Is T-Time Coming to an End in Chicago?


Is T-Time Coming to an End in Chicago?

Monday, November 9th

by Mark Schanowski

Now that Tyrus Thomas is out 4-to-6 weeks because of a fractured left forearm suffered in a freak weight training accident, the question is obvious: How much longer will Tyrus be with the Bulls?

Will he still be with the team after the trading deadline in February? And is there any chance he's still a Bull at the start of next season?

The front office did not seriously pursue a long term contract extension with Thomas before the Nov. 2 league deadline, while other members of the '06 draft class like Andrea Bargnani, LaMarcus Aldridge, Brandon Roy and Rajon Rondo were generously rewarded by their teams. And in case you weren't aware, the Bulls' goal of signing an All-Star caliber free agent next season would force them to renounce Thomas' rights before next July 1 to free up needed room under the salary cap. Now, that's not saying Tyrus doesn't have the chance to change their minds, but it will be a lot more difficult trying to come back from a broken arm, with rookie Taj Gibson getting a chance to establish himself in the starting lineup.

Remember, Thomas' bad week began with a post-practice critique in front of the whole team last Monday, courtesy of co-captain Lindsey Hunter. The coaching staff chose to go with a smaller lineup in the fourth quarter of a close loss in Miami the night before, leaving Tyrus on the bench. Thomas has had a few disagreements with Vinny Del Negro and his staff over the last season-plus, and it's no stretch to say he can be a difficult player to coach at times. Tyrus sees himself as a jump-shooting, scoring small forward, while the coaches want him spending most of his time in the paint, blocking shots and controlling the backboards on both ends. When Thomas came to training camp talking about new-found maturity and a breakout season, we were all intrigued. He certainly has the athletic ability and work ethic to become one of the better power forwards in the league. Now, the injury and the solid play of Gibson will mean reduced minutes and less of a chance to establish himself as a possible star of the future.

So, what happens next? The Bulls say surgery on Thomas' broken left forearm went extremely well, and he could return to the court in four weeks. We certainly wish Tyrus the best in his recovery, and the Bulls could use his shot-blocking and rebounding talents, whether he's used in a starting role or brought in off the bench. In the meantime, John Paxson and Gar Forman will have to consider bringing in another frontcourt player. It's pretty obvious the coaches don't have a lot of confidence in top draft pick James Johnson right now, and the Bulls can't afford to play Luol Deng 47 minutes like they did against Charlotte last Saturday. Del Negro can get by at times using John Salmons at the small forward spot and Deng at power forward, but that won't work against the more physical teams in the league. Names being thrown around as possible additions include Chris Richard, the former Florida forward who was cut near the end of training camp, former Bulls forward Linton Johnson and former Thornton H.S. star Melvin Ely.

With only 10 healthy players on the roster right now, what would you do? We would love to see your comments in the section below, and feel free to drop me an e-mail.

I'll see you Tuesday night from the United Center. Kendall Gill joins me for live pregame coverage of the Bulls-Nuggets match-up during SportsNite at 6:30.

Mark Schanowski hosts our Bulls pre and post game studio coverage with 15-year NBA veteran Kendall Gill. You can also watch Mark on SportsNite, Sunday through Thursday at 6:30 and 10.

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


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.