Free agency is well on its way with many of the big dominoes falling already. The biggest, Dwight Howard, expects to announce his decision today. Somehow I can't imagine Kobe telling Dwight that he'll teach him to be a champion could have possibly gone over well. The Bulls can scratch one familiar name off their list to finalize the roster, as Marco Belinelli signed with the Spurs.
Chicago could have retained Marco for 105% of his previous salary without using the MMLE which means he's one of the only options they had to bring in a player over the vet minimum. With Mike Dunleavy Jr. signed it was easy to see that Belinelli coming back wasn't in the cards though.
Let's give a little love to Marco on the way out the door, he shot just 39.5% from the field for Chicago, but there were times where he carried the offense, and the man knocked down three game winning buzzer beaters for Chicago this season if memory serves me correctly. Not a bad haul for a role player. I'll take a guy who hits three game winning shots for two million anytime.
It will be interesting to see how Dunleavy fits into the roster in a similar role to Belinelli, and it's a shame we never got to see Belinelli play next to Rose where his percentages likely would have risen considerably and his secondary ball handling would have been more deadly against a defense which wasn't loaded against him.
In other news tangentially affecting Chicago, Al Jefferson agreed to a three year deal (third is a player option) with the Charlotte Hornets for 41 million. It's a nice signing for Charlotte for several reasons.
The first is that they didn't massively overpay for Jefferson. That's a win for a franchise in as sad a state as the Hornets in as pedestrian a market as they're in. Jefferson also has a pretty good shot at helping the Bobcats overcome the top 10 protection on the Bulls pick this season or the top eight next season.
The bad news for the Bobcats is Jefferson will also help them miss out on being one of the absolute worst teams in the league this year which means their odds of getting a superstar in next year's draft seem lower. This is the type of move that gets you to 34 wins instead of 24 wins without a clear plan in place to get from 34 to 54.
Overall, I'd say this signing and the direction of the Bobcats is probably good for Chicago right now. By trying to put more talent on the roster but only being moderately successful in it, they likely won't win enough to make our pick lousy, but won't lose enough to get the star player that could turn the entire franchise around and completely kill the picks value.
Other notable free agent happenings
Chris Paul announced he would stay with the Clippers which is a really good move for him. Here's a guy who's going to be much better off locking in that fifth year, and I think it's tough to imagine his situation really looking a ton better with any other team anyway.
Kyle Korver didn't up with the Nets despite the signing being "in the bag". Atlanta decided to throw a truckload of cash at Korver, so he'll be staying with the Hawks at 4/24 which seems like an awfully pricey amount for his skills especially as he ages. The Bulls effectively signed Korver to 2/10 with a 3rd non guaranteed year three years ago which shows you how bad this signing is relatively.
Kevin Martin went to the Timberwolves for 4/28 which is possibly the best value deal in free agency so far. I'd have loved it if the Bulls could have grabbed Martin at that price. Of course, they couldn't legally, so kind of irrelevant, but that's a great move for Minnesota.
JR Smith, whom half of Bulls nation would love and half would loathe, resigned with the Knicks for 4/24.7 was also priced out of what the Bulls could have done if they tried.
Andre Iguodala was offered 4/56 from the Kings before he hesitated and Sacramento (wisely I might add) rescinded the offer. The Iguodala news was interesting largely in that it would have set a scary bench mark for Luol Deng's value. It will be interesting to see what price tag he ultimately lands at.
I'll also be very interested to see where Monta Ellis lands and for how much. Ellis opted out of 11 million if I'm not mistaken which is a lot of cheese for him, and many people have pointed out that he's not likely to get 11 million now. I sure as hell would have rather signed Kevin Martin than Monta Ellis, and he went for seven million.
There were a variety of other signings (and by signings, I mean agreed to terms with the signing set for July 10th which is the first day signings can be completed) and overall when I look at the landscape, I feel better and better about the Bulls getting Dunleavy at 2/6. He's not a star, but relative to the market, he stands out as a good value.
The Bulls front office has done a great job of filling in pieces on reasonable contracts with Dunleavy as just the latest example. As I mentioned before, Chicago effectively paid 2/10 for Korver for two years when he was 29/30 while Atlanta is paying 4/24 when he'll be 32-35.
The biggest ball to fall is still Dwight Howard, in theory, we'll know where he's going to land today. I've said ever since the trade that the Lakers would keep Howard and in a year add LeBron James to go with him. Everyone laughs at me when I say this, however, L.A. thinks big and plans ahead.
If Howard does leave L.A. then Bulls fans can feel a bit better about our front office not pursing him hard last off-season as Howard walking out on us would have been disastrous and likely a forgone conclusion if he's also willing to walk on the Lakers. Whereas if he stays it's easy to think he would have also stayed with Chicago had we pursued him. Of course neither of those things is directly related or can be proven, but it's how I'd feel.