Presented by Nationwide Insurance Agent Jeff Vukovich
Training camp begins next month. Barring an unexpected move, the Chicago Bulls’ roster is set.
But management’s work never ends.
And DeMar DeRozan is eligible for a contract extension.
“His first two years here, he’s been terrific. He’s been probably one or two of our best players, All-NBA. He continues to work at a rate that you would want a veteran to work at,” general manager Marc Eversley said last month during an appearance on the Bulls Talk Podcast. “We talked to him (in August)---(coach) Billy (Donovan), AK (executive vice president Arturas Karnisovas) and I---just about the season, the outlook, what are our goals and what we’re looking to accomplish. He’s completely aligned with what we want to do.
“He’s the ultimate leader, the ultimate teammate. He takes all the young guys under his wing. He’s been terrific.”
So how much is that worth? And is re-signing DeRozan the most prudent path forward for the organization?
Whether or not the Bulls overpaid to acquire DeRozan, parting with draft capital on top of signing him to a three-year, $82 million deal, it’s indisputable that DeRozan’s play has made the financial part of the contract reasonable.
DeRozan has averaged 26.2 points, 5 assists and 4.9 rebounds over his two seasons in Chicago. He has made two All-Star teams and earned one All-NBA designation. He has shot 50.4 percent and proved durable, playing in 150 games, all starts.
Beyond numbers, his quiet leadership and ability to take young players under his wing has resonated throughout the organization. Having turned 34 last month, his work ethic and old-school, midrange game suggest his NBA life will age gracefully.
From his perspective, coming to the Bulls after a much-publicized dalliance with his hometown Los Angeles Lakers didn’t pan out has served as a renaissance for his potential Hall of Fame career.
“Man, Chicago’s been everything for me, honestly. I can't even find the words of appreciation and love that this organization and these fans have given to me. Just allowing me to be me, allowing me to be the person I always knew I was careerwise and embracing it. It's been amazing,” DeRozan said after the season ended. “It’s a hell of a story especially with the route I took being in San Antonio three years. Coming here and just kind of helping this organization and this city get back on the map.”
When the Bulls originally acquired DeRozan via that sign-and-trade transaction with the San Antonio Spurs, it appeared management viewed this roster iteration as a three-year window. Particularly with the way the Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso contracts are structured.
But since then, management has signed Zach LaVine to a maximum contract extension and re-signed Nikola Vucevic to a three-year, $60 million deal. They have doubled down on continuity.
Thus, given that they almost certainly will be operating as an over-the-cap team next offseason, a strong argument can be made to re-sign DeRozan. But at what price?
DeRozan is eligible for a four-year extension worth roughly $179 million. Given that he has outplayed his current deal on the court and represented the Bulls so professionally off it, his agent, Aaron Goodwin, would certainly be reasonable asking for that max.
But the Bulls, who value DeRozan extremely highly, are obviously under no obligation to sign him to that. His current deal represents roughly 21 percent of the salary cap. With the cap rising, an extension similar to the one Khris Middleton signed with the Bucks---three years, $102 million---would be roughly the same percentage of the salary cap.
Would that be enough for DeRozan? Or is there middle ground between the two?
If the Bulls were going to pivot off this core, the February 2023 trade deadline seemed like the ideal time to do so. Instead, the Bulls chased a play-in spot and then re-signed Vucevic, Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu this offseason.
It’s not like letting DeRozan walk after this season makes the Bulls flush with salary cap space. Re-signing him to a deal that aligns with the life of Vucevic’s contract is one path. Waiting to see how the Bulls are faring between now and the February 2024 deadline is another.
Stay tuned. Management’s work never ends.