Different Bulls regime, same target – let the free-agent frenzy begin

Different Bulls regime, same target – let the free-agent frenzy begin

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Different Bulls regimes, but the same target at point guard.

Let the Lonzo Ball to Chicago rumors recommence.

With the NBA free agent frenzy officially tipping off on Monday, unofficially organizations have been back-channeling information for months, setting the stage for the best running sports soap opera going.

That’s what the Association’s free agent market has become the last decade.

High drama, franchise-changing decisions, and big checks being written.

That’s not about to change this week, as the point guard market is front and center, and the Bulls are right in the center of the storm.

It starts with Ball.

The Sun-Times reported back in April of 2019, that the old regime of general manager Gar Forman and vice president of basketball operations John Paxson had made inquiries to the Lakers about Ball, after Ball’s camp leaked that the point guard wanted out of Los Angeles and the Bulls were one of a handful of team’s on his wish list.

Fast forward a few seasons and to a different regime, but the Bulls – and new executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas – were back in the Ball sweepstakes at the March trade deadline, as multiple outlets as well as the Sun-Times reported the Bulls and Pelicans were discussing a Ball for Lauri Markkanen deal.

The rest of the package – including draft compensation – hit a snag, so Karnisovas quickly pivoted and ended up acquiring All-Star center Nikola Vucevic.

But the desire to find a point guard with positional size, a willingness to play defense, and play-making ability hasn’t gone away. What has is the circumstances of how to acquire Ball.

The former No. 2 pick from the 2017 draft is entering the market as a restricted free agent. New Orleans can match any offer thrown his way if they choose. And while the Pelicans cleared cap space last week in a big way when they traded Steven Adams and Eric Bledsoe to Memphis, they became players on the dance floor, but still need a willing partner.

The first domino to fall in all of this could be Kyle Lowry.

If New Orleans can land the free agent point guard, any offer Ball receives won’t likely be matched. If their new-found $37 million can’t lure Lowry to play alongside Zion Williamson, however, and they strike out on other potential point guards, Ball could be right back in the “Big Easy’’ – like it or not.

On the Bulls side of this they would still have to clear more cap room – bye-bye Tomas Satoransky for starters – to make a competitive offer for Ball, and won’t be the only team interested in him. Boston and New York have each been linked to Ball, with the Knicks having one of the more open cap-space situation in the league this summer.

If Ball doesn’t become a Bull, then what?

The Bulls have also been linked to Dennis Schroder, even with his outrageous contract demands, Derrick Rose – yes, that Derrick Rose, and a reunion with Spencer Dinwiddie.

Then again, the Bulls have their own decisions to make by Sunday. They already extended Markkanen a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent, and could get bold in freeing up over $36 million if they decline Ryan Arcidiacono’s $3 million team option, waive-and-stretch Al-Farouq Aminu’s $10.2 million player option he picked up, and then waive-and-stretch the partial guarantees of Satoransky at $5 million and Thad Young’s $6 million.

Could they get bold and go after Lowry for their own version of a “Big Three?’’

With Karnisovas and his aggressiveness, it’s not as far-fetched as it was with the old regime.

Either way, a change at point guard is likely coming for the Bulls. It’s just a matter of the first domino falling.

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