Either the Bulls haven't contacted any free agents yet, or they've kept a lid on whom they're talking to. The Bulls are in a difficult spot in terms of what they can get done this season in terms of adding people and may quickly have to come to deal with the loss of Omer Asik who looks likely to get an offer that prices him out of what Chicago wants to pay.
What's the deal with Omer?
Omer Asik had discussions with both the Blazers and Rockets after midnight. The Blazers have gone ahead and offered Roy Hibbert the max as an RFA, but it seems more likey than not the Pacers would match such an offer seeing as though it's only for four seasons. Asik is certainly their back up plan.
The early rumor is that the Rockets are offering him a deal that will probably pay him 5/5/11/11 over the next for seasons. Asik's status as early bird free agent means the first two seasons will be around five million per year before teams can upgrade to the max in the final two seasons.
Is it worth it to Chicago to match on Omer to play as back up center for Chicago when his salary jumps to 11 million per season? Probably not. That's too much money to allocate to that role on the team. At the same time, it's not an insane offer for another team to make. Crappy centers are getting around 10 million per season, and four years averaging eight million per year isn't really out of bounds for Asik.
Unlike under the old CBA, the Bulls trying to get a S&T with Asik seems like a stretch. Omer has little incentive to do so as you can no longer offer bigger raises or an extra year with a S&T. The Rockets/Blazers have little incentive to do it as they can simply call Chicago's bluff.
The Bulls could probably wrestle a second round pick out of one of the teams and a trade exception in order to remove the risk of matching, and they might possibly be able to get a bit more, but odds of a serious return in trade value are low. This is why I noted at the deadline last season that the Bulls should consider trading Omer right then if they weren't going to be able to afford him this season.
That said, trading Omer at that point may have looked foolish if Rose stayed healthy, and we needed him for a playoff run. That's the type of tough decisions the Bulls front office will be making perpetually now.
Bulls should try and deal with Gibson immediately
The Bulls can offer Taj Gibson an extension early, and if they're looking at how much teams are willing to pay Asik, they should be panicked about how much Gibson will make in two seasons. If Gibson won't agree to a four year 32 million dollar extension, then Chicago should look to trade him at the deadline (or right now) this season rather than ending up in the same boat they're presently in with Omer.
Unlike last season with Omer, the Bulls aren't as likely to seriously compete for the title this season. Thus if they decide they can't come to an agreement with Gibson long term, making a move now makes more sense than watching him leave for nothing later.
What are the Bulls doing in fA?
Early reports are that the Bulls contacted Kirk Hinrich and Brandon Rush.
Forget what you think you know about Kirk Hinrich from his Bulls days, since leaving Chicago his game has gone south. His role in the offense shrunk considerably at Atlanta where his per 36 passing and scoring numbers both dropped considerably since being with the Bulls.
Hinrich's 32 now with limited athleticism, his defense was fundamentally strong but never particularly disruptive and age combined with pedestrian athleticism and length are both likely to take their toll. He finished with a PER of 9.2 [out of the league caliber] with Atlanta last season and had a 9.8 with them after the trade to bring him in the previous season.
I'd love Hinrich at the vet minimum, but Hinrich's probably not made so much money in his career that he's looking to sign at a discount. If we have to dip into the MLE/MMLE [which we have will depend on whether we keep Asik and the non guaranteed players] for Hinrich then it looks like a significant mistake to me.
Quite frankly, at 3 million why not just keep C.J. Watson who's simply a much better player at this point in his career?
Rush is an intriguing fit next to Derrick Rose when he comes back healthy. The downside to Rush is that he's not a combo guard, so the Bulls will be playing with a very thin point guard rotation until Rose returns. The good news is that Rush is the type of player that could help the Bulls considerably as a SG.
He shot over 50% from the field last season, over 46% from the three point line, and has the size/athleticism to defend [even if he's not an elite defender]. The Bulls could certainly use his shooting packaged up with his athleticism. On the downside, Rush isn't the best ball handler, nor is he much of a shot creator.
I think he makes a quality MMLE option for the Bulls though and is a quality fit long term, especially with the Bulls drafting Marquis Teague so the need for a long term combo guard is less once Derrick Rose returns.
How about O.J. Mayo?
The Grizzlies opted not to give Mayo a qualifying offer making him an unrestricted free agent. Mayo would be another solid fit in Chicago giving them more of a combo guard who has very good athleticism along with decent shooting/shot creation. Mayo's never lived up to his reputation in the NBA, but he has plenty of skills the Bulls need and would be given more responsibility to create offensively than he was in Memphis.
His downfall in Memphis came as the team added more and more offensive pieces and his role diminished, but the Bulls lack offensive pieces and would be in better position to take advantage of his strengths. Chicago may have initially figured that Mayo was simply out of their price range, but they should monitor the situation and consider adding him if they can get it done.
What's the story with our non guaranteed players?
Chicago has three options with their non guaranteed players, and which of them they take will say a lot about their commitment to winning vs their commitment to profits.
1: Keep the players
Obviously this helps maximize the quality of the team. All three of them were quality players that contributed to what the Bulls did the past two seasons. If they keep them around again, they'll have the ability to match salaries at the trade deadline or simply use their skills to improve the team this season.
2: Trade the players now for other players
The Bulls could offer a team some salary savings and use such a trade to accumulate more 1st round picks or talented but expensive players. This move would also improve the team in the long run, but it would cost a quite bit of money.
3: Waive them
They'll simply let the players walk away with getting nothing for them. This will maximize profits, but it obviously won't do anything to improve the team. The Bulls will be worse for this action.
I'm expecting them to choose door number three here. They've talked about making basketball decisions rather than financial ones, but C.J. Watson said flat out that the Bulls told him keeping him was related exclusively to whether they were in the luxury tax.
Now the Bulls would have to pay a ton of luxury tax to make the above moves, but for an ownership group that's made around 100x their investment in the Bulls, I think they owe it to the fans to do exactly that. Even paying significant luxury tax, Chicago would rank in the top three in profits.
Many teams, such as the Dallas Mavericks, were willing to forgo profits in order to win a championship, it's not too much to expect the Bulls to sink to 3rd in the NBA in profits to improve their team while they have a chance to win. That said, this is an ownership decision not a Gar/Pax decision, and it will be made regardless of what we would like to happen.
Don't expect much action soon
Chicago will likely play free agency patiently. They should be looking for ring chasers and the best values after the initial guys are off the market. They don't have the money to knock anyone's socks off and are likely unwilling to use their non guaranteed contracts to trade for a big name player.
As such, the best plan is to get the best of who's left once things settle down. The Bulls effectively have one bullet to use over the vet minimum with the MLE/MMLE, so they'll need to do their best to make it count.