As the Chicago Bulls continue to flounder and waste the 2022-23 season away, many fans are understandably upset with the team’s lack of participation in the NBA’s last three transaction cycles. But it’s important to remember, the only thing worse than no free agent signings are bad free agent signings.
Historically speaking, the Bulls as a franchise have always been relatively lax in free agency. As frustrating as it might be, Arturas Karnisovas’ approach of prioritizing internal development over acquiring external assistance is right in line with what Bulls’ ownership has wanted in over five decades spent in the league.
In fact, arguably the best free agent signing in franchise history — DeMar DeRozan — is on the team right now. He and Pau Gasol are the only Bulls’ free agent signings to ever go on to become All-NBA players with the Bulls, each of whom signed with Chicago in the last decade.
With such a small track record of success, it should come as no surprise that the Bulls have had far more flops than steals in free agency. Let’s take a look back and revisit 10 of the worst free agent signings in Chicago Bulls’ history.
These 10 players are unfortunately the worst free agent signings in Chicago Bulls history.
10. Ron Mercer (2000)
Contract: 4 years, $27 million
In the years immediately following the Bulls’ big breakup post-1998, Chicago was left scrambling to field anything that looked remotely close to an actual NBA team. After being named to the 1997-98 All-Rookie Team, the Bulls believed picking up a promising player like Ron Mercer could help spin a new angle for the franchise.
They’d bring Mercer aboard on a four-year, $27 million deal. As a former No. 6 overall pick, there was much excitement in the front office at this addition. However, the Bulls would have been wise to pay attention to the fact Mercer had been traded twice in the last calendar year before coming to Chicago because it was certainly a sign of things to come.
In his first season with the Bulls, Mercer enjoyed his best season in the NBA. He averaged 19.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.3 assists and made for a dynamic one-two punch alongside teammate Elton Brand. However, Mercer was rather inefficient, and this team would only win an NBA-worst 15 games.
Injuries would ultimately cut his first season short, and when he finally returned just to take a significant step back in year two, the Bulls made the decision to move on after just 101 games. Fortunately, Chicago was able to acquire an even better player in Jalen Rose by trading him away, so Mercer isn’t remembered with quite as sour attitude as some of the others on this list.