For the Chicago Bulls, Carmelo Anthony will undoubtedly be their main target heading into free agency on July 1. If the Bulls do land Anthony, however, they will more than likely be around the maximum allotted cap space.
With that said, the Bulls will need to find ways to fill out the roster by signing affordable players that can contribute right away. The team already has a couple of players that could return for the veteran minimum including Kirk Hinrich and Nazr Mohammed. Under the veteran minimum, both Hinrich and Mohammed can each earn $1.4 million. Mohammed has already signed two veteran minimum deals during his time with the Bulls, while Hinrich is coming off of a two-year, $6 million deal. If Hinrich is willing to take a pay cut, the team would love to re-sign the 11-year veteran.
Retaining Hinrich will be essential if the Bulls cannot bring back reserve guard D.J. Augustin. Augustin was one of the unsung heroes that helped the Bulls secure the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference last season, but he’s expected to have a lot of suitors this summer. If the Bulls add Anthony, the team might try to bring back the much cheaper option, which is Hinrich.
If the Bulls do lose Augustin this summer, adding players that can shoot and space the floor will also be a must this offseason. Former UConn players Ray Allen and Ben Gordon would be excellent options for the team. Allen played for coach Tom Thibodeau when Thibodeau was an assistant with the Boston Celtics prior to coming to the Bulls.
As for Gordon, he was always a fan favorite in Chicago with his deadly three-point shooting and clutch shots. However, after unsuccessful stints with the Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Bobcats, Gordon has lost some of the luster that made him very popular in Chicago. He has already stated that he would like to return to the Bulls, but it is unclear if Bulls management feels the same way.
The next point of emphasis would be to add another big man or two. Bringing over European star Nikola Mirotic might be a bit of a long shot if the Bulls are near or over the cap level. Still, with Carlos Boozer expected to be amnestied as well, the Bulls will need some additional bigs to come off the bench. Long time veteran big men that could crack some minutes in Thibodeau’s rotation include Jermaine O’Neal, Elton Brand, and Matt Bonner.
Although all three players are in their twilight years in the NBA, they can still provide the Bulls with leadership while playing 15-20 minutes per game. O’Neal was a solid contributor to the Golden State Warriors during their playoff run, and was the veteran voice constantly in the ear of star Stephen Curry all season. Brand, on the other hand, is another former Bull that averaged a respectable five points and five rebounds in limited minutes with the Atlanta Hawks. It would be nice to see Brand come full circle and re-join the Bulls after being traded by the team way back in 2001.
It’s going to be an interesting summer for the Bulls who still have a lot of work to do. But if the team is able to sign Anthony, they need to be ready to fill out the roster with a number of solid but inexpensive players.