The Bulls’ front office has been transitioning into unfamiliar territory for the last few seasons.
A consistent message and some good old-fashioned transparency are new concepts, especially for general manager Gar Forman.
Call it the Michael Reinsdorf influence, or simply vice president of basketball operations John Paxson being the front man for the Gar/Pax band. Either way, it has been refreshing.
So when Paxson throws out the word “patience’’ while discussing the roster he’s building, it’s time to take him at his word.
What does that mean for Bulls fans?
Go ahead and squash those pipedreams of somehow landing LeBron James, Paul George or Kawhi Leonard in free agency. It’s not happening.
Paxson reiterated that in a recent interview with The Score (670-AM).
“Here’s our philosophy in free agency: We do have cap space,’’ Paxson said. “We’re going to be cautious in terms of this. Anything we do has to fit the timeline in terms of a rebuild and development. We’re not just going to go out and look for older guys that fit a need necessarily. If you do, it can’t be a long-term situation. We have to get our young players continuing to play to see what we have.’’
That’s why the Bulls might kick the tires on athletic forward Aaron Gordon (22 years old) or a Clint Capela (24), but that doesn’t mean they’ll take either out for a test drive, let alone make an offer.
The bidding war for restricted free-agent guard Zach LaVine won’t be pretty. The LaVine camp wants near max money, and the Bulls are more than happy to let the market set the price.
The Bulls would like to part ways with Jerian Grant, Paul Zipser, Noah Vonleh, Justin Holiday and Cristiano Felicio. Vonleh wasn’t given a qualifying offer, but only Grant and Zipser are realistic castoffs between now and the regular-season opener in October.
“In terms of free agency, we’re going to look,’’ Paxson said. “I think what we need to do, and this speaks to how you get better over time, if we can acquire players that we feel add to our asset base, that they’re under good contracts, that when an opportunity arises if some player becomes available that maybe, hey, what Oklahoma City did, they had some assets and were able to go out and get Paul George [last offseason]. They had some pieces.
“You can debate what they did over and over again, but that was a position they were in with their assets to make a move. That’s the position we want to be in. If a player fits our timeline, if it’s a value contract, so to speak, that we think adds to our asset base, then we’ll take a look at that and move with that.’’
Until then, however, roster improvement has to come from within.
That means LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen taking huge jumps this summer, while rookies Wendell Carter and Chandler Hutchison learn to fit in.
Exciting? Not really.
Cautious? Yes, but at least it’s out there for everyone to see.