Are the Chicago Bulls a desirable destination for free agents?

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Bulls were once considered a premier destination for free agents. Is that still the case?

Let me tell you a cautionary tale about a franchise who is steeped with tradition, has a long history of winning and plays in one of the largest markets in the country. This team was a regular in the playoffs throughout the 1990s and was consistently a favorite in the Eastern Conference. However, this franchise has recently fallen on hard times and has been unable to attract any top free agents. No, I am not talking about the Chicago Bulls. Rather, this cautionary tale is about the New York Knicks.

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Despite playing at the world’s most famous arena, at the center of the basketball universe, the Knicks have routinely failed to attract big name free agents for years. While the Bulls are certainly not at that point yet, the Knicks should serve as a reminder of what can happen to even the most notable franchises.

The Bulls do, however, need to be careful not to fall into that abyss. Realistically, the team had no shot at attracting LeBron James, Paul George or any of the big name free agents this year. To be honest, that will likely hold true next year as well. What the Knicks situation tells us is that players care about winning more than they care about the ancillary benefits of playing in a big market. Perhaps the Knicks got complacent and assumed New York City was enough to entice players.

Bulls are not there yet

Since this is the case, the Bulls need to do two things to prepare for the 2020 free agent class. First, they need to start winning. Granted, this is easier said than done, but the Bulls are putting together a talented young core. Assuming LaVine returns, he and a healthy Dunn will have a full 82 games with Lauri Markkanen. That fact alone should enable them to improve. Additionally, Wendell Carter, Jr. should have an immediate impact, and any contribution from Chandler Hutchison will be icing on the cake.

Second, the Bulls need to ensure they have the cap space to make a run at a very good free agent class in 2020. Anthony Davis headlines the class, but it also includes Gordon Heyward, Demar DeRozan, and Draymond Green. Adding any of those players to a blossoming young nucleus would be huge for the Bulls.

Finally, as I indicated in a previous post, the Bulls can also acquire draft picks by assuming bad contracts which would expire in 2020. Draft capital gives them the option to select impact players or flip them again via trade for other players.

The Bulls are not in danger of becoming the New York Knicks — yet. However, if they are not careful, they could end up in free agent purgatory for a long time. Fortunately, they have the next two years to figure it out and avoid such a fate.