Bulls set to join NBA free-agent party, but they won’t be in the VIP section

The Bulls will be shopping when free agency starts Sunday, but don’t expect them to land any superstars.

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Make no mistake, the Bulls are invited to this year’s free-agent frenzy party starting Sunday.

They just don’t have a pass into the VIP section.

And that’s a big frustration for fans who would love for Chicago to be a rumored destination for a Kawhi Leonard or a Kyrie Irving. Heck, even a sniff of DeMarcus Cousins would excite the masses as the Bulls enter the third year of their rebuild.

The reality is there will be no “Boogie,” no Kyrie and definitely no Kawhi for the Bulls — just crickets when it comes to franchise game-changers.

There was some good news this week, as the NBA took Omer Asik’s contract off the books because of his career-ending medical problems, allowing the Bulls to enter free agency with about $23 million to spend — $3 million more than previously anticipated. But what, exactly, will they spend it on?

“We’ve already had a ton of dialogue as a staff,” Bulls vice president of basketball operations John Paxson said. “We have a very good understanding of the direction we want to go and how we want to use our money. We’re going to attack that at the proper time.”

Just after the season ended, the front office’s plan for free agency was more about collecting multiple second- and third-tier players than swinging for the bigger names. That hasn’t changed, according to multiple sources.

Neither has the main focus of the Bulls’ shopping. They want a veteran point guard to come in and mentor first-round draft pick Coby White, as well as provide competition for inconsistent Kris Dunn. Dunn still could be traded before training camp, but there’s currently no market for him, and the Bulls, having financial control over him for at least one more season, have no pressure to move him.

So who fits the mold?

Bucks restricted free agent Malcolm Brogdon would be ideal. He plays at a high level on both ends of the floor and has developed into a dangerous three-point shooter. Plus, bringing him to Chicago would weaken the Bucks.

Unrestricted free agent Patrick Beverley (Clippers) also would fill a need on both ends, in addition to infusing the Bulls’ young core with some much-needed toughness.

The problem with both of those players is that the Bulls believe White is a long-term solution at point guard and aren’t looking to sink a huge chunk of change into that position. And with a lot of teams sitting out there with money to spend, Brogdon and Beverley will have high price tags. So expect Paxson to move down to a lower tier.

Ish Smith (restricted, Pistons) and Cory Joseph (unrestricted, Pacers) remain on the Bulls’ radar. Both understand the backup role but also can start until White is ready to take the job on an everyday basis. And signing either of them would leave Paxson with the cap room to add more shooting and toughness to the bench. Veteran two-guard Wayne Ellington (restricted, Pistons) also checks these boxes for the Bulls.

So, when will the Bulls finally be poised to jump into the deep end and start going after superstars? Will they ever be a destination for that caliber of player?

For now, they’re at least at the party — just outside the velvet ropes.

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