Strike First… The Bulls Free Agency 2021 Part 1

Before they joined the Bulls, Lonzo Ball defends Alex Caruso

At exactly 5pm today, the very start of NBA Free Agency, the Chicago Bulls struck first and signed the former New Orleans Pelican’s guard, Lonzo Ball, to a 4 year contract worth $85 Million. The rumors that had been building about the Round Table’s interest in Ball since before last seasons trade deadline proved true. Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley finally got their man. The signing turned into a sign-and-trade, with the Bulls sending Tomas Satoransky, Garrett Temple and a 2nd round draft pick to New Orleans for Lonzo. Ball brings size and length, strong team defense, brilliant passing, and improved perimeter shooting to the Bulls. He is the exact type of player the Round Table loves. His versatility will fit nicely along side Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic.

I’m still a little shocked by how quickly the deal got done. This is turning out to be a very different sort of Free Agency than any I’ve ever experienced as a Bulls fan. It’s rare to see the Bulls front office signing the top players on their free agent wish list. I’m used to GarPax settling for contingency free agent B, C, and sometimes D.

Speaking of free agent contingency B, the Bulls also signed L.A. Laker tough guy, Alex Caruso, after the New York Knicks re-signed Derrick Rose. It sounds like Rose was the Round Tables 2nd free agent target, but the Knicks offered him more money to stay with his favorite coach, Tom Thibadeau. Still, it’s not like the Bulls are getting chopped liver in Caruso. He is a strong defender and dirty work expert, he’s had to prove himself at every level of basketball, and it’s made him a work horse. This signing is the typical out-of-left-field transaction that the Round Table is becoming known for, and one that makes a lot of sense for the Bulls. Caruso’s on-the-ball defense and toughness helps plug a gaping hole in the Bulls roster. He also has familiarity with Lonzo Ball, having played with him in L.A. I can’t wait to see how Coach Donovan will integrate Caruso into the rotation.

Even as the Caruso signing was taking place, the Houston Rockets signed former Bull, Daniel Theis to a contract. Theis played really well as a back up big in his short time with the Bulls, but his departure could turn into another sign-and-trade opportunity for the Bulls. If the Bulls and Rockets work out a deal, it would mean that the Rockets get Theis and the Bulls would get a trade exception to the salary cap.

Because of the Lonzo deal, the Bulls are operating as an “above the cap” team, which means they need to rely on exceptions to the salary cap in order to fill out their roster. Technically the Bulls used their Mid-Level Exception to sign Alex Caruso, but if they are able to work out a sign and trade with the Rockets, then they could use the Trade Exception that deal creates to sign Caruso, and still have their Mid-Level Exception left for another player or two. You might be asking “How can the Bulls use the Trade Exception created by a Theis sign-and-trade to sign Caruso? They already used the Mid-Level on him?” Welp, it’s because none of the deals become official until Friday, August 6th. Up until then, teams and players can agree in principle to deals, and work the details out before Friday. Ugh, NBA Business.

Lonzo and Caruso are on the roster, but the Bulls are certainly not done in free agency. Lauri Markkanen has yet to be signed by anyone, Thaddeus Young could be traded creating another Trade Exception, and rumors have linked the Bulls to San Antonio Spur free agent, DeMar DeRozan. Like I said before, this is not like any Bulls free agency I’ve ever seen before.

I have been refreshing twitter every few seconds since about 4pm this afternoon, it’s a little after 10pm right now. I’m going to take a break, but rest assured, I’ll be back with my reaction to the DeRozan signing (fingers crossed) and any other Bulls news that may happen. Until then, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!