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Bulls free agents, salaries, cap space for 2021 offseason originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
After a disappointing 2020-21 season that finished 31-41 and outside of the playoff picture, the Bulls have a busy summer ahead.
“We will continue being aggressive in our efforts to make this team better, whether that’s through trades, free agency or the draft,” executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas said at his end-of-season press conference. “We will not settle for mediocrity here. We have an important summer coming up.”
Here’s a rundown of the Bulls’ salary and cap situations, and some key dates to watch for (salaries courtesy of Basketball Insiders unless otherwise indicated):
Bulls’ Fully Guaranteed Salaries for 2021-22
Nikola Vučević: $24,000,000
Zach LaVine: $19,500,000
Al-Farouq Aminu: $10,183,800 (player option)
Patrick Williams: $7,422,000
Coby White: $5,837,760
Troy Brown Jr.: $5,170,564
Bulls’ Partially Guaranteed Salaries for 2021-22
Thad Young: $14,190,000 ($6 million guaranteed)
Tomáš Satoranský: $10,000,000 ($5 million guaranteed)
Team/Non-Guarantee: Ryan Arcidiacono ($3,000,000)
Bulls’ Free Agents
Lauri Markkanen: $20,194,524 cap hold; $9,026,852 qualifying offer
Javonte Green: $1,897,476 qualifying offer/cap hold
Adam Mokoka: $1,669,178 qualifying offer/cap hold
Devon Dotson: $1,489,065 qualifying offer/cap hold (via Spotrac)
Extending a one-year qualifying offer grants a team match rights on any offer sheet their restricted free agent signs. If the qualifying offer is accepted, the player is granted a no-trade clause for that final season, then enters unrestricted free agency the next offseason (as Denzel Valentine is now).
Cristiano Felício: $14,305,138 cap hold
Daniel Theis: $9,500,000 cap hold
Denzel Valentine: $8,821,320 cap hold
Garrett Temple: $5,720,400 cap hold
Cap holds serve as salary placeholders until a team either re-signs their free agent in question, another team signs the free agent in question, or the original team renounces their bird rights to that player — clearing the cap hold off their books, but stripping them of the ability to go over the salary cap to re-sign them.
Bulls’ Draft Picks
First Round: The Bulls retain their 2021 first-round pick only if it lands in the top four of this June’s draft lottery; if not, it goes to the Orlando Magic as part of the Nikola Vučević trade.
The Bulls finished the regular season in a three-way tie with the New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings for the eighth-best odds, giving each team a 20.3 percent chance of jumping into the top four and 4.5 percent chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick.
Second Round: The Bulls have a second-round pick this year, but the precise location of it is TBD. If interested in how it will be decided, see below:
The three-way tie in the Nos. 8-10 slots between the Bulls, Pelicans and Kings will be broken with coin flips. Those coin flips have no bearing on the lottery odds themselves — which, again, are split evenly between the teams — but if none of those teams reach the top four, the tiebreaker decides which team picks eighth, ninth and tenth. If the Bulls fail to jump to the top four, they owe their first-round pick to the Magic, but their second-round pick would be the inverse selection of their first (i.e. if they got the tenth pick in the first round, they'd get the eighth pick in the second).
Oh, but one more thing: The Bulls also own the right to swap seconds with the Pelicans as part of the Nikola Mirotić trade from 2018. It's enough to make your head swim.
If all that’s too confusing, here’s an example: Say the Bulls don't jump into the top four and land eighth in the three-way tiebreaker with the Kings ninth and the Pelicans tenth. That means the Bulls would hand their first-round pick to the Magic, and get the tenth pick in the second round (40th overall) — the inverse of eighth in the first. But then, because of those swap rights, they would jump up to the Pelicans’ 38th overall pick — eighth in the second round.
Simply put: Because of the swap opportunity, the Bulls' second round pick will ultimately either be 38th or 39th overall.
May 25, 2021: Coin flip tiebreaker day (via Jonathan Givony)
June 22, 2021: Draft lottery
July 29, 2021: NBA Draft
July 31, 2021: Deadline to decide on Arcidiacono’s team option
July 31, 2021: Deadline to decide on qualifying offers
Aug. 1, 2021: Deadline to either fully or partially guarantee Young and/or Satoranský’s contracts
Aug. 2, 2021: Free agency begins
Aug. 5, 2021: Moratorium is lifted, meaning free-agent signings can be made official
Troy Brown Jr. (deadline to agree is the day before the start of the 2021-22 season)
Cap Space Projection
The Bulls’ cap space possibilities are almost limitless this offseason, depending on how they handle Satoranský and Young’s partial guarantees, their own free-agents’ cap holds and Arcidiacono’s team option.
But here are their two paths to significant flexibility:
If the Bulls renounce all their free agents (including Markkanen’s restricted rights), decline Arcidiacono’s option and waive both Young and Satoranský, they could clear roughly $24 million in space, and be left with six players on the roster.
If, on top of that, the Bulls then waived and stretched Aminu’s $10.2 million salary and both Satoranský ($5 million) and Young’s ($6 million) cap hits over the next three seasons, they could get to approximately $35 million in space this offseason. But those waive-and-stretches would take up around $7 million in space over each of the next two offseasons, and would leave the Bulls with just five players on the roster.
It’s a lot. And again, there are countless other possibilities. The Bulls could also choose to operate as an over-the-cap team, which would leave them unable to outright sign free agents, but unlock the mid-level exception (projected for a starting salary of $9.5 million). Finding a sign-and-trade partner for Markkanen is always possible in that scenario as well.
All of which is to say, stay tuned. With the stakes — and variables — high, the Bulls’ work is cut out for them.
NBC Sports Chicago's Kevin Anderson contributed to this report.
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