Otto Porter Jr.

How Kris Dunn’s Bulls future could be impacted by NBA salary cap modification

How Kris Dunn’s Bulls future could be impacted by NBA salary cap modification

The Bulls’ new management’s commitment to Kris Dunn will be tested soon enough.

According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, Dunn’s qualifying offer will be $7.1 million after the criteria for the guard’s number of starts was prorated due to the Bulls’ shortened season.

Before COVID-19 paused the NBA in March and, ultimately, the Bulls didn’t get invited to the league’s 22-team restart in late July, Dunn needed to average 41 starts over two years or else his qualifying offer dropped to $4.6 million. According to Marks, that number got prorated to 36.75 starts because the Bulls only played 65 games.

Despite suffering a freak right knee injury on Jan. 31 when Thad Young’s head inadvertently smashed into it and sprained Dunn’s MCL, Dunn averaged 38 starts over the last two seasons.

There are myriad ways to view the news. If Otto Porter Jr. exercises his $28.5 million player option — as expected — the Bulls project to be an over-the-cap team and only able to use salary cap exceptions to sign players. So qualifying Dunn for an extra $2.5 million isn’t a high price to pay for an asset who sparked All-Defense talk with his play this season.

But would the additional $2.5 million force executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley to walk from a player who may not project in their long-term plans?

If the Bulls do extend a qualifying offer, Dunn becomes a restricted free agent. That raises the question over whether Dunn, who has been injury prone during his first four seasons, would try to seek long-term security for perhaps a lesser annual salary in what is widely expected to be a slow free-agency market this October. As a restricted free agent, the Bulls would have the right to match any offer sheet he finds in that scenario.

Perhaps the most logical conclusion is that Dunn plays next season on the new and improved qualifying offer — provided the Bulls extend it. While that assumes some risk given his injury history, it also allows Dunn to re-establish the defensive prowess he displayed last season, and perhaps make strides as a shooter. He could then enter the 2021 free-agency market, which is flush with multiple teams possessing ample cap space, unrestricted.

Dunn has been a regular at the Advocate Center this offseason, rehabilitating his knee injury. Before suffering his injury, he ranked second in the NBA steals for the league’s seventh-rated defense.

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Bulls mailbag: Timeline for Jim Boylen decision? How will Bulls approach offseason?

Bulls mailbag: Timeline for Jim Boylen decision? How will Bulls approach offseason?

Just because the Bulls aren’t playing games for eight months doesn’t mean you don’t have questions, which is something for which I am thankful. Let’s get right to them.

What’s the future looking like for Jim Boylen? – Alex M.

Paging, Arturas Karnisovas. Alex is on Line 1...

This point has been widely reported, but Boylen and his staff’s future will be Karnisovas’ call. Ownership hired him to run basketball operations. So let’s review where things stand on both sides of the equation:

On the plus side for Boylen, he owns ownership support. His care factor has been praised by everyone from players to Karnisovas. The new executive vice president of basketball operations values members of Boylen’s staff. Karnisovas has worked to make Boylen focus simply on coaching rather than getting distracted by details — dealing with player agents, putting out other fires — that Boylen previously let take up too much of his time.

On the minus side, Boylen is 39-84 (.317) since taking over a rebuilding program. Players have offered mixed feedback on his tenure. Even with two years remaining on his contract, Boylen’s salary places him on the lower end of NBA coaches, so eating that money — along with some of his assistants? — isn’t prohibitive. (Although it’s fair to wonder if the pandemic and its financial impact affects this thought.) Karnisovas said he was hired to “affect change” and most new executives want their own coach in place.

Publicly, Karnisovas has said he wants to watch Boylen and his staff in action before finalizing his evaluation process. That’s one of the many reasons why the Bulls getting invited to the NBA’s restart in Orlando would have been beneficial. Since they weren’t, that evaluation will have to take place via shared film sessions, draft preparation and voluntary player workouts, plus possibly whatever formal team activities the league and players association agree upon for the eight neglected teams.

With no timeline scheduled for those, there’s no guarantee Boylen and his staff will get that final opportunity. Only Karnisovas knows when his evaluation timeline will conclude. He has emphasized that, with no games until December and a likely November training camp, there’s no rush on the decision. Also, the 2019-20 season isn’t over for all teams, which could initially limit the candidate pool should Karnisovas decide to make a change.

So stay tuned.

What percentage of the Bulls’ fan base wants Jim Boylen to return as coach? – Michael K.

With all due respect, particularly since Michael went on to write that he’s been a fan since Year 1 of the franchise, it’s more important for the new regime to discern what percentage of the roster wants him back.

That said, the fan base isn’t an insignificant aspect to this from my seat. I can’t claim to have the pulse of the entire fan base. However, the majority of feedback that crosses my sphere via email and social media is excited for the front office overhaul. There is considerable positivity and genuine intrigue for what’s next. And at least via the feedback that I get, retaining Boylen would be viewed as running counter to moving forward on a fresh start.

The Bulls will need as many fans in the seats as possible once they’re allowed to re-enter arenas. So any way to keep the positive momentum moving forward would seem to be a prudent idea.

With all the rumors about Boylen eventually getting fired, do you have any idea how the new leadership is addressing this internally with Boylen and his staff? I imagine Boylen reads this stuff, as well. Is there a chance he has already been told he's out the door or is it radio silence from all sides about [his] future? – Jason M.

Karnisovas has told Boylen and his staff to focus on coaching for now. This, to me, shines a light on Karnisovas' leadership style. At least for now, he's empowering Boylen to do his job. That means film study, draft prep, contact with players, voluntary workouts at the Advocate Center (now that those are allowed), assigning projects to assistant coaches on how to get personnel better. Typical offseason stuff. 

Until he's told otherwise, Boylen is the coach. This is a big boy league. Everybody understands what can happen when new management comes in. Karnisovas has empowered Boylen for now while also communicating that he and general manager Marc Eversley will evaluate all departments.

Do you sense there’s any interest in keeping Otto Porter Jr. past his contract now? Obviously, it would likely be on a much smaller deal than the max he has now. And granted, he hasn’t really stayed healthy since coming to Chicago. But maybe a one-and-one to prove himself? – Aaron B.

Even you sounded like you were trying to talk yourself into this scenario as your question unfolded.

Nobody questions Porter’s effectiveness as a two-way player when healthy. But you said it: He has played just 29 games as a Bull. And questions about his hips date back to when he first came out of Georgetown.

I don’t know the new management regime well enough to speculate on who they like and who they don’t like. But Porter’s expiring contract if he, as expected, opts in for 2020-21 has to be viewed as the main positive. Given his injury history and that Chandler Hutchison remains on the roster — albeit rehabilitating again following shoulder surgery — I have to believe there are other long-term plans for the wing spot outside of Porter.

How does players rallying and attending protests affect the NBA’s decision to go back into playing? The league is working on strict implementation of social distancing in Orlando, but players are out on the street rallying without social distancing. If any of those players result to be positive for the coronavirus, is the NBA canceled for good this season? – Josiah R.

This is an interesting query. The short answer is: No. And the league is fully preparing for some players to test positive as it attempts its restart in Orlando. That’s why quarantine measures are being discussed.

But your question raises a larger point about all that can happen between now and July 31. The league office and players association is filled with smart leadership. Safety will be the main priority. But anyone not expecting at least hiccups (and perhaps greater) is probably naïve.

With nine months between games, how can the Bulls keep their players sharp? – Alfonso M.

This is what the eight teams excluded from Orlando are talking to the league about, and any conclusion would have to also have agreement from the players association. As we all know, teams typically can’t mandate player participation in the offseason. This is an unprecedented situation because the 2019-20 season technically isn’t over, but it kind of is for these eight teams.

Here’s a more concrete hypothetical: Let’s say the league and players association agree to allow these eight teams to engage in controlled scrimmages, a small Fall league or something along those lines. Would it be mandatory for all players, even international ones? Tomas Satoransky, for instance, has said he hopes to practice with a pro team in his native Czech Republic. Could and would the Bulls make him leave his family to participate in any formal activities that get scheduled?

It’s all unprecedented stuff. But it’s clear not playing games for over eight months is detrimental to a young team like the Bulls. That’s why there is dialogue trying to address the layoff.

RELATED: Arturas Karnisovas vows to get creative with Bulls' development in long offseason

How do you think the long layoff impacts the top contenders such as the Lakers, Clippers or Bucks? Do you think they’re in a stronger position to compete for the championship? Is there a sleeper team these teams should be aware of? – Shannon R.

Perhaps a simplistic debate would be: Does the layoff favor a veteran team because of know-how or might it make that team more injury prone, opening the door for a surprising, young athletic team? I know the Trail Blazers, who have to qualify for the playoffs via the play-in tournament, want to test this theory. They are expected to return Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins from long injury absences.

Count me in the veteran experience will rule the day camp, though. I see the Lakers winning it all.

Assuming the Bulls stay outside the top-five and are out of the Edwards-Ball-Wiseman-Toppin range, who do you see them targeting? I’m really intrigued by Killian Hayes personally. – Tyler L.

Hayes is at No. 5 in some mock drafts, but he certainly could address the position of need that still doesn’t seem solved at point guard. We’ll certainly find out something about the new management regime’s philosophy once the draft lottery and draft are held.

General manager Marc Eversley cited rim protection as something he values in his lone session with reporters since his hiring. Wendell Carter Jr. is adept at this because of his advanced footwork and defensive instincts, but he remains an undersized center. Do they address big man depth, believing Coby White can add point guard duties to his scoring skill set? Or do they try to solve point guard with someone like Cole Anthony and shift Tomas Satoransky to more of an off-the-ball role?

During a Saturday conference call with reporters, Karnisovas certainly sounded convinced that this draft isn’t as poor as some are projecting it to be.

Can the Bulls offer a contract extension to Zach LaVine? If so, when? – Withallo M.

If this was a typical NBA offseason, LaVine was extension eligible from July 13 to the day before the first day of the regular season. This is an atypical offseason. And given the unknown impact on the salary cap and luxury tax figures moving forward because of the pandemic, I don’t expect substantive talks to occur whenever the new dates for league business are set. LaVine has two years remaining on the four-year, $78 million offer sheet he signed with the Kings that the Bulls matched.

If you could watch one NBA game over and over again and never get tired of it, which game would it be? – Hamza B.

One with either a matinee or East Coast start time. Sorry, can never fully lose the newspaper deadline muscle memory.

Thanks for all your questions. Talk to you soon.

NBC Sports Chicago will honor the Bulls great with “Derrick Rose Week presented by Saint Xavier University” starting up Monday, June 8 at 7:00 PM CT with the first of five-straight nights of “Classic” game performances. See full schedule here.

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Grading the Bulls’ 2019-20 wings: Porter, Hutchison, Valentine, Shaq

Grading the Bulls’ 2019-20 wings: Porter, Hutchison, Valentine, Shaq

The Bulls’ 2019-20 season is officially over after 65 games.

And what a season it was.

Yes, a .338 winning percentage left them well short of preseason playoff expectations, even with the league’s novel 22-team resumption format allowing for teams within six games of the eighth seed into play-in contention (the Bulls finished eight back of the Orlando Magic).

But widespread front office overhaul — punctuated by the hires of Arturas Karnisovas as executive vice president of basketball operations and Marc Eversley as general manager —  somewhat salvaged a lost season. The two now face the rigors of an unprecedented, potentially nine-month offseason that will involve draft prep, continued roster and front office evaluation, and possibly a coaching search — all while continuing to grapple with the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has pushed much of the team out-of-market, limited training capabilities and could act as a buzzsaw to the CBA as we know it.

That’s a lot to digest. And we’ll get to it all. But first, let’s tie a bow on the on-court good, bad, ugly and otherwise the Bulls endured this season, in report card form. We’ve hit the guards. Now, it’s time for the wings — where injury asterisks are sure to abound.

Otto Porter Jr. 

14 G, 23.6 MPG | 11.9 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.8 APG | 44.3% FG, 38.7% 3P, 70.4% FT | 2020-21 contract: $28,489,238 (player option)

Porter makes the Bulls a significantly better basketball team when he’s on the floor. In severely limited action this season (331 minutes), the Bulls registered an offensive rating of 110.2 points per 100 possessions and defensive rating 107 with him on the floor — figures that, extrapolated out, would register 16th and sixth in the NBA, respectively. Not phenomenal, but certainly better than their current ranks of 29th offensively and 13th defensively. 

That is in no way meant to insinuate the Bulls’ fortunes would have changed drastically with Porter in tow all season long. They were just 5-9 with him in the lineup. But his net positive impact makes sense. Injuries up and down the roster aside, Porter’s size, defensive versatility and reliable jump shooting (he’s a career 40.4% 3-point shooter on 3.3 attempts per game) were sorely missing qualities on the wing for the Bulls all season — especially considering his and Chandler Hutchison’s replacements ranged from Kris Dunn to Tomas Satoransky to Ryan Arcidiacono to Shaq Harrison. At 27 and a seven-year NBA veteran, his veteran competence was missed, as well.

But (and it’s a big but) that “when he’s on the floor” phrase is entirely operative. Porter missed 51 consecutive games this season from Nov. 6 to March 2 with a sprained left foot that’s recovery timetable seemed to permute with the wind. Despite being on a gradually increasing minutes restriction, Porter was effective upon returning, averaging 13.2 points on 48.2% shooting (36.4% from 3-point range) in five games before the pause while playing just 21 minutes per. He enjoyed a similarly positive-trending stretch in the games leading up to his injury in November.

The point: Porter is the Bulls’ highest paid and, theoretically, most well-rounded player, but he couldn’t stay on the court this year. That’s a problem — not the problem, but a problem — that’s resolution remains open-ended until Porter inevitably exercises his lofty player option for 2020-21 and we see what he can bring to the Bulls next season. If what he promises on paper ever fully comes to fruition on the hardwood, he’ll help the team immensely.

Porter checks in with an average, passing grade, with one tick up for positive individual play in his time out there.

Grade: C+

Chandler Hutchison

28 G, 18.8 MPG | 7.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 0.9 APG | 45.7% FG, 31.6% 3P, 59% FT | 2020-21 contract: $2,443,440

On Feb. 8, I wrote the following about Chandler Hutchison. At the time, Hutchison was in the midst of a miniscule four-game stretch in which he averaged 15.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals:

Hutchison’s current 17-game streak of simply playing in games is already the second-longest of his career (the longest being a 20-gamer between Dec. 15 and Jan. 25 of last season). There’s a lot to be said for building momentum day-by-day and his steadily increasing output is evidence.

Two games later, the All-Star break hit. What we didn’t know until returning to the Advocate Center the following Monday was that a shoulder injury that had cost him 17 games between November and January had flared up again in the Bulls’ final game before the break. Hutchison missed the team’s final ten games of the season. He’s played 72 of a possible 147 games in the first two years of his NBA career.

Unfortunately, Hutchison’s injury history must be addressed at the top of any assessment of his play and progress to this point. Any statistical evaluation (e.g. his 2.1% steal rate this season being in the 91st percentile for his position) is inevitably based on too small a sample size to take much appreciable away from — other than that his outside shooting (49.2% eFG, 59.5% FT for his career) must improve. He still brings great positional size at 6-foot-7, rare bounce and the tools to be a rangy, versatile defender at both forward spots. 

There were flashes, but he comes out with a flat grade. It’s simply not going to all come together until he can get consistent reps. And he’s already 24.

Grade: C-

Denzel Valentine

36 G, 13.6 MPG | 6.8 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.2 APG | 40.9% FG, 33.6% 3P, 75% FT | 2020-21 contract: RFA

Valentine followed up an encouraging second season in 2017-18 by missing all of 2018-19 with ankle reconstruction surgery. Recovered a rearing to go, though, he didn’t crack the Bulls’ 2019-20 rotation until injuries paved a path in late November. 

He then spent the year oscillating in and out of Jim Boylen’s rotation, despite profiling as the exact type of player the Bulls might want to execute their preferred style of play — a savvy playmaker, perhaps the most skilled passer on the team and a dead-eye long range shooter when open. 

Valentine was never suited to the Bulls’ aggressive defensive schemes, and occasional bouts of irrational confidence don’t inspire trust. But with the Bulls’ perpetually strapped on the wing, that he only played more than 20 minutes eight times this season is confounding.

By the end of the campaign, his counting stats and shooting percentages aren’t reflective of the lottery pick he once was. Checkered utilization undeniably played a role there. If his next contract (as he enters restricted free agency this summer) isn’t with the Bulls, it would hardly come as a surprise as of this writing — though it’s unclear how new management may view him.

Grade: C-

Shaq Harrison

43 G, 11.3 MPG | 4.9 PPG, 2 RPG, 1.1 APG | 46.7% FG, 38.1% 3P, 78% FT | 2020-21 contract: RFA

Harrison is what he is, a relentless, energetic defender best suited to a deep reserve spot. His ever-ready attitude in spite of wildly fluctuant playing time was admirable and evident in a few spot starts for the Bulls this season — among them, a 15-point, 11-rebound, three-steal outing in an early season drubbing of the Pistons, and a five 3-pointer night against the Pacers a week before the season froze. That Pacers game capped a four-game stretch in which Harrison shot 9-for-11 from 3-point range, a departure from his regular jump shooting woes.

Relative to expectations coming into the season, Harrison did about all you could ask of him. He’s a restricted free agent this offseason; if Kris Dunn moves on, might he be a discount alternative for a hard-nosed defense at the guard spot?

Grade: C

Adam Mokoka / Max Strus

The two-way squad! Mokoka had two shining moments this season. On the night of the trade deadline, he spruced up a bad loss to the New Orleans Pelicans by scoring 15 points in 5:07 minutes of garbage-time action — the first time in the shot-clock era a player has scored 15 or more points in as little playing time. On March 2, he keyed the Bulls’ second win against a team at or above-.500 at time of contest by pestering Luka Doncic down the stretch of a home victory over the Dallas Mavericks (without Zach LaVine). He’s got a nice shooting stroke (40% from 3-point range on 15 total NBA attempts) and displayed shades of a useful perimeter defender, but logged just 112 minutes of NBA action season.

That was still more than Strus, who appeared in just two games with the Bulls this year. In one of them, he scored five points in a flurry to push a blowout loss to the Heat back towards respectability (the Bulls have a knack for that huh?). But that was the extent of his NBA contribution. He tore his ACL on Dec. 23, with an expected eight-to-12 month recovery timetable at the time of injury. 

Either could find themselves back with the Bulls on two-way deals once again in 2020-21, though Strus’ rehab could take him to the doorstep of even next year’s delayed start date. Mokoka got a bit more run — and I personally wouldn't mind seeing more — but having a definitive take on either one of these two (or prescribing them a long-term role with the team) feels hasty.

Grade: INC

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