The Bulls haven’t made the splashy, franchise-changing moves that many of their counterparts around the league have done or are trying to do in free agency, but that was never their intent.
Agreeing to terms with top target Mike Dunleavy Jr. and bringing veteran Nazr Mohammed back into the fold on the first two days of free agency were moves indicative of the Bulls’ goals for next season.
Dunleavy continued the trend of adding more shooting, which was evident by drafting swingman Tony Snell and stretch power forward Erik Murphy last week, while Mohammed has value in the locker room, as well as making actual contributions on the court behind All-Star center Joakim Noah, though the Bulls can be expected to seek out another veteran big man at a league-minimum contract for their final free-agent addition, making the Chicago native more of an emergency post player.
With Marco Belinelli reportedly verbally agreeing to a two-year, six-million deal with San Antonio on Thursday, supporters of the Italian shooting guard probably are wondering why the Bulls didn’t retain him.
Though Belinelli, who is a solid acquisition for the Spurs and should fit right into their mix of low-maintenance players, had a solid stint in Chicago and offers more of an ability to create off the dribble than the player who will essentially become his replacement, Dunleavy is a better shooter, which is crucial for floor-spacing purposes with Derrick Rose’s return to the lineup next season.
Additionally, because backup Kirk Hinrich, who has been rehabilitating at the Berto Center since the season ended, can play both guard positions, it creates more of an opportunity for 20-year-old Marquis Teague to develop, similar to how the departures of sharpshooter Kyle Korver (who surprised many observers by remaining in Atlanta, reportedly agreeing to a four-year, $24-million contract with the Hawks) and especially swingman Ronnie Brewer last summer paved the way for Jimmy Butler’s emergence, particularly if the point guard can make similar developmental strides over the course of the offseason, both in his ongoing individual workouts in Chicago and in the NBA summer league later this month in Las Vegas.
Meanhwile, the website Hoopsworld.com reported that the Bulls offered fan favorite and playoff hero Nate Robinson a one-year deal at the veteran’s minimum, but the diminutive scorer is seeking out a more lucrative offer with more security, something he’ll likely have to wait for, as other free-agent guards around the league agree to deals.
Not that he was likely to return, but Dunleavy’s arrival also officially signals the departure of shooting guard Rip Hamilton via waivers, as the Bulls will buy out the final season of his contract for $1 million.
The veteran will try to land on a contending team, according to a league source, and is amenable to a backup role.
As for the Bulls’ other free agents, it’s a foregone conclusion that seldom-used forward Vladimir Radmanovic and swingman Daequan Cook won’t be back, and while reserve Malcolm Thomas is slated to play with the summer league team, the odds of his return are unlikely, unless he truly impresses the organization by showing vast improvement and a better option can’t be found on the market for the veteran’s minimum.
Among those joining Thomas (regardless of whether he suits up for the Bulls or opts to play for a team where he has a better chance of making the regular-season roster) in Las Vegas will be Teague, draft picks Snell and Murphy and free agents like ex-Notre Dame star and Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Luke Harangody and former Syracuse shooting guard and New York Knicks draft pick Andy Rautins, as well as Ryan Allen, a training-camp invite last season and brother of Memphis Grizzlies defensive specialist Tony Allen (the veteran shooting guard, a Chicago native who crossed paths with Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau when the two were in Boston, reportedly agreed to a four-year, $20-million deal) and Charles Boozer, a former Iowa State wing and brother of Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer.
For the holdovers, All-Star Luol Deng, after a rough end to the postseason due to spinal-tap complications, has embarked on his usual international travels and charity work — according to a London newspaper, Deng prevented his childhood coach, a renowned figure on the nation’s basketball scene, from being evicted from his home — though he isn’t burdened by having to play in international competition for Great Britain’s national team.
The small forward again endured draft-day trade rumors but wasn’t dealt and is expected to play out the final year of his contract.
Noah appears to have recovered from the plantar fasciitis that plagued him in the second half of the season, as evidenced by his participation in a celebrity soccer game in New York, as well as a charity basketball game hosted by Yao Ming in China.
Though rumors about a proposed deal that would send him to Portland in exchange for LaMarcus Aldridge — which was reportedly discussed and summarily turned down by the Bulls in February, according to a source, though recent reports indicate that the Trail Blazers would also want Butler in the package in a move to satisfy their All-Star power forward’s desire to play for a contender, preferably in Chicago, the team that originally drafted him — won’t go away, the Bulls regard Noah as virtually untouchable.
Meanwhile, judging by their social-media accounts, Boozer and Butler seem to be mixing vacations with working out, as is Taj Gibson, who is also preparing for his second stint with USA Basketball, for which he will participate in the Select Team mini-camp toward the end of the month in Las Vegas under the guidance of Thibodeau, named an assistant coach for the national team.
Rose also spent the beginning of the offseason working out at the Berto Center but recently traveled to his usual offseason base in California ahead of departing for an Adidas European promotional tour.