NBA Free Agency and Draft Rumors: Will the Bulls be Big Spenders?

NBA Free Agency and Draft Rumors: Will the Bulls be Big Spenders? article feature image
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Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Kyle Lowry.

League intel on free agency and the draft with just 12 days before the NBA Draft…

Mixed Jazz

This is a report that doesn’t tell you a whole lot. I’m passing it on as a sign that there’s not a clear understanding of where Utah is at.

Dennis Lindsay transitioned to a consultant role with the team with Justin Zanik taking over. New ownership likely wants to be aggressive, but the team is also coming off the best record in the NBA, even if they lost disappointingly in the conference semifinals to the Clippers without Kawhi Leonard.

Multiple league sources indicated this week that the Jazz were open to trade discussions. The consensus is that Derrick Favors is not only available, but Utah is eager to move him to clear his roughly $20 million in remaining salary (including a $10 million player option for 2022-23).

However, sources suggested that Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Ingles were also bandied about as available if the Jazz could get a significant upgrade, which would be a major shakeup for the team, especially with Mike Conley headed to unrestricted free agency this summer.

Two executives flatly countered that this week, however, saying the Jazz had indicated in no uncertain terms that they were planning to “run it back” with the core from this season.

So which is it?

Given the information, I’d lean towards the idea that the Jazz are more likely to stand pat. Those things can change quickly if Conley moves on and Utah is forced to try and reconfigure the roster, or if ownership increases its desire for aggressive moves.

A more simplistic look might simply be that the Jazz intend to run it back unless an offer they can’t refuse comes along, which it most likely won’t.

But this is a good example of how much “summer noise” there is and how all information, no matter the angle, should be treated with skepticism.

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Bull Market

The Bulls are expected to be big spenders in the free-agency market, particularly at guard.

They have $24 million in non-guaranteed salary between Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky, a $3 million team option on Ryan Arcidiacono, and much of the roster are restricted free agents.

Four names are tied to Chicago: Kyle Lowry, Dennis Schröder, Lonzo Ball, and Spencer Dinwiddie. Chicago wants a playmaking point guard next to Zach LaVine. The Bulls had extensive talks with New Orleans about a Ball trade at the deadline but weren’t able to reach a deal.

Lowry will be the toughest get. Philadelphia, Miami and New Orleans are among the expected suitors for Lowry. The Pelicans would have to find a taker for Eric Bledsoe to make such a deal happen.

Drafting Intentions

Let me get this out of the way right off the top: The discussions about the No. 1 pick are incredibly, amazingly stupid. Cade Cunningham is going No. 1. He’s been going No. 1 for months. The gap between him and Evan Mobley, Jalen Green, or Jalen Suggs can be debated, but that doesn’t change the fact that there’s still a gap.

A week after the draft I started hearing “the Rockets want to move up to No. 1.”

Yeah, no #$@&%*!, Sherlock.

No one is ever like “Yeah, no, we’d rather have second choice,” even when it works out like with Kevin Durant and Greg Oden.

The Pistons are not trading out of the No. 1 spot. Even if they don’t want to take Cunningham No. 1 (and they are going to take Cunningham No. 1), they can take their guy at the 1-spot because the only reason they would call the Rockets or any other team for a trade is because they don’t want to take Cunningham No. 1, which compromises their leverage.

There’s no plausible return for the No. 1 pick that would be worth it. Credit to the Celtics for trading the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft because they liked Jayson Tatum better. Who’s to say what happens if Fultz’ arm doesn’t fall into the Sixers’ void of bizarre injuries, but still, great call. It’s still such an uncommon event that you can wind up galaxy-braining yourself.

As a longtime league insider said this week, “The Celtics were also coming off a conference finals appearance. They were playing with house money and could afford to make moves like that. The Pistons need a sure thing, and Cade’s the surest thing on the board.”

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Other draft intel:

  • I asked five sources for a team in the first round most likely to move up, and they all said the Knicks. The Knicks have picks No. 19 and 21, along with two second-rounders and an extra top-ten protected pick in 2023 (from Dallas). Multiple sources said there’s a player in the low teens that they have targeted, but no one’s sure who it is.
  • Florida State forward Scottie Barnes seems like a lock to go top 10 at this point. He’s been tied to the Raptors at 4, and not just because the Raptors’ tied-in reporters have discussed him at length. He’s also been mentioned with Orlando as one of their two, first-round spots, and Sacramento.
  • Moses Moody out of Arkansas is likely being underrated in the market. His over/under is 12.5. He’s much higher on the draft boards of consultants with experience working for teams.
  • Jalen Green is the odds-on favorite to go No. 2 to Houston. The options seem to be down to Green and Mobley, and there’s been a decent amount of noise that the Cavaliers are expecting Houston to take Green, which is why they’re starting to zero in on Mobley.
  • A word of caution here: If one of the teams decides to make a reach in the next two weeks, it’s unlikely to leak. There’s been a fair amount of noise that the Rockets, Cavaliers, Raptors and Magic could look to trade out of their pick, but I’m not buying it. They’re looking for some sort of dynamite deal that I think is unlikely to generate.
  • Jalen Johnson has been penciled in by various folks as a lottery pick. That doesn’t mean it’s a lock, but there’s an expectation his stock is drifting up.
  • Jaden Springer’s over/under is 22.5 at DraftKings. That’s about two spots over (I like the under) what appears to be the consensus. Late teens picks can often slide unexpectedly, but Springer’s profile is a high floor.

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