The Big Three are back in tact and have become quite the threat after Dwyane Wade took the court for the Miami Heat Friday vs. the Knicks. Wade had missed six consecutive games with an ankle injury but that didn't slow him down as he managed at 28-point performance in the Heat's 99-89 win over the Knicks. He also shot 11-for-19 from the field with five steals, four assists and two blocks. The Heat forced 19 turnovers and held New York to 36 percent shooting and 18 points in the fourth quarter.
Wade returned just in time for the Sunday's rematch against the Bulls but the Heat didn't seem too affected by Wade's absence. They were 8-1 in that time span and this could be 'bad news Bears' (well, Bulls) for Chicago.
Chris Bosh scored 13 points Friday and LeBron James finished with eight rebounds and seven assists. Bosh averaged 28.8 points in his last four games before Friday's contest and James made six straight free-throws and finished with 32 points vs. the Pistons Wednesday.
Wade scored a total 67 points in two regular-season games vs. the Bulls last season and 94 in five playoff appearances. James totaled 55 regular-season points and 129 points in the playoffs. Bosh only had a total of 24 regular-season points but came out with 116 playoff points vs. the Bulls.
Yea, I'd be a little nervous. Even though the Bulls once again hold quite the impressive record (17-4) Miami isn't far behind (14-5) and it didn't stop them from taking charge last season.
What do you think? Are you worried about Sunday's matchup vs. the Heat? What are your predictions?
How Jabari Parker impacts Bulls’ salary cap in 2019
How Jabari Parker impacts Bulls’ salary cap in 2019
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.
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.
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.