Chicago Bulls

Bulls apply for disabled player exception for Lonzo Ball's injury

If NBA league office grants it, management could have $10.2 million of extra spending power

Lonzo Ball is expected to miss the entire 2023-24 season.

Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich

The Chicago Bulls have applied for a disabled player exception worth $10.2 million, a team spokesperson confirmed, and now will wait for a ruling from the league office to see if Lonzo Ball’s expected season-long absence will lead to it being granted.

The NBA league office denied the Bulls’ last request in the wake of Patrick Williams’ torn wrist ligaments that led to surgery early in the 2021-22 season, a decision that proved accurate when Williams returned late that season.

This time, with executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas already publicly saying on NBA Draft night that Ball isn’t expected to play this season, the exception likely will be granted.

Whether or not it will be used remains to be seen. It can be used throughout the offseason and regular season to sign, trade for or claim any player off waivers. But that player must be in the last year of his contract or signed to a one-year deal.

The Bulls already have allotted just over half of the $12.4 million non-taxpayer, mid-level salary cap exception for the imminent signing of guard Jevon Carter. They also have the $4.5 million biannual exception and veteran minimum exceptions to round out the roster, which currently stands at 11 contracts.

The Bulls also have extended a $5.2 million qualifying offer to Ayo Dosunmu, making him a restricted free agent. If he re-signs, that would be 12 contracts.

If the Bulls use all their exceptions, they project to exceed the $165 million luxury tax threshold. The franchise only has paid the tax, which is assessed at season’s end, one time before.

The Bulls also face a hard cap of $172 million after using more than $5 million of their midlevel exception to sign Carter.

On draft night, Karnisovas expressed confidence that ownership would green light entering the tax if management felt it needed to do so. And $20 million of dead cap space taken up by Ball’s unfortunate injury saga certainly makes for a compelling argument.

The longer Dosunmu’s situation plays out, the more speculation there is that the Bulls are either trying to perhaps sign him to a multiyear deal at a lower annual salary or even work out a sign-and-trade to balance out a guard-heavy roster. Karnisovas has publicly said the team wants to re-sign Dosunmu, although that came before the addition of Carter.

The Bulls also have extended Nikola Vucevic and re-signed restricted free agent Coby White this offseason.

To this point, the Bulls haven’t been linked to any Damian Lillard trade rumors. Dating to the NBA Draft Combine in May, sources at that time said Portland wouldn’t be interested in trading the No. 3 overall pick and salary for Zach LaVine in an attempt to appease Lillard.

Portland has since used the No. 3 overall pick to select guard Scoot Henderson and also added another first-round pick, leading to Lillard’s trade request. Portland almost certainly would need a third team to facilitate a trade to Lillard’s preferred destination of Miami.

Until Lillard’s situation is resolved, rumors will continue and other major NBA business like James Harden’s future remains on hold.

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