Vincent Goodwill

Bulls progressing on talks with free agent and Chicago native Jabari Parker

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USA TODAY

Bulls progressing on talks with free agent and Chicago native Jabari Parker

The Bulls are on the verge of agreeing to a deal with free agent forward Jabari Parker, according to league sources.

It's unknown whether Parker, a restricted free agent who has a qualifying offer from the Milwaukee Bucks, will sign an offer sheet from the Bulls or if the Bucks will rescind the offer sheet, allowing the Bulls to sign him as an unrestricted free agent.

A source tells NBCSportsChicago a deal is more likely to get done in days rather than something imminent.

The activity comes one day after the Bulls rescinded their qualifying offer on David Nwaba, freeing up an additional $1.7 million in cap room to their already league-leading space.

Part of the Bulls' pitch to Parker is that he would start at small forward. Through four seasons Parker has played 69 percent of his minutes at power forward, per Basketball Reference, but has seen his game become more perimeter-oriented the last two seasons; Parker has made 96 3-pointers the last two seasons after making 13 in his first two NBA seasons.

Parker's NBA career has been a mixed bag through four years. The 6-foot-8 power forward has suffered torn ACLs on two different occassions - in 2015 and 2017 - and missed 145 of a possible 328 games.

When healthy Parker has shown a versatile scoring skill set that's allowed him to average 15.3 points in four seasons. He was in the middle of a breakout campaign in 2017, averaging 20.1 points on 49 percent shooting, before suffering his second torn ACL.

He returned from his second ACL rehab in February of this past season and averaged 12.6 points in 31 games. His defense has come into question, and there are concerns about how he'd fit on a Bulls team that ranked 28th in efficiency.

Parker became a legend in Chicago at Simeon Career Academy, becoming the second player in state history to start for four state championship teams. Parker was also the first player in the state to be named Mr. Basketball twice, and he was a McDonald's All-American in 2013.

It's unknown how he'll fit on the Bulls' roster given their surplus of bigs. They already have Robin Lopez and Wendell Carter Jr. at center, while Lauri Markkanen is a surefire starter and Bobby Portis was one of the league's best reserves a year ago. Parker isn't a power forward in the traditional sense but his lateral quickness leaves plenty to be desired, making him a sub-optimal fit as a small forward.

The Bucks were aggressive in free agency, signing forward Ersan Ilyasova to a three-year deal and center Brook Lopez to a one-year deal. After those deals the team is about $15 million below the hard salary cap, giving them little wiggle room to make a Parker deal work should the Bulls sign him to an offer sheet.

Zach LaVine's contract: Dollars, cents and common sense

Zach LaVine's contract: Dollars, cents and common sense

The immediate shock and awe emanating from the NBA twitter world after Zach LaVine signed his $78 million offer sheet with the Sacramento Kings was only met by the collective head-shaking when the Chicago Bulls quickly matched it.

There’s the Kings being the Kings, having a roster with young, developing wings going after a restricted free agent with an offer that wasn’t overwhelming.

There’s the Bulls, doing things only the Bulls would do, matching an offer in a depressed market when they held all the leverage.

Right?

Not exactly.

While the Bulls aren’t at a bad place with their rebuild, with a better than average trove of young players and a decent amount of cap space for the future, anything the Bulls do will bring about a healthy amount of skepticism.

John Paxson and Gar Forman have taken their hits from the fan base and media over the years—which shouldn’t be unexpected considering the misses and missteps that seemed to whitewash some of the mild successes over the last decade.

And because they’ve placed no definitive timeline on the rebuild, nor have they copyrighted it with some funny hashtag, nobody knows how to measure performance in the short term or long-term.

Nobody wants to keep hearing, “in three years you’ll be blown away” but then again the Bulls would be fools to put a timeline on things publicly if ownership hasn’t given them a mandate privately.

Enter Zach LaVine.

The Bulls branded him as the face of the rebuild as he went through ACL recovery and predictably, struggled upon his 24-game return even though he had his share of ups with the downs.

And with Lauri Markkanen emerging as an unexpected performer in his rookie season, the attention shifted from LaVine to Markkanen, from the public and in narrative.

So with a tight market and numbers that didn’t overwhelm, some observers believed it would be best for the Bulls to let LaVine walk if the price got too steep—and for some, $78 million was where the line was drawn.

LaVine’s average salary of $19.5 million looks hefty on its face but it’s the price of doing business in today’s NBA. If he makes a flat $19.5 million for the four years with no raises, he’d rank 10th at his position in terms of salary—behind Gary Harris, Victor Oladipo and Bradley Beal—and barely halfway to his former teammate in Minnesota, Andrew Wiggins, who’s at the top of the list making $36 million on his max deal.

Klay Thompson is due for a raise, and Jimmy Butler will assuredly cash next summer when he opts out, as most expect him to.

LaVine is due—for a bump in performance.

The contract has placed an expectation on him for the first time in his career and telling from his unwavering confidence, it’s something he’s wanted. He was overlooked in high school and even at UCLA, then became the third wheel in Minnesota behind Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Once he got to Chicago, he admittedly was ready to embrace everything that came with being in this position, for this franchise—even if his body wasn’t quite ready to fulfill that promise.

So those flashes felt more like an anomaly than a sign of things to come—more a mark of distrust from the fan base to this current regime than of LaVine’s small sample size.

All LaVine has wanted was an opportunity to show he can perform like an upper-echelon player and more recently, for his body to cooperate. The expectations should be high.

Better this than a low bar a player manages to shimmy under.

Assuming he’s healthy, he has to perform and at least lead by validating the contract and stature he had upon his arrival.

If you believed LaVine was nothing more than a highlight waiting to happen and no substance behind it, last year wasn’t going to do anything to change that perception.

If you believed LaVine was a star in the waiting, being a victim of circumstance and bad timing, last year didn’t change that, either.

And it shouldn’t have.

If the Bulls’ evaluation of LaVine was correct, it’ll bear that out this season and it doesn’t have to be shown by wins and losses.

If they were in a rush to move Jimmy Butler and took a deal that reflected that desperation, this season will show that.

In essence, the contract is less about LaVine and more about the front office getting yet another chance to elevate this franchise to something it hasn’t been since Michael Jordan left town.

While the cap spike resulted in exorbitant salaries over the past couple years and the Bulls didn’t participate to start the rebuild and maintain flexibility, the market was set and LaVine got the going rate for an above-average shooting guard.

And the salary cap is due for another jump next summer, from $101 million to $108 million, meaning LaVine’s cap hit won’t feel as sizable in the coming seasons.

Not to mention, the NBA getting involved in the gambling business is sure to filter into the salary cap in coming years, so the sticker shock won’t last long in perspective.

If LaVine doesn’t perform, he’ll be easy to move in the expected climate. If he does, he’ll be a value contract on an ascending team in a big market.

If things fall apart, some will finally have the validation on the front office they’ve long held to be true.

Only the Bulls, right?

Bulls trade of Grant could be signal of confidence in Payne

Bulls trade of Grant could be signal of confidence in Payne

When Cameron Payne began showing signs at the end of last season, it confirmed the Bulls’ belief they had a capable backup point guard for the future behind Kris Dunn.

It also meant Jerian Grant’s days were likely numbered and Grant was traded to Orlando as part of a three-way deal between Chicago, Charlotte and Orlando that included Bismack Biyombo going back to Charlotte while Grant and Timofey Mozgov will head to the Magic.

The Bulls acquired Hornets guard Julyan Stone, but he will be waived before his $1.6 million contract is guaranteed before August 1, sources tell NBCSportsChicago.com. Worth more than the extra cap space the Bulls will have, this signals Payne’s place on the roster—the front office believed once Payne was fully recovered from a foot injury that dogged him when he was acquired in a trade that sent Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott to Oklahoma City at the 2017 draft deadline.

After Payne’s rocky finish to that season and subsequent surgery, he missed the first 58 games last season—a season Grant began as the starting point guard, beating out Dunn in training camp.

But by the time Payne was healthy and in shape, he took advantage of his opportunity, with games of 17 points and six assists against Milwaukee, 13 points and 10 assists against Cleveland and 15 points and six assists in the second-to-last game of the season against Brooklyn.

Payne shot 38.5 percent from 3-point range in 25 games last year—a valuable stat considering Dunn hasn’t yet developed into a 3-point shooter and he can be used to spread the floor if he plays late minutes during the season.

Grant, the nephew of three-time Bulls champion Horace Grant, was acquired in a trade with the Knicks that sent Derrick Rose to New York before the 2016 draft. Grant, who will enter his fourth season in the NBA with the Magic with his $2.6 million deal guaranteed, averaged 8.4 points and 4.6 assists in 74 games with the Bulls last season.