Running It Back

Bulls free agency has come and gone, and it looks as though the promise of roster consistency will be kept. At his end of the season press conference, Arturas Karnisovas pounded home the idea that the Front Office’s highest priority was continuity. Zach LaVine would be re-signed, none of the core would be moved, and only a few roster spots would see some turnover. As the Bulls free agency wheelings-and-dealings have seemingly ended, Karnisovas continues to be a straight shooter.

The Bulls have re-signed Zach LaVine to a Max 5 year deal worth $215 million. Derrick Jones Jr has also re-signed with the Bulls, and back-up Big, Tony Bradley, opted into the second year of his contract. Despite being part of a number of trade rumors, Nikola Vucevic is still a Chicago Bull, as is Coby White. The only new faces to join the squad via free agency, are in fact two slightly older players; rebounding phenom, Andre Drummond, and senior veteran point guard, Goran Dragic.

Of the two signings, Drummonds addition makes the most sense to me. He provides depth at the center position, has an elite skill in his rebounding ability, and gives a different look to the Bulls on offense than when Vucevic is on the floor. He is not the perfect back up big by anyone’s account, but he is better than most Bulls fans are giving him credit for. Too be sure, he is not a great rim protector, though he gets his fair share of blocks. He does not space the floor with an ability to shoot, but he is capable of dropping 20+ points on opponents. Drummond is a series of trade offs, he does x, y, and z well enough, but lacks in areas a, b, and c. I believe he can work well with the rest of the Bulls roster if he accepts/adapts to his role off the bench.

Speaking of accepting and adapting, Goran Dragic is a Bull. It sounds like he agreed to join the Bulls after being recruited by Vucevic. I guess we know who to blame if he doesn’t work out. Dragic joins the bevy of guards already on the roster, from LaVine and Lonzo Ball, to Ayo Dosunmu, Alex Caruso, and Coby White, it’s hard to see just exactly where he will fit in the rotation. With such a log jam at the guard positions, it seems likely that a trade will be made, whether it happens this summer or at the trade deadline only Karnisovas and Marc Eversley know.

I guess Dragic was brought in for his decent shooting numbers and solid playoff performances. He is one of those players that finds a different gear in the playoffs. His experience and ability to elevate his game when it matters the most could be incredibly helpful to the Bulls this season.

With all of the deals taken into account, the Bulls have filled all 15 roster spots for the regular season, and they have left themselves enough room before entering the Luxury Tax to take on a medium sized contract in a trade. If the Bulls were to say trade Coby White, between his $7 million contract and the $3.5 million cap space before the Luxury Tax line is breached, it means the Bulls might be able to add a player with a salary around $10 million to the roster. This is of course assuming that my very basic understanding of the NBA Salary Cap is correct.

The issue of going into- or rather –NOT going into the Luxury Tax has been a sore subject for many Bulls fans this summer. The teams refusal to go into the tax has fans questioning whether or not ownership is serious about competing for an NBA title. In what appears to be a bid to avoid paying the Luxury tax, the Front Office has ignored very talented, young, expensive-but-gettable free agents. When none of the large number of trade rumors circling certain players on the roster came to fruition, fans became even more suspicious that the Reinsdorf Family had sent word to the Front Office that there would be no “unnecessary” expenditures this offseason. The Bulls’ $5 million trade exception, won from last summer’s sign-and-trade extravaganza, expired unused. But what hurt fans the most, was the resurfacing of the old GarPax “financial flexibility” excuse, like Bulls fans don’t suffer enough Offseason PTSD without hearing that particular phrase.

It is not often that an NBA team builds a championship caliber roster without going into the Luxury Tax. I did some quick research, and it appears that over the last 11 seasons only 4 teams have managed to win an NBA Championship with roster salary that came in under the Luxury Tax, the 7 other championship teams spent big. You don’t have to go into the Luxury Tax to win a championship, but it helps.

As much as fans love to rag on the Reinsdorf Family for their apparent thriftiness, I still get the impression that AKME is playing the long game. I believe the championship team they are building has nothing to do with DeMar DeRozan, Nikola Vucevic, and probably not even Zach LaVine. The next Bulls championship is still several seasons away, and will hopefully involve some of the young guys they’ve been drafting and developing.

The most important take away from Bulls free agency is that they spent a Max contract on a very talented player. Months ago, I wrote about how the Bulls had to give LaVine a Max, and it wasn’t even about Zach LaVine, the reputation of the franchise was on the line. Karnisovas spent the money, the full Max, and it’s the most important development in franchise history. Signing LaVine to a Max contract signals to the NBA that the Bulls are serious about fielding competitive teams with top talent. With Karnisovas leading the way, there is no GarPax sticker shock when it comes to signing top talent. The next step for Karnisovas will be to convince his bosses to let him spend above the tax line for more of that talent.

That does it for this weeks post. Be excited for the Zach LaVine signing, it is so important in so many different ways. Personally, I’m really happy Derrick Jones Jr is back with the Bulls, he did a lot last season in limited playing time and in a weird role as a small-ball “Big”. Drummond should help the Bulls on the boards, an area of the game they were bad at last season. And Goran Dragic? I guess we’ll see. Next post: Summer League!

As always, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!