Bulls Free Agency Primer: Centers

Apr 24, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) warms up before playing against the Golden State Warriors in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 24, 2016; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard (12) warms up before playing against the Golden State Warriors in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports /

NBA free agency opened at the stroke of midnight today, July 1. Which players will the Chicago Bulls be pursuing and who is a good fit?

This year, the free agent class features some marquee names and adds the complexity of a rocketing salary cap, which now reaches $94 million. We are going to look at each position throughout the week, determining who are some of the top players who will be available and the likelihood that they end up with the Chicago Bulls.

On Monday, we looked at point guards. Tuesday, it was shooting guards. Wednesday, it was small forwards. Yesterday, it was power forwards. Today, we are looking at centers.

According to Drake, by the time you’re reading this it’s too late. What that means for us is that free agency has begun! We’ve covered every position this week, recapping some of the top free agents at each position and looked briefly at the possibility that they could end up with the Bulls.

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Power forward is a position where Chicago needs essentially no help and has no good options on the free market that improve the team significantly now or in the future. Center is more of the same, with the exception that they could use a rotation or backup center if the team doesn’t believe that Cristiano Felicio is the man for the job. It could get awfully dicey for the Bulls if they want to add a center on free agency, particularly since they already have the very team-friendly contract of the very skilled Robin Lopez. If Gar Forman intends to pursue anyone at center, he will hopefully only offer below market value or a single year and not jeopardize the future during this window of Bulls free agency activity.

Here are some of the top small forwards of the 2016 free agent class:

  1. Dwight Howard (Unrestricted Free Agent)

Howard is going to get paid somewhere. He may not get as much as the $23 million he would have earned had he decided to opt in on his player option for the Rockets this season, but he will still get paid. It’s likely that he will have a lot of one or two year deals on the table, probably around $18-20 million per year. The Bulls should not do this, but if they want a one-year rental at center to combine with Butler and some type of free agent point guard rental like Rajon Rondo it would make sense. But I cannot stress enough how important it is that the Bulls, if interested, do not offer more than one year to Howard.

Related Story: Dear Bulls: Forman, Free Agency and the Future

  1. Roy Hibbert (Unrestricted Free Agent)

Hibbert is not a real thing anymore. One of the best rim protectors over the past decade, he was great when he was good, but now it has left him. He is a shadow of the player he was and that isn’t all that uncommon for a big man. Generally, when the ability to run the floor and move quickly and get up in the air is gone, it is gone for good and without much explanation. All of that means that the Bulls need to stay very far away from Roy. He’d be tempting on a one-year if he only wanted something in the $3-7 million range, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Hibbert seeks something two years with a player option and a starting salary around $12-15 million. Someone might take it, even the Lakers, on a short term deal, but it shouldn’t be the Bulls.

  1. Hassan Whiteside (Unrestricted Free Agent)

Howard tends to be the center of drama and turmoil wherever he goes. Hibbert just isn’t the player he used to be anymore. Both of those players are known commodities. Whiteside is off the grid. He could be the best center in the league for the next three or four years, or he might be the next Andrew Bynum. That’s a real concern with Whiteside. He knows that he is going to get paid for the first time in his life and has made it clear that the money is more important than anything else. Whiteside gets rebounds, blocks and points. He doesn’t get assists and he has never been paid. The Bynum concern is that Whiteside was playing for a contract, but once he gets that contract his game might change. He’s good, but a massive gamble. When you’ve finally reasoned it out as a good idea, you’re still trumped by the reality that Gar headed this headache off with the Rose trade and the addition of Lopez on the cheap.

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  1. Ian Mahinmi (Unrestricted Free Agent)

This is a very tempting option for the Bulls. They got a pretty good look at Mahinmi last season since he was with division foes in Indiana and that familiarity could make him attractive to Forman and co. Ultimately, he could be an option if he’s willing to take a cheap deal. The same rule applies here as for all the other options – nothing more than a year and nothing outrageous in salary. If Mahinmi wanted to come to Chicago to platoon with Lopez for a year or two, that would be fine. Just don’t get used to it. Mahinmi isn’t the answer and shouldn’t be paid like one.

  1. Boban Marjanovic (Restricted Free Agent)

Fear the Boban. I want the Bulls to sign him. Throw an offer sheet of three years at $12 million per. The Spurs probably wouldn’t match that and Marjanovic immediately becomes my favorite player on the Chicago’s roster. The ultimate rim protector and slow-motion power-tomahawk slam dunker, Boban has hands so large that they can hold your soul, your very essence as it if were a pebble. I hope Boban has a very long, successful career in the NBA. It should be with the Spurs, but if not the Spurs, please let him come to Chicago.

Related Story: The Similar Legacies of Pau Gasol and Carlos Boozer

Free agency is open! Whoever the Bulls strike up deals with, we will have the information for you right here at Pippen Ain’t Easy.