Bulls have limited means, but will do some free agent shopping

The Bulls' list of problems in need of solutions is fairly straightforward: Height, shooting, consistency.

How to address those needs is not as obvious. The Bulls have the No. 18 overall draft pick and limited cash to spend on free agents, so basketball operations head Arturas Karnisovas will have to choose carefully.

"We have time now to figure it out, what we're going to do this summer," he said during his end-of-season availability. "I'm going to look at everything. We're going to look at free agents and see what else we need, what do we need to add."

The Bulls will likely operate as a team that is above the salary cap. Even if Zach LaVine walks away as a free agent with the Bulls getting nothing in return, they'd have less than $20 million in cap space.

The more likely scenario is using the midlevel exception to sign one of more players. How much money they have to spend is also uncertain, because it depends on whether or not they land above the luxury tax "apron."

The non-taxpayer exception is $9.53 million, the taxpayer midlevel is at $5.89 million. Both can be split among multiple players.

What free agents might be available at these prices? Since the Bulls are good again, it's conceivable there's a star player willing to take less than market value, but for the sake of this story, let's keep it realistic.

Chris Boucher, Toronto: This late-blooming role player is 6-9 with a huge wingspan. He has unique defensive skills, but is also on the lighter side, so kind of a Derrick Jones Jr. type of build with more height and length.

Last season per 36 minutes, Boucher averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds and close to 3 blocks. That's not to say he should play 36 minutes per game, but Boucher, 29, would be an interesting candidate to join the Bulls front line.

Malik Monk, Lakers: His time in Charlotte was disappointing, so Monk signed a one-year minimum deal with the Lakers and averaged a career-high 13.8 points, while shooting 39.1% from 3-point range. Monk ran hot and cold with the Lakers, posting 22 games of at least 20 points, but may be open to finding a more consistent role.

Mitchell Robinson, New York: The idea here is simple, the Bulls need rim protection and Robinson has averaged 2 blocks during his four years in the NBA. Offensively, it's been pretty much dunk or bust. But he's just 24 and the Bulls could try to sell him on becoming a long-term piece with Nikola Vucevic's future uncertain beyond next season. There didn't seem to be any hard feelings about his flagrant foul that sidelined Patrick Williams.

Kyle Anderson, Memphis: He's listed at 6-9 without a ton of athleticism, but Anderson is one of those guys who seems to do a little bit of everything well and set a good tone for the Grizzlies' rapid rise. Anderson, 28, caught the tail end of the Duncan-Parker-Ginobili era with the Spurs, so he learned about winning. He was a teammate of LaVine at UCLA.

Robert Covington, Clippers: The Proviso West HS grad has always brought defensive effort, but at 31, he seems to be fading a bit. And he's listed at 6-7, so he doesn't add much height to the front line. After joining the Clippers from Portland at midseason, he shot a 45% from 3-point range while averaging 10.4 points.

Joe Ingles, Blazers: Tore his ACL on Jan. 30, so he won't be playing again for a few months. But he was one of the league's most reliable 3-point shooters during his years with Utah. The 6-foot-8 swingman, 34, will end up somewhere.

JaVale McGee, Phoenix: He's in a nice spot backing up DeAndre Ayton, but if it's a backup center the Bulls are looking for, McGee, 34, is playing as well as he ever has. Not really a Chicago native, but spent his senior year of high school at Hales Franciscan.

Bobby Portis, Pat Connaughton, Milwaukee: Both of these guys have players options for next season. No reason for them to leave the Bucks, but the Bulls could put a call in if they want more championship experience.

One thing that's not recommended this summer is trading for Utah center Rudy Gobert. There's already been speculation the Jazz will try to break up the Gobert-Donovan Mitchell combo this summer.

Gobert offers the best in rim protection as a three-time defensive player of the year. The biggest drawback is he's signed to a supermax deal, owed a whopping $46.7 million in the 2026-27 season.

The playoff loss to Dallas showed more issues. Gobert missed important free throws (he's a career 64% at the line). He doesn't finish well at the rim because he's thin and can be knocked off balance easily. Then he's not at all effective playing away from the paint, and plenty of teams have bigs these days that can hit 3s.

The Bulls could conceivably bring back free agents Jones or Troy Brown Jr. Neither figures to be in high demand on the open market. The Bulls could extend a qualifying offer to make Brown a restricted free agent, but there's a decent chance they won't.

Twitter: @McGrawDHSports

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