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In adding Jevon Carter and Torrey Craig on top of retaining Nikola Vucevic, Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu, the Bulls front office put together a productive, yet fiscally responsible offseason.
But the cap gymnastics never end, and though Arturas Karnisovas and company were able to add talent without entering the dreaded luxury tax this year, it becomes harder and harder the longer you keep the group together, especially as contract rates rise exponentially.
DeRozan is up next and the Bulls have begun negotiations with their All-Star forward. In the final year of his deal, DeRozan is eligible for a 4-year, $179 million extension. There’s a lot of money on the table, but DeRozan does not seem to be too concerned about the status of any ongoing contract negotiations.
“My agent, he deals with that,” DeRozan said at Bulls Media Day. “And I tell him to leave me the hell alone.”
“As cliche as it may sound, I really don’t wake up or go to sleep with that on my mind,” DeRozan said of a potential new contract. “When I come to work and step on this basketball court, I just appreciate the opportunity to still play, more than anything. Just like when I was kid, to be honest with you. I wish I had something cooler to say, but I’m just happy to be able to play and put on an NBA jersey.”
Sure, trades can always shake up the roster, but extending DeRozan after inking Zach LaVine to a five-year max and now extending Nikola Vucevic would lock the Bulls into this same core for at least two seasons beyond this one.
“The one thing I’m going to say is we love DeMar,” Karnisovas said. “The last two years have been unbelievable for us. Two-time All-Star. Second team All-NBA. He loves Chicago. Chicago loves him back. I’m very excited for this for DeMar.”
Despite how much the Bulls love DeRozan and vice versa, they’ll need to be prudent when it comes to the dollars and years on his next deal.
“Obviously, this is a place I want to be,” DeRozan said. “It’s a great place. So you can take that out of the equation. It’s just working out whatever makes sense from there for both sides. I’ll let them handle it. I just control what I can control.”
Then, there’s Patrick Williams, who is entering the fourth year of his rookie contract. He will be extension eligible until the beginning of the regular season, and given the way his game has evolved into more of a three-and-D wing as opposed to an on-ball creator, it will be interesting to see what kind of money he commands. Will he try to lock something up before the season or play this year out and see if he can’t level up his expected payday after hopefully showing more initiation flashes.
Former Florida State teammate Devin Vassell just inked a 5-year, $146 million deal, the first major non-max extension of the 2020 draft class. Could Williams be in for a similar contract? Or will he test his luck on the restricted free-agent market next summer.
The CBA has newly implemented a rule allowing teams to offer five year rookie extensions rather than four, the limit in the previous CBA. It will be interesting to see if players like Williams will take slightly lower annual numbers to get back onto the free agent market during their prime, especially in a rising salary cap landscape, or value the longer term security of the five-year deal.
The Bulls have played these situations interestingly over the past few years. They waited on Lauri Markkanen, ultimately working out a sign-and-trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers during his RFA. This past summer, they signed Coby White before he got any other offers, rather than letting the market dictate his value.
Williams, the first draft pick of the Karnisovas regime, appears to be a coveted asset by the team, who was ultimately not moved in any trade that may have been out there for the Bulls.
We’ll see how that plays out in what should be a make-or-break season with the current core.
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