This is when stuff gets serious.
This week is when team officials get down to business, bluffs are called and organizations’ futures are shaped, for better or worse.
This is when the Bulls decide how to best retool the roster after a non-playoff season that fell far short of expectations. Use the 14th and 48th picks in Thursday’s NBA draft and then spend the potential $25 million of salary-cap space in an unprecedented free agency frenzy come July? Or try something bolder this week in terms of a trade?
Contrary to some public perception, the Bulls historically have been very active trade-wise during draft week.
In 2004, John Paxson’s second draft, the Bulls traded a second-round pick, future first-round pick and $3 million to the Suns for the rights to the seventh pick, which netted Luol Deng. That was a hit.
In 2006, the Bulls traded draft rights to LaMarcus Aldridge to the Trail Blazers for draft rights to Tyrus Thomas and veteran Viktor Khryapa. That was a miss.
In 2011, the Bulls flipped the draft rights to Norris Cole and second-rounder Malcolm Lee to the Timberwolves for the draft rights to Nikola Mirotic. And in 2014, the Bulls sent the draft rights to Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris and a second-round pick to the Nuggets for the draft rights to Doug McDermott.
But rarely have the Bulls made the type of blockbuster trade some fans salivate for after such an underwhelming season and management’s claim that “everything is on the table” from its season-ending postmortem. This is a management team that has preferred to build through the draft and take big swings in free agency.
As of Sunday, all signs point to the Bulls keeping two-time All-Star Jimmy Butler. Butler’s five-year, $92.3 million deal may have been a maximum contract when he signed it, but at just $17.5 million this coming season, it looks even more favorable with the salary cap rising dramatically over the next two summers.
If either the Celtics or Timberwolves inquire about Butler this week, the asking price will be steep for a conversation to even be considered. Andrew Wiggins and the No. 5 pick would be the starting point for the Timberwolves, per a source. Jae Crowder, another starter or prominent rotation player and the No. 3 pick likely would be the starting point for the Celtics.
Derrick Rose presents the more intriguing situation. League sources insist Rose can be had. But with his $21.3 million salary, expiring contract in 2017 and Rose making clear he’s interested in free agency, it’s unlikely any team will give up significant assets for him.
The Bulls aren’t interested in adding bad long-term contacts that will clutter their books for the 2017 offseason, when they could have enough to offer two maximum contracts in free agency. And using the Bulls’ decision not to trade Pau Gasol at the February deadline as an example, general manager Gar Forman explained the Bulls still view cap space as an asset if the package offered isn’t attractive enough — even if all teams own cap space in this new TV money era.
Like all teams, the Bulls have spent the last few weeks working out and interviewing draft prospects. Their biggest needs are to add athleticism and guard and big man depth.
Consummating their intrigue with Providence guard Kris Dunn would require a trade up because he’s projected to be a top-five pick.
©2016 Chicago Tribune
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