Offseason Outlook: Chicago Bulls

Hoops Rumors is looking ahead to offseason moves for all 30 teams. We’ll examine free agency, the draft, trades and other key storylines for each franchise heading into the summer.

Big Men, Big Decisions

Matt Bush / USA Today Sports Images

Matt Bush / USA Today Sports Images

The Bulls’ frontcourt could look very different next season with veterans Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah hitting the free agent market.

Gasol has a player option of $7.77MM but it’s a near certainty he’ll decline it so that he can become an unrestricted free agent. Despite turning 36 next month, Gasol should get some juicy offers from playoff contenders. He is coming off a stellar season in which he averaged 16.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.0 blocks.

It would be a surprise if Gasol stuck around with a team that didn’t even make the playoffs this spring. Gasol expressed disappointment as last season wound down with the way the team fell apart during the second half of the season.

It’s also questionable whether the front office wants to give its aging center a big contract, unless they plan on making other moves with a ‘win now’ mentality, rather than rebuilding around younger players.

Pau’s brother, Grizzlies big man Marc Gasol, believes he should chase another championship ring by signing with the Spurs.

There are conflicting reports on whether Noah will consider staying with the Bulls, but it’s likely he’ll be wearing another uniform next season.

A league source told ESPN.com’s Nick Friedell late last month that the team has had positive discussions on a new contract. Earlier reports indicated that Noah distrusts the front office and wants out.

Noah, who was in Italy last week, told Sportando he would “consider every offer on the table this summer.” He added that he was “very focused” on free agency and was disappointed with his playing time and the culture change in the locker room last season.

Noah’s season was cut short by shoulder surgery and that could affect the offers he receives, while also improving the Bulls’ chances of retaining him if they’re intent on doing so. The Timberwolves, who hired ex-Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau, are one of the teams reportedly interested in his services.

Breaking Up The Backcourt

Trade rumors are swirling around both of Chicago’s starting guards. The Bulls will certainly entertain offers for Derrick Rose. The question is whether they can stir up any interest in the former MVP.

Rose’s career has been marred by knee issues and he’s been unable to play a full season since suffering an ACL tear during the 2012 playoffs. He managed to play 66 games this past season but, as his subpar 13.5 PER suggests, he’s nowhere near the player he used to be.

Rose has one year and $21.3MM remaining on his contract. Given the salary-cap explosion this summer, some teams could fit him into their salary structure but it’s unlikely the Bulls could get much for him. Not only is his declining production an impediment, he expressed eagerness as far back as last summer about testing the free agent market in 2017.

It may be in both parties’ interest for Rose to stay put this season. He’ll have every incentive to prove he can regain his previous All-Star form.

If the Bulls really want to blow things up, they could shop their best player in Jimmy Butler. That would seem foolhardy unless they got an overwhelming package in return but that could be the case.

The Timberwolves and Celtics, who both own Top 5 picks, are eagerly pursuing a trade for Butler. Undoubtedly, other teams would jump into the sweepstakes if the Bulls were willing to move Butler, but it’s unclear if they’ll make him available.

Free Agent Targets

The Bulls will have the financial flexibility to pursue top-level free agents if both Gasol and Noah bolt. They would be in the market for younger replacements, as well as upgrades at small forward or shooting guard, depending upon whether they retain Butler and which position they want him to play.

Al Horford‘s skill set would make him a natural replacement for Gasol. If they decide to pursue a more traditional center, the enigmatic Dwight Howard would have to be on their radar screen.

Nicolas Batum‘s versatility would upgrade them dramatically at small forward as would Chandler Parsons, contingent on his health issues.

They could also look for depth at point guard if Rose is dealt, or to have a quality veteran to replace him when he misses games. Jeremy Lin or Brandon Jennings could fill that need.

Potential Trades

Besides Rose and Butler, the Bulls could dangle some of their frontcourt pieces if they decide to get younger and acquire future draft picks. Taj Gibson‘s $8.95MM salary for the upcoming season is not the deal breaker it might have been in past, and the Bulls have a similar, younger power forward in Bobby Portis to take his minutes.

Nikola Mirotic would certainly attract interest around the league if he were made available, considering the value teams place on stretch fours.

Draft Outlook

  • First round pick: No. 14
  • Second round pick: No. 48

The Bulls find themselves in the unusual position of drafting in the lottery, though they’re in the middle of the first round. Considering they have needs at most positions, they’ll go the “best player available” route.

Given the uncertainty surrounding Rose’s future with the club, a point guard like Demetrius Jackson or Wade Baldwin would make sense with the No. 14 pick.

Coaching Outlook

Fred Hoiberg’s first year was a lot stormier than anyone could have imagined. Given that he was handed a five-year, $25MM contract last summer, Hoiberg will get at least one more season to prove himself as an NBA head man.

Final Take

The Bulls’ summer is shrouded with mystery. They could try to make a big splash and sign a top-flight free agent to join Butler and get the team back in the playoff picture. Or they could opt to go into full rebuild mode by selling off assets and stockpiling draft picks. It seems nearly certain they’ll lose both Gasol and Noah, so the latter approach might be best.

Guaranteed Salary

Player Options

Team Options

  • None

Non-Guaranteed Salary

Restricted Free Agents (Qualifying Offers/Cap Holds)

  • None

Unrestricted Free Agents (Cap Holds)

Other Cap Holds

  • No. 14 pick ($1,743,500)

Projected Salary Cap: $92,000,000

The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

 

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1 Comment on "Offseason Outlook: Chicago Bulls"

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smittybanton
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smittybanton
3 months 11 days ago

Didn’t make the playoffs last year, and only $22M to replace two centers? Sixers have centers to trade. Jahlil Okafor is from Chicago.

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