The Chicago Bulls could potentially clear enough space to sign a star this offseason, but it would be costly from a player personnel standpoint.
According to ESPN salary cap expert Bobby Marks, the Bulls can create up to $32 million in cap space.
If they are so inclined, this would put quite a few big-time stars on Chicago’s radar and firmly place them in win-now mode.
What Would the Bulls Have to Do to Create This Much Cap Space?
According to Marks, the following players are either already out of contract or facing partially or non-guaranteed deals.
Thaddeus Young (waived and stretched), Tomas Satoransky (waived and stretched), Ryan Arcidiacono (team option declined), Cristiano Felicio, Denzel Valentine, Daniel Theis, Garrett Temple, Lauri Markkanen, Javonte Green, Devon Dotson and Adam Mokoka.
Each player situation is different financially and as it pertains to their importance to the roster moving forward.
Young and Satoransky have partially guaranteed deals heading into the 2021-22 season, but could easily be valuable reserves even if Chicago’s roster is improved.
Young is a favorite of Bulls star Zach LaVine. He’s also a solid teammate, locker room presence and a strong contributor on both ends of the floor. Losing Young would arguably be the toughest pill for Bulls management, coaching staff and the players to swallow.
If Young is moved or the team renounces its rights to him, you can bet it will be done in an effort to secure a player(s) who figure to be needle-movers next season and beyond.
Satoransky is far more expendable. Mostly because he plays a position the Bulls desperately need to upgrade, and that’s point guard. Satoransky can also play the 2-guard and small forward, so his versatility comes in handy.
However, it might better serve the Bulls as trade bait. If Chicago is able to trade Satoransky away for cash considerations or a draft pick, they can escape his entire salary. Because he only has one year remaining on his deal, that isn’t an impractical concept.
Markkanen is a restricted free agent who has almost certainly played his last game for the Bulls, but it seems unlikely they would allow him to walk without some sort of compensation. Expect Chicago to try to work out a sign-and-trade with the team that signs Markkanen to an offer sheet.
There will be an eruption of cheers if that sign-and-trade deal saw Markkanen landing in San Antonio and the Bulls finding a way to get Dejounte Murray from the Spurs.
What About Daniel Theis?
Chicago would probably love to re-sign Theis, but there is a concern he may command a salary elsewhere that is too rich for the Bulls to match. With Chicago having already inked Marko Simonovic from last year’s draft class, it seems less likely Chicago will bring Theis back.
If that’s the case, Chicago will have to use some of the available cap room to replace the toughness and defensive IQ Theis brought to Chicago for half a season.