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 decided to let Kris Dunn get a bite of the free-agent market, the former starting point guard ate on Saturday, verbally agreeing to a two-year, $10 million deal to back-up Trae Young in Atlanta and give the Hawks a much-needed defensive-minded presence.
Give Atlanta the gold star of the day for nabbing Dunn at that price, considering the old Bulls regime felt like Dunn would warrant a price tag of $7-$9 million per year on the open market.
What changed since that mid-season prediction?
There’s the NBA’s lost revenue in the wake of the sour feelings with China, and then of course all the lost gate revenue after Covid-19 sacked the league back in March.
Only four teams were reportedly cap friendly when free agency started, so the price tag on early free agents was bound to go down.
Dunn was an example of that.
At age 26, Dunn was one of the centerpieces of the 2017 offseason deal with Minnesota that sent Jimmy Butler up north, bringing back Zach LaVine, Dunn, and the draft pick that turned out to be Lauri Markkanen.
It quickly looked like both teams would benefit from the deal, as the Timberwolves broke a 13-year playoff drought led by Butler, and the Bulls felt like they had an up-and-coming big three to jumpstart the rebuild with.
Injuries, as well as inconsistencies on the offensive end, derailed Dunn, however, as he finished his Bulls career averaging 10.7 points and 5.1 assists in 149 games.
“We were addressing that 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 earlier this week, when discussing why they let both Dunn and Shaquille Harrison walk into free agency. “And obviously the roster spots were limited.’’
They became even more limited for the Bulls on Friday, when the team verbally agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal with veteran guard Garrett Temple.
Considering the Bulls are about $9 million over the cap with training camp less than 10 days away from starting, roster flexibility isn’t something this front office has.
Not initially at least.
There’s a reason that Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley haven’t dug their feet in the ground when discussing the longevity of this roster. What benefits them is it’s 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 they can shed.
Then there’s trade possibilities with veterans Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young at some point this season. Young will make $14.1 million in the 2021-22 season, while Satoransky is at $10 million next year. The Bulls could try and move one or both and get an expiring contract in return.
Then of course there’s always the rumors that continue to hover over LaVine.
At $19.5 million this season and again next season, the athletic two guard is a bargain for what he brings to the court. New head coach Billy Donovan will have the opportunity to coach him up on both ends of the floor, but if LaVine has indeed hit a talent ceiling he’s a piece that would warrant a lot of interest.
What good does a housecleaning do the Bulls by next summer?
Well, it puts them in position to try and land two max superstars in a 2021 free agent class that will be historic in talent, possibly headlined by the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Rudy Gobert and Victor Oladipo.