NBA OKs Disabled Player Exception For Bulls

The NBA has approved the Bullsrequest for a disabled player exception as a result of point guard Lonzo Ball‘s knee injury, per Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

The ailment has kept Ball shelved since January of 2022 and has required three surgeries to date. Earlier this summer, team president Arturas Karnisovas indicated that Chicago expects the point guard to miss all of the 2023/24 NBA season.

A disabled player exception is granted when an NBA-appointed physician rules that a player is more likely than not to be sidelined through June 15 of that league year.

Ball will earn $20.46MM this season, meaning the Bulls’ DPE will be worth $10.23MM. It could be used to add a new free agent, bring in a player off waivers, or acquire someone as part of a trade. A free agent could only be signed to a one-year deal, while a player acquired via waivers or trade would have to be in the final year of his contract.

As K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago notes, the Bulls are currently only about $8MM below the luxury tax line. Should Chicago be inclined to make bigger moves beyond adding a veteran’s minimum signing or two and retaining restricted free agent Ayo Dosunmu, the disabled player exception could be a powerful mechanism, though using most or all of it would likely push team salary into the tax.

Ball underwent a cartilage transplant surgery in March to correct his knee issues, in what Johnson suggests was generally thought to be a final bid to salvage his pro career.

Since joining the Bulls on a four-year, $80MM contract in a sign-and-trade with the Pelicans, the former No. 2 overall pick has appeared in just 35 contests. He was a highly effective perimeter defender, passer and three-point shooter (42.3% on 7.4 attempts) for Chicago when healthy, and a big part of the club’s surprise success through the first half of the 2021/22 season.

The Bulls have underwhelmed while trying to replace Ball’s production at the position in a piecemeal fashion.

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