Key Nuggets contributor could be perfect Bulls free agency steal

Bruce Brown, Chicago Bulls, 2023 NBA Free Agency Targets (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Bruce Brown, Chicago Bulls, 2023 NBA Free Agency Targets (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

In the shadow of Nikola Jokic’s postseason brilliance,  one of the more interesting stories developing in Denver right now has to be on the minds of the Chicago Bulls front office and decision-makers as they prepare for free agency. The story I’m referring to is, of course, none other than Bruce Brown‘s breakout performance.

After spending four years in a middling role with both the Detroit Pistons and Brooklyn Nets, Brown has really come into his own on a prove-it deal for a team with genuine championship aspirations like the Nuggets. The former second-round pick has completely defied all expectations and is playing like a starting-caliber player for a roster that has no shortage of two-way assets.

Fighting hard to earn a prominent role off the bench, Brown is averaging 12.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game while providing an elite level of hustle to impact games at the margins and help Denver extend their postseason run. He’s starred when the moment has called for it, like in a 25-point master class in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semi-Finals to defeat the Phoenix Suns, but has also been more than willing to accept an unassuming role when necessary.

This selflessness is exactly what the Bulls desperately need in their locker and should make Brown a particularly free agency candidate for Chicago, as he’s all but expected to opt out of his $6.8 million player option for next season.

The 2023 NBA Playoffs are the perfect testing ground for the Chicago Bulls to scout out interesting free agent options like Bruce Brown.

Although Brown came to the Nuggets on a very team-friendly prove-it deal, he has without a question outplayed his current contract and can be expected to pursue a bigger payday this summer. The only problem is that Denver has already committed over $150 million to the five-player core of Jokic, Jamal Murray, Michael Porter Jr., Aaron Gordon, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

There’s simply not enough money left over for the Nuggets to retain Brown and continue filling out the roster without spending an astronomical amount in luxury tax fees. For a player like Brown who’s lived on the fringe and knows just how rare an opportunity to secure a sizeable payday is, he’s not likely to miss out now.

By surrounding the All-Star trio with players who put the team above their own individual exploits, the Bulls have found success and highlighted the abilities of players like Alex Caruso, Javonte Green, and Derrick Jones Jr. Brown fits this mold to a tee, and much like these three players, coming off the bench doesn’t mean his impact is negligible.

If the Bulls remain below the luxury tax threshold, they can offer Brown a contract of up to $11 million annually, a significant pay raise from his current gig. Just like the Caruso signing back in 2021, this front office has proven they can bring in high-value players on relatively team-friendly deals.

When you also take into consideration the fact that shooting, rebounding, and forward depth are Chicago’s three greatest areas of need — and that Brown is a net positive in each of these areas — it all starts to feel like a no-brainer. If he can keep this up through the NBA Finals, I’d be very surprised if Bruce Brown isn’t a prominent name on the Chicago Bulls’ free agency big board this summer.

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