The Chicago Bulls declined scrappy guard Ryan Arcidiacono’s $3 million option Sunday, a move that may have been made even if they weren’t prominently involved in the Lonzo Ball sweepstakes.
Similarly, even if the contracts of Tomáš Satoranský and Thad Young become fully guaranteed by Monday’s deadline, that doesn’t mean either or both dependable rotation players are sticking for the long haul.
In fact, league sources said Young has been available for a while leading up to the opening of Monday’s official negotiating period for free agents, which — ahem — begins at 5 p.m. CT Monday. And Satoranský could be included if the Pelicans cooperate on a signed-and-traded Ball.
One league source said Young has been dangled as much for productive players as he has been for salary cap space, which would suggest the Bulls are covering all their bases, especially because both the Celtics and possibly the Mavericks continued to be rumored to be in the Ball sweepstakes. Clearing cap space to sign Ball to an offer sheet that the Pelicans matched would be the Bulls' worst-case scenario.
Either that, or the Bulls are confident they can execute the Satoranský-for-Ball sign-and-trade scenario.
Either way, there is substantial belief that the Bulls remain most focused on acquiring Ball. As has been covered ad nauseum, all paths to do so involve roster casualties beyond Arcidiacono.
It’s no secret the Bulls tried to pry Ball from the New Orleans at March’s trade deadline. The Pelicans asked for draft capital to consider the Bulls’ offer of Lauri Markkanen, and executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas used that capital to acquire Nikola Vučević instead.
If the Bulls go the cap-space and offer sheet route and want to start Ball near or north of the $20 million that league sources said he’s seeking, the Bulls would have to renounce their free agents — which includes Daniel Theis and Garrett Temple on top of Markkanen and others — plus trade one of Satoranský or Young or waive both of them before their contracts become fully guaranteed.
If the Pelicans cooperate in a sign-and-trade transaction and remain as lukewarm on Markkanen as they were in March, would Satoranský and draft capital work? Because of the Vučević deal, the earliest first-round pick the Bulls could package is their 2025 one.
If the Celtics enter the fray, Marcus Smart would likely be part of sign-and-trade talks.
Acquiring Ball via sign-and-trade also would set a hard cap of roughly $143 million for the Bulls. But it would preserve some exceptions to sign other players. And it wouldn’t require cap space, which would explain the dangling of Young for productive players.
The Bulls have discussed internally the fit of Derrick Rose, who long ago made amends with the franchise that traded him and never lost his love for the city of Chicago.
Karnišovas also could have some tricks up his sleeve. After all, he hired Billy Donovan as coach and traded for Vučević with little rumblings of either move beforehand.
With the contracts of Cristiano Felício and Denzel Valentine also expiring, the Bulls are about to look significantly different next season. Buckle up. Free agency typically provides twists and turns.