Guard Kris Dunn is Atlanta-bound, so what’s next for Bulls’ front office?
The Bulls didn’t have much roster flexibility before they let Dunn and Shaquille Harrison walk into free agency, and now with Garrett Temple in the mix, what exactly is left to do?
The self-proclaimed “dawg’’ has left the building.
Less than a week after the Bulls let him get a whiff of the free-agent market, point guard Kris Dunn verbally agreed to a two-year, $10 million deal Saturday to back up Trae Young and provide the Hawks with a much-needed defensive presence.
Give Atlanta the gold star of the day for nabbing Dunn at that price, considering the old Bulls regime thought Dunn would warrant $7 million-$9 million per year on the open market.
But a lot changed since that forecast. The NBA lost revenue in the wake of its turbulent dealings with China, then COVID-19 sacked the league in March, eliminating gate receipts.
Only four teams reportedly were cap-friendly when free agency started, so the price tag on early signings was bound to go down, Dunn being a prime example.
Dunn, 26, was one of the centerpieces of the Bulls’ 2017 offseason deal in which Jimmy Butler was sent to the Timberwolves. The Bulls also picked up Zach LaVine and the draft pick that turned into Lauri Markkanen.
At first, it appeared that both teams would benefit from the deal. Led by Butler, the T-wolves broke a 13-year playoff drought, and the Bulls seemed to have an up-and-coming big three to jump-start their rebuild.
Injuries, as well as offensive inconsistencies, derailed Dunn, however. He finished his Bulls tenure averaging 10.7 points and 5.1 assists in 149 games.
“We were addressing that when looking at free agency, looking at the things we need to add, shooting, and those are probably decisions that were there,’’ executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said last week when discussing why the Bulls let Dunn and Shaquille Harrison walk. “And obviously the roster spots were limited.’’
They became even more limited Friday, when the Bulls verbally agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal with veteran guard Garrett Temple.
The Bulls are about $9 million over the cap with training camp less than 10 days away, so there just isn’t much roster flexibility to play with.
Not initially at least.
But Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley eventually can benefit from one aspect of the roster: It’s basically a collection of players that can be easily flipped by next season.
Otto Porter Jr., Cristiano Felicio and Luke Kornet come off the books after the 2020-21 season. That’s almost $38.2 million the Bulls can shed.
Denzel Valentine, who as expected signed his $4.7 million qualifying offer Saturday, has a lot to prove if he wants to stick with the team.
Then there are trade possibilities with Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky at some point this season.
Young will make $14.1 million in the 2021-22 season, and Satoransky will be at $10 million. The Bulls could try to move one or both and get an expiring contract in return.
Then, of course, there are the ever-present rumors that hover over LaVine.
At $19.5 million this season and again next season, LaVine is a bargain when considering what he brings to the court.
Billy Donovan will have the opportunity to coach him up on both ends of the floor, but if LaVine has indeed hit a ceiling, he still would attract a lot of interest around the league.
A thorough housecleaning would put the Bulls in position to try to land two max superstars from a historic 2021 free-agent class that possibly will be headlined by Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Rudy Gobert and Victor Oladipo.