Why can’t the Chicago Bulls ever land big name free agents?



Carmelo Anthony is not coming to the Chicago Bulls, that’s just reality. They’re not getting Pau Gasol either. Lance Stephenson doesn’t fit the system. So your biggest name free agent addition would be Trevor Ariza or Chandler Parsons.

Sorry, Chicago Bulls fans, quoting 1990s 2-hit wonder The Rembrandts “that’s just the way it is baby.” You recall the hard core recruiting of Tracy McGrady- it didn’t turn out.

The free agent summer of love, when GarPax cleared the decks and opened the doors, freed up a ton of cap space. And all they ended up with Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer. This summer will also again with a strikeout. So why does this keep happening to the Chicago Bulls?


It’s the legacy of Michael Jordan. His achievements and accomplishments cast a huge shadow over any player who joins the team. It takes a tremendous talent, with astronomical self-confidence and a real ego and belief in one self to try and live up to the legacy of M.J. Expectations are really high in the Chicago Bulls organization. Winning is a way of life. Chicago is the third largest market, and they have the most insane and obsessed fans. The Bulls are the most successful franchise by far in the second city.

Yes, all of their history is concentrated in one decade, when Michael Jordan ruled. And no other Chicago team has come even close to that success. 90% of sports franchises never achieve the six titles that the Chicago Bulls have. And a lot of teams swing and miss on a NBA free agents every summer. So I’m certainly not singling the Bulls out.

chicago bulls-basketball-hall-of-fame

But it’s the Chicago Bulls. They’re not the L.A. Lakers or the Boston Celtics, but they are just a notch below them; Which puts them above everybody else. And there’s no way to actually fix this recruiting issue. Nothing can. Not even all the stupid, pointless stories about Derrick Rose, and his lack of interest in recruiting. They’ll just have to build through the draft and via trade, like so many other teams do.

Here to discuss some Chicago Bulls offseason, as well as the NBA silly season in general, is Don Ellis. You can hear our thoughts on this topic by clicking the podcast below. After that, we look at the Bulls salary structure, the current contracts on their roster and how that will shape their offseason; which officially begins July 10th when the NBA’s official signing period starts.

Chicago Bulls (48-34 last year) 2014-15 Projected Depth Chart:

C: Joakim Noah
PF: Carlos Boozer/Taj Gibson
SF: Mike Dunleavy/Tony Snell
SG: Jimmy Butler
PG: Derrick Rose

NBA Free Agents:
PG-Kirk Hinrich (UFA)
PG-D.J. Augustin (UFA)
C-Nazr Mohammed (UFA)
G-Jimmer Fredette (UFA)
PG-Mike James (TO)
PF-Lou Amundson (TO)
SG-Ronnie Brewer (TO)

Chicago Bulls 2014-15 Team Salary: approximately $63.4 million

Team Needs:
1. Scoring Wing:
Always a defensive-first team with Tom Thibdeau on the sidelines, the Bulls relied on that end of the floor since they were the lowest scoring team in NBA. While Rose’s return should help Chicago become a more dangerous offensive squad, they still need to add a scoring wing. Drafting Doug McDermott helps. He’s not just a shooter- he’s a scorer.

Here’s Nate Robinson’s take on Derrick Rose’s comeback:

Carmelo Anthony’s name is being linked to the Bulls and would obviously be a slam dunk acquisition. Management will have to get creative in finding a way to acquire him though since they do not currently have the cap flexibility to straight up sign him. If ‘Melo lands elsewhere, finding an offensive-minded wing elsewhere is still essential.


2. Boozer out, Mirotic in?: 
The Bulls still have the option to amnesty Carlos Boozer (here’s the latest on that) and the final year of his $16.8 million contract. He definitely has not lived up to expectations and seemingly wore out his welcome in Chicago. Look for the Bulls to use Boozer as trade bait but if no team bites, amnestying Boozer is long overdue and would open up enough cap space for the Bulls to make some major moves in free agency.

The status of former first round pick Nikola Mirotic weighs into the Boozer decision. Mirotic was a key contributor for Real Madrid this past season and appears ready to be an immediate factor in the NBA. Whether or not he comes to the NBA this season or plays another year overseas is still yet to be determined. The latest reports indicate that he is indeed heading over.

Chicago could also use Mirotic as trade bait in a possible deal to land another star like Melo or even Kevin Love.


3. Backup Point Guard:
After getting cut by Toronto early in the season, D.J. Augustin came out of nowhere to be a serviceable fill-in at the point for the injured Rose. Both Augustin and Hinrich are free agents though so the Bulls need to sure up their backup point guard situation. Re-signing Augustin and Hinrich at reasonable rates would make sense but Chicago could also look to address this need with one of their first round picks, #16 or #19. I think Shabazz Napier would be a tremendous second unit point guard behind Rose but other names like Elfrid Payton or Tyler Ennis could be options as well.


4. Backup Big Man:
Nazr Mohammed was re-signed last summer and once again served his role as a spot minute option in the middle behind Joakim Noah. Mohammed is a free agent again and while Gibson can slide over to the five when needed, the Chicago Bulls still need to find a more reliable backup to Noah especially given Joakim’s previous injury history.

Here’s more in-depth analysis on our Chicago Bulls team needs page. 

Don Ellis started covering sports professionally when he was 15. He attended Ball State University, and some of his past credits include InsideHoops (columnist) and ESPN Florida (The Florida Sports Reporters, SportsCenter anchor). In addition to running Bullsville.net and writing for The Sports Bank and ChicagoNow (Bullsville), he is also a KHSAA baseball umpire. Follow Don on Twitter @Bullsville and like Bullsville on Facebook.

Paul M. Banks owns The Sports Bank.net, an affiliate of Fox Sports and Yahoo! The Postgame. He’s been a guest on news talk shows all across the world. Banks has been featured in numerous media outlets including NFL.com, Forbes, Bleacher Report, Deadspin, ESPNNBC, the History Channel and more. President Barack Obama follows him on Twitter (@paulmbanks)

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  1. MadMike says:

    MadMike didn’t take time to read the whole piece so his response is solely based on the title of this article Why can’t the Chicago Bulls ever land big name free agents?

    Right now they can’t seem to lure free agents due to Derrick Rose’s contract. $19 or 20 mil is a lot to pay a player who has had two knee operations, and hasn’t played steady, competitive basket in about 3 years. Forget if he can play or not, how’s his endurance? The Bulls are so straddled by Rose’s contract, that they find it difficult to compete w/ other franchises that seek to build a championship contending team during the free agency approach.
    So what, Derrick doesn’t care to woo top-tier free agents to play on the team with him, all Derrick cares about is getting back on the b-ball court. Why should he care about who else is on the team when he’s been in 50 gms in 3 years? Just Get In Where You Fit In. Peace!

  2. The only problem is Rose getting back on the court and proving himself and keep his agent(brother Reggie) from complaining he can’t do it alone and the team needs another star.

  3. Elvis Parsley says:

    I would think the obvious reason has to be because then they would have to spend most of their time in Chicago.

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