The real target for the Bulls in this free-agent madness? Porter Jr.

SHARE The real target for the Bulls in this free-agent madness? Porter Jr.
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The Bulls made their first big splash in free agency late Friday — big only because Cristiano Felicio stands 6-9 and weighs 266 pounds.

A source confirmed Felicio will remain with the Bulls after agreeing in principle to a four-year, $32 million deal to back up center Robin Lopez.

Not excited about that news? Welcome to the rebuild.

With the trade of Jimmy Butler on draft night and the waiving of Rajon Rondo on Friday, the demolition of anything that resembles a playoff team is well underway. This is what the early stages of a rebuild look like.

Free agency the next few seasons will be about keeping a young core intact and filling out the roster with a few high-character veterans who aren’t talented enough to win many games. That will help the Bulls keep their position in the draft lottery.

That’s really where the Bulls’ focus is for the 2017-18 season: Get a top-four pick next June. A front-office source reiterated that to the Sun-Times last week.

More specifically, the Bulls’ ideal scenario is landing the No. 1 pick in the lottery and drafting Missouri freshman Michael Porter Jr. League scouts have touted the 6-10 forward as a can’t-miss scoring machine at the next level.

And there are some solid consolation prizes if the Bulls miss out on Porter. Real Madrid’s Luka Doncic is considered to be the best Euro-

pean prospect in years, and big men DeAndre Ayton (Arizona) and Mohamed Bamba (Texas) have high ceilings.

So while the NBA is abuzz with stars changing ZIP codes in free agency, vice president John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman will be very calculated in how they build the Bulls’ roster.

‘‘We’re not going to be throwing huge money at people [in free agency] right out of the gate,’’ Paxson said last week. ‘‘We have to be disciplined and patient. You need the right veterans, guys who are good teammates and supportive of the young guys and can teach them how to be pros. If there was a young player who we thought fit our future, we would certainly look at that.’’

That’s why Felicio, 24, was a good fit. That’s also why restricted free agent Nikola Mirotic, 26, is still on the radar. The Bulls want to see where his market value is before deciding whether to make him an offer.

But the elephant in the room continues to be what happens with Dwyane Wade. Sources have told the Sun-Times that Wade wants a buyout, especially with the rebuild underway, but the Bulls seem willing to stand their ground until he lowers his asking price.

‘‘In this type of [buyout] scenario, it would have to benefit us,’’ Paxson said last week.

Follow me on Twitter @suntimes_hoops.

Email: jcowley@suntimes.com

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