The negotiating window for NBA free agents is fast approaching, but the Chicago Bulls have a few housekeeping items to address before it opens.
Of particular intrigue: Sunday, Aug. 2 — the day free agency officially begins — is the last day for the front office to decide whether or not to fully guarantee the 2021-22 salaries of Thad Young ($14.2 million) and Tomáš Satoranský ($10 million). Should the team waive Young, they would owe him only $6 million for next season, clearing a little over $8 million off of their books; should they waive Satoranský, they'd owe him $5 million, clearing $5 million in the process.
Editor's note: Satoranský's team option deadline was originally written as Sunday Aug. 1, but was later corrected.
Both decisions will offer harbingers for how the Bulls plan to approach free agency. Artūras Karnišovas and Co. will have the ability to be cap-space players if they so choose, but would need to renounce some or all of the team's current free agents, potentially waive one or both of Young or Satoranský, and possibly cut ties with Ryan Arcidiacono (who has a $3 million team option for 2021-22) and/or Al-Farouq Aminu (whose $10.2 million salary can be waived and stretched) to get significantly under the salary cap line.
There's also, of course, the possibility of trades. As a part of ESPN's Woj & Lowe free agency show, which aired Sunday, Adrian Wojnarowski pinpointed Satoranský as someone generating "a lot of interest" around the league, specifically from contending clubs.
"There's a lot of interest in him, and I think especially very good teams see him as a guy who can just fit in and play a role," Wojnarowski said.
If the Bulls don't see Satoranský as part of their future, other teams being interested in trading for the veteran guard would surely be music to their ears. Dealing him before the draft or free-agency window would allow the Bulls to potentially recoup value for him instead of waiving him for nothing — or, at the very least, attempt to pawn off his full $10 million salary instead of just half of it.
But what's interesting about this report is that Wojnarowski doesn't specifically say whether interest in Satoranský around the league is trade or signing-based. If the Bulls do end up waiving Satoranský in a cap-space-clearing move, other teams could simply wait until he hits the open market, then pursue him as an outright free agent.
Satoranský signed with the Bulls in the summer of 2019 and has been a capable rotation guard since. In 2019-20, he started 64 of the team's 65 games, averaging 9.9 points and 5.4 assists. In 2020-21, he overcame two stints in COVID-19 protocol to appear in 58 games (starting 18) and averaged 7.7 points and 4.7 assists in just 22.5 minutes per game.
But, while steady in the right role, the Bulls now clearly have their sights set on a bigger upgrade than Satoranský can provide by himself at the starting lead guard spot. It makes sense that his positional size and playmaking have appeal for other teams, and come August, there will be more clarity on his future.