Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
With one word, Chicago Bulls executive vice president Artūras Karnišovas flipped normal expectations upside down Thursday night.
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“Yes,” Karnišovas said, when asked if he believes he has the green light from ownership to enter luxury tax territory.
The Bulls only have paid the luxury tax once in franchise history. During the 2013-14 season in which Derrick Rose suffered a season-ending meniscus injury, they traded All-Star forward Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers to exit the tax.
Last season, Bulls president and chief operating officer Michael Reinsdorf told NBC Sports Chicago that he’d be willing to pay the tax for a championship contending team.
“With the nature of the NBA and having a soft cap, if you want to compete for championships, you have to be willing to spend into the tax,” Michael Reinsdorf said during a February 2022 appearance on the Bulls Talk Podcast. “I think most people will tell you, ‘I don’t want to spend into the tax if we’re not competing for championships, if we’re not good enough. I don’t want to be the 8th seed or out of the playoffs and go into the luxury tax.’
"But when it comes to a team like this (the Bulls), and if we can take the necessary steps next year that allow us to compete for a championship, then for sure we’ll go into the tax. It’s part of the nature of the NBA.”
But Karnišovas intimated that he’d feel comfortable asking ownership to enter tax territory this offseason following a 40-42 campaign in which the Bulls didn’t qualify for the playoffs.
“Jerry (Reinsdorf) and Michael have been always open with me to go into luxury tax if our team is competitive---you know, top-four, top-six in the East,” Karnišovas said. “If there are players in free agency that can improve our team and we’re competitive, we’ll retain our free agents.”
Indeed, retaining their own free agents, as Karnišovas reiterated he’d like to do on Thursday night, is what pushes the Bulls near the projected $165 million tax line even before using salary cap exceptions to improve the team.
Karnišovas confirmed the Bulls will extend qualifying offers to Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu, making them restricted free agents and allowing the Bulls to match any offers they receive.
“I think they’re developing young players,” Karnišovas said of the guards. “So we’re going to address that in free agency.”
Re-signing Vucevic remains an organizational priority, with Karnišovas calling it a “work in progress.”
“We’re going to continue talking to Vooch and his representation,” he said.
The Bulls also need to address shooting and perhaps the point guard position. If the Bulls re-sign their free agents and use the midlevel and biannual exceptions, they will enter luxury tax territory. Keep in mind that penalties only are assessed on teams that are still past the tax threshold after the season.
Karnišovas was asked what message he’d like to send fans following Thursday’s NBA Draft, which only netted the Bulls a second-round pick in Julian Phillips: “They will have to wait until free agency to see what we look like after that.”