How much cap space will the Bulls have to use in 2023?

After an exhilarating 2021 offseason that saw the Chicago Bulls make splashy signings and surprising trades to move up the Eastern Conference totem pole, 2022 proved to be a much more conservative affair. It’s easy to see why fans would be left a little disappointed at Chicago’s relative inactivity, as rival teams continued to get better for the upcoming season.

It feels like Chicago’s momentum has been ripped out from beneath them, and the only way we’re going to see this team recover it is by finally getting healthy and on the same page. When this team is firing on all cylinders, it looked just as good as anyone. However, the competition continues to get stiffer with each passing year, which is why we look ahead to 2023 for perhaps a more dynamic roster overhaul.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t get your hopes up for any blockbuster additions next summer either. At least not in free agency, as this team is financially committed to its core and will likely have to rely on trades to patch up the roster moving forward.

With over half of the roster on expiring contracts this season, the Chicago Bulls are in for a tricky cap space situation and a wild 2023 offseason.

To get a better idea of what Chicago’s options will be, we must first look at the outgoing money on the team’s payroll at the end of the season. The Bulls have five players hitting unrestricted free agency this summer, one player becoming a restricted free agent, with yet another two players holding a player option to return next year.

This is the list of every current Chicago Bulls player who could be a free agent next year.

  • Andre Drummond (player option)
  • Ayo Dosunmu (UFA)
  • Coby White (RFA)
  • Derrick Jones Jr. (player option)
  • Goran Dragic (UFA)
  • Javonte Green (UFA)
  • Nikola Vucevic (UFA)
  • Tony Bradley (UFA)

We are staring down the very real possibility that these eight players leave in next summer’s free agency, decimating over half of the roster in the process. If Chicago did lose this group of players, the Bulls would be clearing $40 million in outgoing contracts; however, that cap space isn’t nearly as desirable as it sounds.

Given that the Bulls are already over the cap and hugging up against the luxury tax threshold in the first place, any outgoing salary isn’t converted into usable cap space until Chicago has a payroll under $129.8 million. After signing Zach LaVine to the largest contract in team history, the Bulls’ payroll has ballooned up to an exorbitant $148.5 million, far past the cap threshold.

Next year alone, the Bulls have committed over $108 million to just five players in LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, Patrick Williams, and Alex Caruso. This means Chicago could lose two-thirds of the current roster and still not come even close to opening up enough cap space for a maximum contract-level player.

There may not even be enough to go around for a solid above-average starter in this hypothetical scenario, seeing as all of the accrued incomplete roster charges would drive the Bulls to well under $20 million in cap space.

This is obviously not a recipe for success and would leave the Chicago Bulls in a devastated state. Making full use of Bird Rights to retain the current talent is the ideal alternative, as pursuing high-profile players on the open market is becoming an increasingly rare strategy in today’s NBA.

So if the question is how much cap space will the Bulls have to work with during the 2023 offseason, the answer is practically none. Chicago will instead look to keep the current core together as long as possible, all while likely continuing to flirt with the luxury tax line.