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NBA Rumors: Configuring The Chicago Bulls’ Free Agency Strategy

Those who follow the Chicago Bulls are wondering what is going on with their team. The post-mortem from the trade of Derrick Rose has left a somewhat empty and uneasy feeling amongst the Bulls’ fan base. Shipping out a player who was the face of the franchise for an unknown return is never a great public relations campaign. No one knows how the players that Bulls got in return will help. That is the reason they will be a factor in NBA free agency, which is on the verge of beginning.

Many believe the Chicago Bulls will be in the penny saver’s portion in free agency. Comparing this year’s class of free agents, they are inferior to next year’s crop. Similar things were said about last offseason’s group. Free agency offers no guarantees at a top-flight talent. With that in mind, the Bulls may find themselves eager to make a splashy move in the coming days.

Kevin Durant, the top prize in NBA free agency, is not coming to the Chicago Bulls. It is increasing becoming clear that neither is Hassan Whiteside. Both players want different things.

Durant wants to win right now, which the Bulls are not in the position to do so. Although, despite what most observers care to admit, he is a perfect fit in Chicago. Kevin Durant on the Bulls makes them a 50- to 55-win team. The Bulls won 42 games with Jimmy Butler, Pau Gasol, and Derrick Rose. The latter was still trying to get his basketball legs up under him. Durant is arguably the second-best player in the NBA.

Alone, Kevin Durant is good enough to notch 10-15 victories. That would propel to the Bulls to the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. Alas, that will not come to fruition. The Bulls should kick the tires anyhow, just to see what happens.

In the case of Hassan Whiteside, he wants security. After bouncing around for a few years in the NBA, overseas, and in recreational gyms, Whiteside has a chance to cash in on a huge deal. The Los Angeles Lakers are reportedly hot on his trail. Chances are great that he will become a member of the Lakers before Friday is over.

Scratching Durant and Whiteside’s name off the list will leave the second-tier group of free agents. That group of players creates uncertainty about whether they are worthy of receiving a maximum contract offer.

At the top of that group is Harrison Barnes.

Harrison Barnes
Barnes helped the Golden State Warriors get to the NBA Finals in two consecutive seasons. His experience from those two years would be valuable for the Bulls. Just as recently as a month ago, many thought that Barnes would receive some interest from the Bulls. He knows the Bulls’ coach, Fred Hoiberg, and he is good friends with Doug McDermott.

Everything seems perfect, except for the fact that the Bulls are undergoing some “retooling” as it was put in a recent press conference. Somehow retooling means that the Bulls cannot pursue free agents who might make them marginally better. Adding Harrison Barnes does just that, makes the Bulls marginally better, unless of course he has a breakout season.

It is a gamble to sign a player like Harrison Barnes a maximum contract, but in this high-risk, high-reward scenario, his ceiling is greater than his floor.

The idea of Barnes busting through is the reason why the Bulls should take the chance and make him an offer. With Jimmy Butler in tow, the two of them would be a strong team on the defensive perimeter. Because Barnes has a ceiling that is unknown, he could turn out to be a borderline star in Chicago. One perfect comparison is James Harden.

Harden was a good player as the sixth man on the Oklahoma City Thunder. Once he was traded to the Houston Rockets, he became a top-10 NBA star. It is all due to the fact that he was out of the shadows of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. Something suggests that the same will happen to Barnes. Unfortunately, it will not happen on the Bulls as they will search for players on the cheap.

Guard Arron Afflalo is a good player. The same can be said about Kent Bazemore. Neither of them have that ability to attract anyone from the 2017 free agency class that this Bulls’ team is hoping. They are officially a middle-of-the-road team.

If the Chicago Bulls plan is to retool, they must look at a player like Harrison Barnes. Barnes gives them another building block to work with, and at 24-years-old, he is young enough to get a lot better. Shopping in the penny saver’s portion of NBA free agency signals a rebuild. The Chicago Bulls want to deny that, but facts are facts.

[Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]