Free Agency Begins and a Summer League Preview

I LOVE THE NBA! Day one of Free Agency 2018: LeBron James agrees to terms with the Los Angeles Lakers. Day two: Boogie Cousins is taking his talents to the Golden State Warriors!!! It doesn’t get any more exciting, dramatic, perplexing, insert hyperbolic adjective here, than the NBA offseason. ALL the crazy in one spot. Twitter exploded when LeBron made his decision, and it imploded when Boogie made his. But they weren’t the only two making headlines, Paul George is staying in OKC. Chris Paul has re-upped with Houston. Trevor Ariza is now playing for the Phoenix Suns. Julius Randle is on the Pelicans. Aaron Gordon is staying with the Magic. DeAndre Jordan has a one year deal with the Mavericks. Rondo to the Lakers. VanVleet stays in Toronto. SHIT IS GOING DOWN!!!

…And the Bulls have been quiet through it all. It’s exactly as John Paxson said it would be in his end of the year press conference; The Bulls are focusing on re-signing Zach LaVine and David Nwaba, and not much else. They don’t want to waste their cap flexibility chasing rental stars with bad contracts. They are waiting until the summer of 2019 when they will have enough cap “flexibility” to sign two free agents to max contracts, that’s when they will strike! Until then, it’s wait and see.

But what’s this?

Whispers and rumors, murmurs in the dark recesses of the interwebs, linking the Bulls to Milwaukee Bucks restricted free agent, Jabari Parker. Evidently, they have shown some interest in the Chicago native and Simeon High School grad. Smoke and mirrors, illusion and deception, could this be a ruse from Parker’s camp? Are they trying to drum up Jabari’s price? Or do the Bulls truly want to kick the tires on the oft injured forward?

Parker is an excellent scoring big. In part 2 of my guide to Bulls free agency, I spoke glowingly of Jabari’s offensive prowess. I also dithered about his injury history, poor defense and rebounding, ultimately deciding to pass on Parker… But drafting Wendell Carter Jr has fundamentally changed the Bulls. It has changed the fit factor for Parker.

In my previous guide to free agency, I briefly considered Parker’s fit with Markkanen, concluding that both could work well in the Hoiberg offense, but might give away too many points on the defensive end. By drafting Carter, the Bulls have unintentionally made Jabari Parker’s fit with the team a little easier and much better.

Wendell Carter Jr is an excellent passer, and projects to be a good interior defender. He would make Parker an even better scorer, while covering up some of his defensive deficiencies. If you watch highlights of Parker on the Bucks, you will see that he had very good chemistry with Chris Middleton, another excellent passing big. Middleton was able to find Parker on deep cuts into the lane with nifty passes through several defenders. I believe Carter can be that same facilitator for Parker. Carter and Parker are linked by their alma mater, Duke University. They both played under Coach K, the shared experience of the same Duke system could give them a leg up in the chemistry department. IF the Bulls decide to pursue Parker, it probably won’t be because of the fit with Markkanen, but, more so, the fit with Wendell Carter Jr.

I think the Bulls should take a flier on Parker. Sign him to a one year “Show Me” deal, let him prove he can play the “3” next to Markkanen and Carter. If he works out, you have a hometown hero making good. If he doesn’t, you’re not locked into a long term deal ruining your chances at top free agents next summer. To sum it up: I’ve changed my mind, SIGN JABARI PARKER (to a one year deal)!

No word yet on negotiations between the Bulls and Zach LaVine. The Bulls appear content to wait for some other team to make the prolific scorer an offer. LaVine, for his part, seems to think he is a max contract player deserving $20+ million a year for his services. Hopefully, the two sides will be able to hash it all out before the summer is over.

In slightly distressing news, it sounds like the Bulls and David Nwaba are having a hard time negotiating a suitable contract. Unsurprisingly, he has received interest from other teams, but the Bulls are continuing to calmly ride out the summer waiting for one of those teams to make the first move. New York reporter for The Athletic, Michael Scotto tweeted this out:

David Nwaba was one of my favorite players last season. I would be very disappointed if he was traded away, or, even worse, lost in free agency without any compensation.

After the frenzy of the first few days, free agency 2018 is starting to settle into a slow burn of normal negotiating activity. Many teams have already spent their cap space, and a surprising number of big name players still remain unsigned (Clint Capela, Marcus Smart, Rodney Hood, etc.). As the Bulls continue to wait out the initial feeding frenzy, they may be able to sign some of the bigger name players that are left to cheaper deals. It’s still too early to tell if the Bulls will try to take advantage of these leftover players, but, based on Paxson’s previous indications, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

On to happier thoughts…

The NBA Summer League is here! The first chance to see the newest Bulls players in NBA-adjacent action! The Bulls have published their Summer League roster:

It features returning 2-way greats Ryan Arcidiacono and Antonio Blakeney, as well as drafted rookies Wendell Carter Jr and Chandler Hutchison. I will be cheering for local collegiate hero, Donte Ingram, formerly of Loyola University Chicago, to win one of the coveted 2-way contracts. Lauri Markkanen is notably absent from the roster. He is currently helping the Finnish National Team qualify for the FIBA World Cup and will miss Summer League.

Summer League action starts this Saturday for the Bulls when they face off against Cedi Osman, Collin Sexton, and the rest of the Cleveland Cavaliers. As a veteran observer of Summer League action, I suggest paying attention to any players that are DOMINATING the competition. Generally, if a player is DESTROYING the opponent in Summer League they are ready for the NBA. Alternatively, if a player is struggling in Summer League, or just holding their own, they probably have some work to do and adjustments to make before they are NBA superstars. Here’s hoping Carter and Hutch (and Ingram) acquit themselves well during the tournament; the future of the Bulls depends on it!