Spurs firesale opens door for Bulls to pursue Jakob Poeltl again

Jakob Poeltl, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images)
Jakob Poeltl, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Tim Heitman/Getty Images) /

Although free agency has yet to begin, the San Antonio Spurs have shocked fans and altered the NBA landscape by trading away All-Star Dejounte Murray to the Atlanta Hawks. This news should have grabbed the full attention of the Chicago Bulls, and not only because their conference rival has just drastically improved overnight.

Dejounte joins star point guard Trae Young to form quite the dynamic duo in Atlanta. Top to bottom, the Hawks now have the makings of one of the most well-rounded teams in the conference. For a player that has never seen the playoffs since becoming a full-time starter, Murray should be thrilled about this opportunity to play with a core that made the Eastern Conference Finals in 2021.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski was the first to break the news on this blockbuster deal.

Since the Spurs seem intent on a crash course with the draft lottery, the Chicago Bulls could capitalize by trading for Jakob Poeltl.

However, Dejounte is not why the Bulls should be thrilled at the news of San Antonio’s intent to bottom out and commit to a full rebuild. No, Jakob Poeltl is the real prize to be had here for Chicago. The Bulls were heavily linked to Poeltl during last season’s trade deadline, but could not agree on terms. Now that the Spurs have decided to bottom out and will likely be looking to add additional draft assets to their stockpile, this could be a perfect time to pick up a very good player for relatively cheap.

Poeltl averaged 13.5 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.7 blocks per game last season with the Spurs. He can’t shoot the 3-ball, but he makes a positive impact in virtually every other area of the game with solid defensive traits, playmaking ability, and a strong presence on the boards.

The Bulls have of course long been in search of a real rim protector and solid backup to Nikola Vucevic, and no option on the market would fill that role better than Poeltl. At least, as far as cheap options go, and boy is Poeltl cheap.

Set to earn just $9.38 million next year, Poeltl is on an incredibly high-value deal for the 2022-23 season. After next season, he’s set to hit free agency at the same time as Vucevic. If the Bulls were to trade for Poeltl, they’d be able to look at both players as equals and make a well-informed decision on who to bring back without being held hostage by the cap room situation.

Speaking of the cap room situation, the Bulls have reportedly been looking to use only a partial amount of the full MLE this summer to avoid going into the luxury tax. Ironically, Poeltl is getting paid less than the full MLE and is at this point a far superior player to anyone the Bulls could realistically sign with it.

If Chicago could swing a deal for Poeltl — possibly surrounding Coby White and Portland’s 2023 first-round pick — that would be an absolute home run of a deal for the Bulls. That move would go a long way towards balancing out the roster, while also keeping the MLE in Chicago’s back pocket to pursue a solid 3 and D player in free agency.

While there are plenty of free agents I like at the center position in this year’s free agency, trading Poeltl (without giving up too much in return) is still the absolute best-case scenario for the Chicago Bulls this offseason.

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