted, the Lakers wouldn’t make this type of trade until they were sure they were getting 2 max players, but it’s something that could be discussed in the days leading up to the June 21st draft.
If the Bulls were able to acquire a talented young wing player like Ingram, they could shift the focus with their own 1st round pick to selecting the prospect they believe has the highest star potential. If the Bulls stay at #6 after the lottery, let’s assume Ayton, Bagley, Doncic, Porter and Jackson are already off the board. That would give the Bulls a choice of Mo Bamba, Collin Sexton, Mikal Bridges or Trae Young as a young potential star to develop without the pressure of starting immediately.
Everything we’ve heard out of Los Angeles suggests the Lakers plan to keep Ingram, but things can change quickly when superstar players are involved, and we know Magic Johnson would like nothing better than to bring “Showtime” back to L.A.
Since the Bulls don’t plan to be major players in free agency this year, maybe that valuable cap space can be turned into another foundation player through trade. The only downside is adding Deng’s contract to the payroll would limit the Bulls options in free agency in 2019.
Around the Association
Judging by my Twitter mentions, most of you weren’t too excited about my idea last week of the Bulls making a contract offer to Paul George this summer.
For those of you asking, why not try for LeBron? The answer is pretty obvious.
If James leaves Cleveland again, he will do it for one of two reasons. Either he’ll go to a franchise he feels has the best chance to win a championship right away (Houston, Philadelphia, San Antonio) or it will be a lifestyle choice for his family and his brand.
James already owns two homes in the Los Angeles area and might see himself getting involved in the entertainment industry down the line. That’s why the Lakers and Clippers are considered to be prime contenders if LeBron looks for a new team.
The Bulls had a productive meeting with James and his representatives back in 2010, and reportedly met briefly with James’ reps in 2014. But this time around the situation is completely different. The Bulls are entering Year 2 of a total rebuild and that’s just not the type of team James would consider at this point in his career.
Remember when LeBron talked about getting the “banana boat” gang (James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony) together before he retired?
Well, Paul is still going strong and has a chance to get to the Finals with Houston, but Wade is now contemplating retirement, and Anthony went scorched earth in his season ending meeting with the media in Oklahoma City.
Anthony has a player option for next season worth right around 28 million dollars, and after watching how his game regressed this past season, he’ll have no choice but to pick up that option. Anthony told reporters he has no interest in coming off the bench next season, saying he’s already made enough sacrifices for the good of the team.
Oklahoma City could pursue a buyout, but from what we remember from Anthony’s negotiations with the Bulls in 2014, the idea of Melo leaving money on the table doesn’t seem very likely. An unhappy Anthony could me a major problem for Billy Donovan and the Thunder next season.
‘Tis the season for unhappy stars to make demands for change. John Wall complained about his supporting cast in Washington after the Wizards were eliminated in 6 games by Toronto in the opening round of the playoffs.
Wall has never been a fan of starting center Marcin Gortat, and he told reporters the Wizards need more athletic players on the frontline who can excel in the modern NBA.
Problem is, the Wizards don’t have much roster flexibility since Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter are all on max contracts. So, much like the situation in Portland with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, will the front office be willing to trade an All-Star like Beal to bring in multiple assets to improve the roster around their franchise player (Wall)?
With so many teams facing difficult cap situations we could see a number of star players being mentioned in trade rumors this summer. And that could create unique opportunities for a team with cap flexibility like the Bulls.
The best off-season in all the major sports is another reason why we love the NBA!