NBA Free Agency: Lonzo Ball, Bulls appear headed for potential $80 million offer; Pelicans can still match

One of the most intriguing storylines heading into free agency is Lonzo Ball, who’s a restricted free agent after the New Orleans Pelicans chose not to sign him to a rookie extension last offseason. Ball has been linked to a handful of teams (Lakers, Knicks), but the most consistent potential landing spot has been the Chicago Bulls

First this report came from Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer on Friday:

For the Bulls, there’s believed to be mutual interest with Lonzo Ball on a four-year deal worth over $80 million. If the Pelicans do not renounce Ball, that agreement would have to come via an offer sheet, which New Orleans would have the option to match.

Then on Saturday, Yahoo’s Chris Haynes echoed the increasingly likely Ball/Bulls marriage on NBA TV:

Keep in mind, the Pelicans can still match whatever offer Ball gets from Chicago or any other suitor, and they have made strides to free up cap space by getting Eric Bledsoe and Steven Adams off their payroll in the trade for Jonas Valanciunas. But they are not expected to overly extend themselves to retain Ball, and the guess is north of $80 million would be too rich for their blood. 

Chicago’s salary cap room will depend on whether it extends Zach LaVine on a max or close-to-max deal. LaVine is eligible for an extension this offseason, but he’s still under contract for another year. The Bulls could wait to extend him until next summer to free space this summer to put a better team around him, but that allows LaVine to hit unrestricted free agency, which brings with it the risk of LaVine walking away from Chicago for nothing. 

The Bulls do have the ability to create enough space to potentially sign Ball and extend LaVine, but it would require waiving or waiving and stretching several players. From our salary cap expert Sam Quinn

With the contracts currently on their books, the Bulls are looking at roughly $11 million in space. However, Thaddeus Young ($6 million out of $14.2 million) and Tomas Satoransky ($5 million out of $10 million) both have partially guaranteed deals. Ryan Arcidiacono is fully non-guaranteed at $3 million. Waiving all three would immediately create an extra $13 million or so in space once incomplete roster charges are factored in, and those savings would be even greater if the Bulls chose to stretch them over multiple years. Speaking of the stretch provision, the Bulls could also use it on Al-Farouq Aminu to create another $7 million or so in room. Ultimately, the Bulls are likely to either waive or waive-and-stretch several of these players, but not all of them. Who they choose to dump will determine how much space they have to find a point guard. If they’re aggressive enough, perhaps they can even create the $14 million or so they’d need to extend LaVine at his max in addition to making such a move

For all intents and purposes, free agency begins on Monday at 6 p.m. ET, when teams can begin negotiating and reported deals will be announced, but technically the deals can’t become official until Friday, Aug. 6 at 12:01 a.m. ET. 

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