Fixing the Bulls' wing depth in free agency
Looking around at the targets and what they'll likely cost
The Bulls need to add wing depth this summer, and they are surely looking at their options in free agency. They will go into next season with only Patrick Williams and Troy Brown Jr. under contract there.
Making things more challenging, this crop of wing free agents is not very good. I think that the upgrade options in the trade market are significantly better, which is why I’d have the Bulls operate as an over-the-cap team and try to play the asset-flipping game to balance out their roster.
If the Bulls do decide to try and address their needs in free agency, here is the list that I'd be looking at. For most of these guys, I either don’t have a strong opinion or I think they’re not realistic targets. For the ones that I do feel strongly about one way or another, I’ve jotted down some notes.
I’ve also included the range of what I think they’re likely to get paid and ballparked them roughly in order of what I expect their annual salary to be. A disclaimer that it is pretty hard to project salaries and I could be totally off, but this is my opinion:
Cap space wings (more than $10m annually)
As a refresher, the Bulls are going to have to gut most of their roster if they play the cap space game. These names may look nice, but there will be a ton of holes to fill if they go this route.
Kawhi Leonard (player option)
A decent chance he re-signs with the Spurs. I’d expect him to get a multi-year deal somewhere in the $20m range annually. He could bring some shot creation to the Bulls, but he’s a horrific defender.
Oubre is an extremely popular fan target, probably because he put up good counting stats last year for the Warriors.
While he’s an okay player, he is overrated and will be overpaid. For a 3-and-D wing, he doesn’t shoot particularly well (32.6 percent on 3’s for his career) and he has low feel. He messed up a lot of the Warriors’ actions, and I don’t think they will bring him back. I’d expect him to get a multi-year deal paying him somewhere around average starter money ($15m annually).
Duncan Robinson (restricted)
Tim Hardaway Jr.
Talen Horton-Tucker (restricted)
Horton-Tucker would be a nice get for the Bulls. He fits the mold of players that Arturas Karnisovas likes in that he’s capable of doing multiple things such as shot creation, passing, rebounding, and defense. His 3-point shooting is still somewhat shaky (29 percent as a pro and 31 percent in college).
Horton-Tucker is highly valued by the Lakers, but he might be squeezed out due to a potential $100m in tax payments. They still need to re-sign Alex Caruso (another possible free agent target that I like) and Dennis Schroder. He won’t get it, but if the Bulls (or some other team) offered Horton-Tucker his max offer sheet of $83 million over four years, the Lakers would be hard-pressed to match.
Norman Powell (player option)
Would be a nice get for the Bulls but he’s probably opting out to re-sign with the Blazers, who traded for him mid-season.
Gary Trent Jr (restricted)
Solid two-way player. Also expect him to be re-signed by his current team, the Toronto Raptors.
Josh Richardson (player option)
Richardson would be a good rehab candidate for me. He was fighting lingering effects from COVID for most of last season and had a bad year, eventually falling almost completely out of the Mavericks’ playoff rotation. But he has previously been a pretty good 3-and-D wing and is going to be hitting his prime at age 27.
Richardson will likely opt into the last $12m year of his deal. But if he decides to go the free agent route to lock up more years, he could be a decent gamble.
Mid-level exception (MLE) wings ($5m-9.5m annually)
The Bulls could bring back all of their impact free agent vets (Thad Young, Tomas Satoransky, Daniel Theis, Garrett Temple, Javonte Green, etc.) and add one of these guys.
Batum looked completely washed for the Charlotte Hornets before reviving his career as a power forward for the Clippers this past season. He’s the prototypical Arturas Karnisovas player that is high in both skill and feel. He is a great help defender, although his days of lockdown perimeter defense are behind him.
I’d expect Batum to get somewhere near the high end of this price range. He’s much better as a 4 than a 3 at this point in his career, which would hamper his fit on the Bulls.
Yes, this class is extremely weak if you’re considering bringing back Porter. He couldn’t stay healthy for the Magic after the Bulls dealt him. He’s still a pretty good player though when he does manage to stay on the court.
Played himself into a nice pay raise from his $4m last year. He provided solid defense and hit 41 percent of his 3’s for Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks.
I like Bullock, but he's limited and would probably eat up most of the Bulls’ MLE if they tried to bring him over. To borrow some logic from friend of the newsletter Kevin Ferrigan, it's better to try and find the next Bullock than pay him for his production.
McDermott has turned into a really nice role player. He’s still a poor defender, but the Pacers have managed to leverage his shooting in a way that the Bulls never did. He’s a great movement shooter and he’s letting it fly more than he did with the Bulls.
Room exception wings ($5m-minimum)
I’ll speak to these guys more as a group. There are some recognizable names here, but their best days are behind them. They’re still capable of soaking up minutes, but they’re not going to be difference makers. They will earn little enough that it won’t be too hard to squeeze them onto the roster.
Minimum salary wings
There are a lot of minimum salary wings that the Bulls could take fliers on. Here are the most interesting of the bunch for me, but these should either be decent projects or break-in-case-of-emergency vets.
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