Cost-Effective Moves the Chicago Bulls Could Make in Free Agency
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The Bulls are not only over the cap, but they're also above the tax threshold, leaving them with limited options this summer. They'll have a taxpayer mid-level exception (MLE) worth just under $3.2 million, while the rest of the free-agent signings will likely come at the veteran's minimum.
There are a few voids left to fill on the roster. The Bulls need a backup center, which could be addressed during the draft. Jimmy Butler will most likely remain a starter, leaving the backup 2-guard and small forward roles empty.
The Bulls have done a good job building a second unit the past few years, and even though they're strapped for cash, fans should expect no less this year.
Each free-agent suggestion will be for either the Bulls' MLE or a minimum salary.
Nazr Mohammed could serve as a mentor and give the Bulls some insurance.
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Nazr Mohammed gave the Bulls solid minutes during the second half of this season and may return again to give the Bulls a veteran presence.
During March and April, Mohammed averaged 4.1 and 6.9 points per game, respectively. In April, he averaged over seven boards per game.
He wouldn't serve as Chicago's main backup center, but there is a lack of good quality centers this summer the Bulls can afford. They could address their frontcourt needs during the draft, in which case, it wouldn't hurt to have Mohammed play the "mentor" role.
With Joakim Noah's injury history, it would also be wise to have some sort of insurance on the team. Mohammed has a year of experience under Thibodeau's system, so that could warrant a signing.
The Bulls can easily acquire Mohammed for the veteran's minimum.
Wesley Johnson could be a solid addition to the Bulls' second unit.
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As the No. 4 pick in the 2010 draft, Wesley Johnson hasn't exactly produced at a high level. In three years, he's averaged just 7.7 points per game while shooting 40 percent.
However, that doesn't mean he'd be a bad choice for the Bulls.
The Minnesota Timberwolves were such a mess that few of their young players were developing properly when Johnson was originally drafted. If the Bulls were to sign him, he'd be the main backup to Luol Deng—and possibly Butler as well.
Johnson has good size, and Tom Thibodeau could turn him into a solid perimeter defender. He'd also benefit from playing next to a point guard like Derrick Rose who could get him open looks or find him on cuts to the basket.
Given Johnson's production over the past three years, it's not too far-fetched to think he'd accept the Bulls' MLE.
He would play in a contending team and—if Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson are any indication—could have a career year in Chicago.
Nate could once again be the spark off the Bulls' bench.
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There are a few downsides to signing Robinson, though. The Bulls currently have three point guards on the team, and adding a fourth would seem unnecessary. However, Nate is more of a scoring guard and would be a good fit to play the 2, especially when opposing teams are playing small.
Kirk Hinrich is also capable of moving up one spot, leaving Robinson at the point.
There's no denying Robinson would add a great scoring punch off the bench. Chicago could offer Nate its MLE and lock him up for a maximum of three years.
Kyle Korver's possible return to the Bulls would give them some much-needed three-point shooting.
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After finishing 29th in both three-point makes and attempts, the Bulls may want to bring in a few sharpshooters.
Kyle Korver is a career 42 percent shooter from downtown. The Bulls can run him off screens and curls to get him open. He can also help spread the floor for Rose and Carlos Boozer when they work inside.
While Korver's defense leaves more to be desired, he would be mainly used as a shooter—similar to his last stint with Chicago.
Korver is already familiar with the system, so getting him acclimated wouldn't take very long; he'd be able to contribute starting day one.
Even though Korver is coming off a $5 million deal, his price could have come down now that he's a bit older. The Bulls can offer Korver their MLE for two or three years.
Matt Barnes can get it done on both ends of the floor.
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Matt Barnes is the kind of player Thibodeau would love to have. He hustles, plays defense and is a pretty good rebounder from his position.
After playing for the vet's minimum with the Los Angeles Clippers, Barnes could choose to do so again but perhaps with Chicago this time. The Bulls give Barnes a chance to win a title, which could convince him to go to the Windy City.
Barnes averaged a career-high 10.3 points per game with the Clippers, giving the Bulls just enough offense off the bench. He can also defend both guards and forwards, which could give the Bulls room to try different lineups.
The Bulls can offer Barnes a minimum salary for a maximum of two years, which wouldn't be a bad deal considering what he brings to the table.