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Chicago Bulls

Getty Head coach Billy Donovan of the Chicago Bulls watches action

The Chicago Bulls are facing a big man conundrum. Orlando Magic center Robin Lopez could be a solution says Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley in a piece identifying some free agents the team should prioritize.

Buckley first points out, that while the Bulls have bigger bodies to fill a role, they are far from settled at the position.

With free agency awaiting both Tristan Thompson and Tyler Cook—and Tony Bradley if he declines his $1.9 million player option, per Spotrac—the Bulls could be in the market for a backup big man.

Thompson was signed on February 20 while Cook was brought in during training camp and later signed to a two-way deal. Bradley was also added during the offseason.

The problem has been Thompson is over the hill, Cook is even more undersized than Thompson, and Bradley simply has not proven capable of handling more than a few minutes at a time.

A Possible Solution

Buckley suggests a name that should be very familiar to Bulls fans. It was a player that had built up a bit of a cult following for his interactions on the road with the mascots of opposing teams.

Robin Lopez, a former Bull and Windy City favorite, could be eager to snag a not insignificant spot on a win-now team after handling spot minutes for the lottery-bound Orlando Magic this season.

He is 34 years old and was never an impact player to begin with, but he has the size, strength and smarts to give this group extra oomph on the interior. If he would take minimum money to catch on with a contender, the Bulls should be ready to strike.

Lopez’s willingness to accept the veteran minimum salary could be a haggling point coming off of a $5 million pact with the Orlando Magic, per Spotrac.com data.

The 15th overall pick in 2008 by the Phoneix Suns, Lopez was acquired by the Bulls in 2016 as part of the trade that sent Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks. He signed a one-year deal with the Orlando Magic this past season after similar stints with the Milwaukee Bucks and Washington Wizards.

Size and strength are easier to find than the basketball smarts, and getting all three in one package is even rarer.

Lopez vs the Field

Is Lopez really that upgrade? Buckley even admits he was never an “impact player”. Were the Bulls’ reserve bigs so bad? The numbers suggest they were worse than Lopez this season albeit in a vastly different situation.

Lopez had a 112.1 defensive rating during the regular season, per Cleaning the Glass. That is better than Cook (116.0), Thompson (117.6 at center), and starter Nikola Vucevic (114.0). His defensive rating is second only to Bradley (109.3) on the Bulls roster.

He has other skills as well.

Lopez saw more minutes for the 22-60 Magic than all of the Bulls’ bigs except for Vucevic.

Adding 7.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists wouldn’t hurt, and Lopez has played for a team that has gone deep into the postseason too.

Money in the Bank

The Bulls are likely about to pay Zach LaVine a lot of money this offseason with most of the current roster locked in for next season. But, as Forbes’ Jason Patt wrote in February, they will have other options to add to this group.

Chicago will have…the mid-level exception and the $5 million Daniel Theis trade exception, which expires on July 7. The full mid-level exception is worth over $10 million for 2022-23 and would trigger a hard cap (tax apron likely around $154 million) if used. In place of that full mid-level exception, there’s a taxpayer mid-level exception worth over $6 million for teams that surpass the tax apron. The Bulls will not have the $4 million biannual exception in the offseason available because they just used it on Tristan Thompson this season.

There will be other, younger options for the Bulls to explore such as Thomas Bryant of the Washington Wizards – who could fit into the mid-level exception – if they so choose. But that route also figures to be more expensive with the 24-year-old Bryant earning $8.7 million this season, per Sportrac.

Source: Heavy

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