12:00am July 6th, 2018. That is the exact moment Chicago Bulls forward Bobby Portis is eligible to sign an extension. As a player entering his 4th season on his rookie scale contract, Portis has up until October 31st, 2018 to agree to an extension. If one is not reached by then, then Portis will be eligible for restricted free agency for the 2019 off-season. Portis showed his offensive potential in his 3rd season, showing he can be a productive player for the Bulls moving forward. Extending Portis makes sense, but when is the right time?
Just based off reports, the Bulls are waiting for the 2019 off-season to spend big money on free agents. Here is a quote from Mark Scharnowski, Bulls reporter/host:
Whether or not that is true, what is true is the cap flexibility is there for the Bulls to have max space in the 2019 off-season. And what could be more true is the Bulls could be more appealing to free agents by that time as well. But let’s get back to Bobby Portis. A Bobby Portis extension now will eat into Bulls cap space for 2019, the question then becomes how much space do the Bulls need? If offering a player like Thompson or Irving a max contract is their goal, going off the 2019 cap space projection of 108,000,000, the space needed to offer them the max is 32,400,000(30% of the salary cap). So how much space are the Bulls projecting to have in 2019?
There are a lot of factors that go into that projection. Factors such as the Lavine/Nwaba extension, the Bulls 2018 6th and 22nd pick salary projections, and their 2019 draft pick salary projection. And most importantly the final salary cap number for the 2019-20 season. Let’s assume it will be close to and use that salary cap projection. Let’s also assume the Bulls extend Lavine and his 2019-20 salary cap hit is 16,000,000, and they also extend Nwaba with a 2019-20 cap hit of 5,000,000. Also let’s assume they stay at 6th and 22nd spots for the 2018 draft which would be a 2019-20 cap hit of 4,707,600 and 1,927,100. And let’s go ahead and say the Bulls will just miss the playoffs next season and end up with the 14th pick. (Just to be clear not my prediction, but I assume they won’t be too far from that 14th spot.) The 14th pick for 2019-20 would have a cap hit of 2,851,900. And until the Bulls make additional moves I assume; Felicio, Dunn, Markkanen, and Valentine will still be on the roster with their salary cap hits along with Portis’ cap hold. That would give the Bulls a team salary of 64,814,736, which projects the Bulls to have 43,185,265 in cap space.
Again, that is just a projection. It is not accurate as I mention because of all the factors that will determine that number. But it is clear the cap flexibility is there to have max space for those players, more than enough. And according to our projections, they could have about 10 million in space left over. Which is somewhat important because it is over the MLE projection amount for 19-20, which is 9,161,000. Which means the ability to offer a max and still outbid teams who could only offer the MLE is possibly there for other free agents. But let’s get back to Portis’ extension.
Does it make sense for the Bulls to extend Portis this off-season? The Bulls have recently let most of their upcoming restricted free agents hit the open market; Jimmy Butler, Miroitc, and Lavine recent examples. And personally that is what I believe what will end up happening and I would tend to agree with that. I get the risk, but most teams aren’t projected to have space in 2019. I like the Bulls chances at retaining Portis at a reasonable contract in 2019 while maximizing the space they can have that off-season. That to me makes the most sense for the Bulls if they are valuing cap space in 2019. Gives you the most flexibility while still allowing yourself to likely retain Portis.