Bulls

Gar Forman says Bulls 'retooling'; Rose trade the first step

Gar Forman says Bulls 'retooling'; Rose trade the first step

Trading a player with the stature and allure of Derrick Rose requires more than just a cursory explanation, something Bulls GM Gar Forman was well-aware of when he met with media two hours after the trade was consummated.

Forman said moving on from the 2011 MVP was a step in reshaping this roster, and moving it away from the way things used to be—although now, one doesn’t know what to make of the current state of affairs.

“Derrick has meant a lot to this organization and to this city and to this team and has had to overcome a lot over the years with all the injuries to get back to the point he was,” Forman said. “But in putting our plan together, we felt as a first step this really made sense for us.”

The Bulls acquired Robin Lopez, veteran guard Jose Calderon and 2015 first-round draft pick Jerian Grant for Rose, Justin Holiday and a 2017 second-round pick. With the NBA draft on Thursday, it’s another opportunity for the Bulls to move forward, although who they’ll select has become just as murky—considering they’re high on Grant and Calderon started for the Knicks last season.

Forman wouldn’t say if Lopez, a serviceable if not outright revelation for the Knicks last season after signing a free agent deal, would be a starter this coming season as Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah are free agents.

Lopez averaged 10.3 points and 7.3 rebounds last season for the Knicks, and league executives say he could be a source of stability on the interior, especially considering he’s played 82 games in three of the last four seasons.

Forman wouldn’t say if this is now officially Jimmy Butler’s team—or if the Bulls would entertain offers for Butler leading into the draft, as he’s been highly coveted by teams looking to make the leap into the land of the elite.

“Basketball is a team game, a five-man game,” Forman said. “Obviously, Jimmy being an All-Star is our best player. But I don’t think you go as far as saying it’s this guy’s team. It’s everybody’s team.”

Either way, the reshaping or in Forman’s words, “retooling” of the Bulls will begin in earnest and take another step forward as free agency begins on July 1.

“We like a lot of the young players we have on this roster, starting with Jimmy, who’s 26,” Forman said. “ (Rookies) Bobby Portis and Felicio, who showed towards the end of the year that (Felicio) has got a lot of upside. Doug McDermott, Niko, we’ve got the first round pick coming up tomorrow night with the possibility of two first round picks next year, so you can see kind of where were kind of trying to go. Obviously at the same time we’re trying to put the best team together that we can. I wouldn’t call it a rebuild; more of a retool.”

Whether it’s a youth movement, athletic movement or whatever you want to call it, it’s a movement and where it’s moving, only Bulls management can chart.

“We felt we need to start changing the roster,” Forman said. “We felt we needed to start getting younger and more athletic. And I think we’ve done that in Robin Lopez and Jerian Grant. And along with that, get a veteran who we really like in Calderon. That was important to us. It was more from a team-building standpoint trying to get this process started and try to put us in a different direction where we think we can have success down the road.”

Taking a step back for the sake of taking multiple steps forward later seems to be the goal, an aspect that isn’t always easy in today’s superstar-laden NBA. Calderon is an expiring contract at $7.7 million, and the Bulls would also like to retain guard E’Twaun Moore, but he’ll have plenty of suitors around the league as a solid reserve.

Taj Gibson is also entering the final year of his contract, and the Bulls resisted offers from suitors at the deadline last season, namely the Toronto Raptors.

Mirotic will also be a free agent after next season, his third in the NBA.

“Like we should be this time of year, we’re talking to all 29 teams and a lot of different scenarios,” Forman said. “That’s our job, to listen, to know what the market is, to evaluate what’s out there and opportunities to get better and then ultimately make a decision.”

And it looks like the moves are just beginning.

How Jabari Parker impacts Bulls’ salary cap in 2019

How Jabari Parker impacts Bulls’ salary cap in 2019

The Bulls ‘rebuild’ seems to be just a one-year experiment after the team signed Chicago native Jabari Parker to a two-year, $40-million dollar deal on Saturday. Although on first look Parker’s contract would seem to restrict what they can do in free agency next summer, the reality is that the 2nd year team option gives the Bulls plenty of flexibility with—or without- Parker next year.  

If the Bulls pick up the option on Parker, they will still be able to sign a max free agent next July if they make the right moves between now and July 1, 2019.

The NBA projects the 2019-20 cap will rise to $109 million, up from $101.9 million for the upcoming season. The league bases a ‘max’ salary on years of service. A 10-year vet like Kevin Durant is eligible for more ($38.2 million) than his teammate Klay Thompson ($32.7 million), an 8-year vet. If the Bulls keep Parker, they’ll enter free agency with approximately $15.4 million next summer—far short of the cap space needed for a player like Durant or Thompson, but that number is misleading. The $15.4 million also includes cap holds (salary slots assigned to a player based on several factors including previous year’s salary). The cap hold is designed to prevent teams from completely circumventing the soft cap model the league uses. The cap holds for Bobby Portis ($7.5 million) and Cameron Payne ($9.8 million) are just theoretical if the Bulls don’t sign either to a contract extension before the October 31, 2018 deadline. 

Let’s say the Bulls are in line to sign a star free agent like Thompson; all they would need to do is rescind any qualifying offer to Payne or Portis, and then renounce them as free agents. This would effectively take the cap holds off the Bulls’ cap sheet and give them approximately $32.7 million in cap space. Coincidently (or perhaps it’s no coincidence), that’s the exact salary a 7-9 year free agent like Thompson would command.

In order to create enough space for Durant and his increased ‘max’ slot, they would need to waive and stretch a player like Cristiano Felicio or incentivize a trade involving a player by attaching another asset in the deal, like a future 1st round pick.

If the Bulls decline the team option on Parker, then they will enter free agency with anywhere between $35 million and $53 million. 

Gar Forman finally comes through on promise

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USA TODAY

Gar Forman finally comes through on promise

"We felt we needed to start getting younger and more athletic..."

It was 2016 when Bulls general manager Gar Forman made this statement, drawing ire from many Bulls fans for what felt like—at the time—a disingenuous statement. A swap of Derrick Rose for Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant making you younger and athletic? No one was buying it.

But fast forward to July, 2018, and it is clear that at the very least, Forman has finally made good on his promise. The signing of Jabari Parker has been met with mostly positivity, as a short-term commitment to a former No. 2 overall pick is something that is difficult to hate. But when you factor in the rest of the pieces currently on the roster, it is OK for Bulls fans to be downright giddy over the future.

Lauri Markkanen is 21 years old, Wendell Carter Jr. is 19, Zach LaVine is 23, Jabari Parker is 23 and Kris Dunn is the elder statesmen of the group at 24 years old. If these five become the starting group moving forward, as expected, it would represent one of the youngest starting groups in the league with an average age of 22. 

And athleticism can be checked off the list as well. We know Markkanen has hopsLaVine showed off the explosiveness he was known for last season and Dunn had some dunks last year that legitimately gave fans a Rose flashback

Markkanen and Carter Jr. have both flashed the ability to switch onto guards for a limited amount of time and guard in space, a huge component of any defense that wants to switch a lot. And it also is the type of athleticism that is much more important at their position.

At this stage, Parker represents the biggest question mark athletically speaking. Despite his young age, the two ACL injuries make you wonder if there is any room for him to improve his agility. But at the least, Parker can drive to the basket and finish over the top with authority, even if his defense doesn't catch up.

So, Bulls fans are starting to become intrigued with this roster.

Fred Hoiberg wants his teams to play an up-tempo game, and last season was the first year during Hoiberg's Bulls tenure where the team actually ranked in the top 10 in pace. So if you have followed the Bulls carefully since Thibodeau's departure, you see a front-office that supports their new head coach, yet wasted a couple years to commit fully to his vision, and to a direction for the franchise.

But the point is Forman finally chose a direction.

The Bulls have a young core, and financial flexibility moving forward. And for all the jokes the "GarPax" regime have endured over the years, they have put the team in a position to have sustained success if they hit on all the young players they have acquired. 

And if they are wrong in their assessment of their young talent? 

The Bulls would be able to let Parker go, now that we know the second year of his contract is a team option. LaVine's offensive skill set will allow him to still have trade value years from now, as his contract won't look nearly as bad over time. 

And if the Bulls flurry of moves make the team significantly worse in a year where many expect them to take a step forward, all it would mean is being equipped with a high lottery pick in what is shaping up to be a top-heavy 2019 NBA Draft.

So Gar Forman wanted the team to get younger and more athletic, and though it took longer than it should've, the front-office made good on their promise. That is something that Bulls fans can believe in.