By Cody Westerlund–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The Bulls traded former MVP Derrick Rose to the Knicks on Wednesday in a blockbuster five-player deal in which Chicago received veteran center Robin Lopez and second-year guard Jerian Grant back.READ MORE: First Illinois Case Of Omicron COVID-19 Variant Confirmed In Chicago Resident
In what’s indeed the start of a new era for the Bulls, here are some notes and observations about the deal.
1. I liked the deal for the Bulls, even though they gave up the best player. Prior to Wednesday, I didn’t think they’d be able to wrangle Grant from the Knicks. Keep in mind, there was a small market to shop Rose in, as many NBA teams have better points guards or are invested in young ones. I didn’t expect a team would part with a first-round pick for Rose, considering he only has one year left on his contract. Technically, the Knicks didn’t — but they did part with their 2015 first-round pick, as Grant went 19th overall last year. It’s possible the Knicks overpaid in a one-team market for Rose.
The Bulls got two useful pieces for Rose, each under team control for several years. I don’t think you could’ve expected anything more for an inconsistent Rose.
2. On several occasions at Wednesday afternoon’s press conference, Bulls general manager Gar Forman mentioned this deal being a “first step” in a new direction. (The direction appears to be staying competitive while adding younger players into the core on the fly.) So keep your eyes peeled, because more Bulls trades could be in the works, and they’ve historically been active on draft night.
At around $5 million this coming season and then with unguaranteed money the next, forward Mike Dunleavy has an easily movable contract. He could be a rotation player on a team with playoff hopes. Of course, forward Taj Gibson holds the unofficial record for being involved in the most trade rumors without actually being dealt, and he still carries value for any team wanting to contend.
As for Jimmy Butler, who’s found himself in plenty of trade rumors lately? Judge for yourself, as Forman had this to say when asked if the Bulls were building around Butler.
“John Paxson said that night the only player that he’s been around that was totally untradeable was Michael Jordan,” Forman said. “It’s our job to listen to different scenarios and make decisions, but obviously we value Jimmy and we think he fits in the direction we’re headed.”
3. Forman didn’t publicly close the door on the Bulls bringing Joakim Noah back, but the addition of Lopez makes it seem like the end has come for Noah in Chicago. Lopez and Noah are redundant pieces, and the Bulls also have young Cristiano Felicio in the mix at backup center. He showed promise at the end of last season.
Lopez isn’t going to wow anyone or be much of an offensive weapon, but he’s a capable rim protector. Among centers, he ranked seventh in the league last season in field-goal percentage defense at the rim, per NBA.com.READ MORE: SWAT Team Takes 35-Year-Old Man Into Custody After Threatening Girlfriend With Gun
With it being a near certainty that Pau Gasol leaves too, I also like how the Bulls went defense-first at center and will leave the scoring burden to the wings and forwards they’ve previously invested in — the likes of Butler, Doug McDermott and Nikola Mirotic (assuming they’re not traded).
4. How does this affect the Bulls’ plan in the draft on Thursday? Well, it’d be illogical to draft a big man of any sort unless there’s a bigger trade in the works.
With maturity and improvement, the 6-foot-5 Grant could project as a lead guard at either backcourt spot in the future. Forman already lauded his ability in the pick-and-roll.
With that in mind, what the Bulls should do if they keep the No. 14 pick is just take the best playmaker they can find who’s a point guard or wing. Coach Fred Hoiberg’s system needs more players who can scramble a defense off the dribble and keep the ball hopping as adept passers instead of ball stoppers. So take the best one of those available.
5. Financially, the trade is a near wash on the 2016-’17 books, as it had to include similar salaries for players to be moved at this time of year when teams still don’t technically hold cap space. So it doesn’t affect the Bulls much in this free agency period. They should have about $25 million in cap space, assuming Gasol opts out.
If you enjoy hypotheticals and want to look further ahead, the Bulls have sacrificed some flexibility in summer 2017 and summer 2018. Lopez will make $13.7 million in 2017-’18 and $14.3 million in 2018-’19. Rose’s money wouldn’t have been on the books at those time, as his deal expires after 2016-’17.
So a potential drawback in this scenario is that the Bulls have made it much harder to add two max-contract players in 2017, which will feature a strong free-agent class. The obvious follow-up question to that is this: Could the Bulls actually attract two max players? Keep in mind their most high-profile free-agent additions have been in-his-prime Carlos Boozer and an aging Gasol.
“I don’t think anybody knows what to expect,” Forman said of sacrificing future cap space. “I do think we felt good about getting cost certainty in a guy like Robin Lopez, who is a proven NBA center and fits how we want to play and is under contract long-term. We addressed that need right there.”
Looking at the roster immediately after the Rose deal, in summer 2017 the Bulls are on a path to have about $43 million in guaranteed money committed to Butler, Lopez, McDermott, Bobby Portis, Grant, Felicio and their 2016 first-round pick at No. 14 overall. Mirotic will be entering restricted free agency then and would carry a cap hold as well if the Bulls chose to retain him, and that $43 million figure will be more because the Bulls should sign a couple players this offseason to multi-year deals.
But with the cap projected to be around $108 million for 2017-’18, that still leaves room for one max-contract player, and it’s worth noting Lopez’s deal is fair with the cap spiking and shouldn’t be difficult to move.MORE NEWS: Jussie Smollett Trial: Closing Arguments Begin Wednesday
Cody Westerlund is a sports editor for CBSChicago.com and covers the Bulls. Follow him on Twitter @CodyWesterlund.