NBA Offseason: Grading each free agent signing for Chicago
This year in free agency there have been some obvious winners like the San Antonio Spurs and obvious losers like Dallas and Portland.
When it comes to Chicago, they have flown under the radar while still making some solid moves. The Chicago Bulls had limited cash to spend this offseason so they brought back nearly every player from last year’s squad. With all things considered, the Bulls did what they could with what they had available to them and will field a very talented squad next season despite no major newcomers joining the team. With that being said, here are the grades for each signing this offseason:
Mike Dunleavy has played exceptionally well in his two seasons in Chicago. He does a great job spacing the floor with his 3 point shooting and helps keep the offense running smoothly with his smart playmaking. Now he will continue to serve as a consistent player in their rotation in the seasons to come. The Bulls made the right move by bringing Dunleavy back; with little money to spend on a replacement, they had few other options to pursue on the free agent market. My only concern is the length of the deal. Dunleavy is 34 years old and will likely decline at some point. The Bulls have two young wings in Tony Snell and Doug McDermott who have the talent to take his minutes in the near future and it would not be a surprise if one or both begin to produce at a higher and more consistent level than Dunleavy this season. Dunleavy will likely be expendable after this season but will still have two years on his contract. It would have been better if the Bulls could have gotten Dunleavy on a shorter deal, but it was an overall solid signing.
Final Grade: B
Brooks was a great spark plug off the bench for the Bulls during the regular season last year. He regularly came in and got the job done putting up points while the starters rested. Bringing him back looks like a no brainer: until you see how badly he performed in the playoffs. In the postseason Brooks production dropped from 11.6 points and 3.2 assists per game to 4.5 points and 0.9 assists per game. His player efficiency rating also dipped from 14.4 in the regular season to 6.8 in the postseason. Brooks played terrible in the playoffs which has many wondering if the Bulls should look for a bigger, stronger guard to run the 2nd team.
I would have liked to see the Bulls try to pursue PG Mo Williams to back up Derrick Rose. He is a legitimate 6th man candidate who signed with Cleveland for less money per year than Aaron Brooks signed with Chicago, per spotrac.com. Andre Miller and Gary Neal are two other guards around the same price range as Brooks that I would like to have seen running the 2nd team other than AB.
Brooks will likely have another quality regular season, but the big question is weather he will show up in the playoffs when it really matters.
Final Grade: C+
This is by far the easiest signing to grade. Chicago couldn’t have played this one any better, other than getting Butler to accept the extension they offered him the previous year. After the show Butler put on last season there was no question he was going to get a max contract. If Chicago didn’t offer a max to Butler, every other team that could afford it would have lined up to offer him max dollars. So how did the Bulls benefit from this? Butler considered signing a one year deal this summer in order to cash in on more money later due to the salary cap rising dramatically the next few seasons. In Butler’s current contract he is making an average of nearly 19 million per year. If Butler would have signed a one year contract with the Bulls, not only would he have the opportunity to leave as an unrestricted free agent after next season, which would be devastating for Chicago, but if he did sign a max offer a year later he would be making over 25 million a year, based on future max contract projections courtesy of basketballinsiders.com.
That roughly $6 million dollars Chicago saves per year can be used to add quality rotational players while still having their star in Jimmy Buckets. Not only is Chicago saving major cash in the long run but they are also avoiding a possible disaster in the form of Butler leaving via unrestricted free agency next year. This was an excellent signing which will keep the Bulls competitive for many years to come.
Final Grade: A+
This was a rather odd signing for the Bulls that I am still trying to figure out. Felicio has not played a single game in the NBA and likely wasn’t on many teams radar. According to his summer league profile on nba.com, the 23 year old Brazilian measures in at 6’9 and 240 pounds. His size is more inline with a Power Forward, not a center which he is listed on the team roster. In the summer league Felicio averaged 3.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game in 13.2 minutes.
Felicio obviously has a long way to go to become a successful big man in this league and I question weather he can hold down a spot in the Bull’s rotation this season. Unless Fred Hoiberg plans to play small ball or leave Joakim Noah or Pau Gasol on the bench, there is no legitimate back up center on the roster. Taj Gibson and Bobby Portis will likely see time at the 5 spot, but I would have liked to see Chicago sign another 7 footer to protect the paint or at least anyone that can bring more production than Nazr Mohammed did as the back up these last few years.
At this stage in Cristiano Felicio’s professional career, he is probably not ready to play major rotational minutes for a team looking to contend for a championship. This signing confuses me and I expected them to sign a proven veteran such as Kendrick Perkins or Kevin Seraphin. Even though he is on the roster, Felicio likely wont see meaningful minutes on the court anytime soon.
Final Grade: D