Bulls quiet as NBA free agency begins
Everyone expected shocking salary numbers when NBA free agency officially opened for business Friday.
But it was still a little jarring to see the actual figures, especially when the Los Angeles Lakers secured the first contract of the new year by landing ex-Cleveland center Timofey Mozgov for $64 million over four years.
Granted, big men come at a premium in the NBA, but keep in mind Mozgov barely played for the Cavs during the playoffs. He logged a total of 25 minutes in the Finals.
That's about how things went Friday as most of the Bulls' potential targets agreed to huge deals with other pursuers. The Bulls had a relatively quiet day, saying goodbye to Joakim Noah and E'Twaun Moore, while meeting with point guard Rajon Rondo. There was also a report that the Bulls are among the teams chasing Miami's Dwyane Wade, a Chicago native.
Noah was expected to join Derrick Rose with the New York Knicks, his hometown team. Noah's new deal was reported at $72 million over four years. Noah released a picture of himself wearing a Knicks hat on his Instagram account. Moore will join New Orleans for $34 million over four years.
Bulls general manager Gar Forman typically likes to operate close to the vest. So while there were a few rumors about the Bulls, it's safe to assume the team was active working the phones.
A Twitter photo of Rajon Rondo waiting at O'Hare Airport signaled one of the Bulls' activities. He was best known for his years playing in Boston, but with Sacramento last season, Rondo, 30, led the NBA in assists at 11.7 per game.
Whether the Bulls would be willing to give Rondo more than a one-year deal remains to be seen. There was no word on a contract agreement, but the Bulls have an opening at point guard after trading Rose to New York.
In the meantime, many of the free agents that would seem to fit the Bulls needs came off the board. The Memphis Grizzlies committed a whopping $247 million to keep Mike Conley and sign Dallas forward Chandler Parsons. Conley's $153 million over five years will be the largest deal in league history, but that distinction doesn't figure to last long.
In comparison, Michael Jordan made roughly $94 million over his entire playing career.
Nicolas Batum agreed to stay with Charlotte for $120 million over 50 years. Boston's Evan Turner will jump to Portland for $70 million over four years. Evan Fournier will stay in Orlando for five years and $85 million, while Jeremy Lin will go to Brooklyn for $36 million over three seasons.
Other notable deals were Dwight Howard joining the Atlanta Hawks, Al Jefferson going to Indiana, Jeff Green to Orlando and Solomon Hill to New Orleans. Detroit's Andre Drummond, Toronto's DeMar DeRozan, Washington's Bradley Beal, Miami's Hassan Whiteside and the Lakers' Jordan Clarkson agreed to stay with their current teams.
So who's left? The list was changing quickly, but the two biggest names are Kevin Durant and Al Horford. Durant is still taking meetings, while Howard's arrival in Atlanta might mean Horford is moving on. Boston, Houston and Detroit are the teams believed to be chasing Horford the hardest. Wade is reportedly getting interest from New York and Milwaukee.
Atlanta forward Kent Bazemore reportedly is getting offers in the $20 million range. Pau Gasol, Toronto center Bismack Biyombo and New Orleans forward Ryan Anderson are still out there.
The Bulls' plan remains unclear. It's possible they could still deliver an offer sheet to Golden State forward Harrison Barnes. That couldn't happen officially until the moratorium period ends on July 7.
They could pursue less expensive free agents such as Charlotte's Courtney Lee, New York's Arron Afflalo, Portland's Gerald Henderson. They could try their luck with restricted free agents like Moe Harkless and Allen Crabbe from Portland, or Oklahoma City's Dion Waiters.
The Bulls could use their cap room to absorb salary in a trade. There's been talk the Bulls want to keep flexibility for the summer of 2017, but why? Having the cap room to sign two max players won't mean much if they can't put a team on the floor that has a chance to be a championship contender.
Here's a list of potential 2017 free agents: Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap, Danilo Gallinari, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, Andre Iguodala, Rudy Gay, Greg Monroe, J.J. Redick and George Hill.
Not a bad list, but how many top free agents joined a team that missed the playoffs on Friday? A few did, like Lin and Mozgov. The Bulls have been interested in trading for Gay, so maybe he's part of the long-term plan.
The Bulls could try to add assets by playing for a high draft pick this season. They could save cap space for 2017. Most likely, they won't be able to succeed at both. But tomorrow is another day and there's a long way to go this summer.
• Follow Mike's Bulls reports on Twitter @McGrawDHBulls.