Bulls Could Face Roadblock in Pursuit of 23-Year-Old Rim Protector

Chicago Bulls

Getty Nic Claxton #33 of the Brooklyn Nets warms up.

The Chicago Bulls need to address the backup center position this offseason. If they thought they could pry Nic Claxton away from the Brooklyn Nets, though, they might want to reconsider.

The Bulls got by with a combination of Tristan Thompson, Tony Bradley, and even Derrick Jones Jr. behind starter Nikola Vucevic last season.

A more consistent and versatile presence is needed.

But one NBA executive tells Heavy’s Sean Deveney that they may not have the means to make an offer too rich for the Nets’ liking.

Nets Willing to Match

Claxton profiles as someone who would help the Bulls in a couple of areas. He is a 6-foot-11 center with a 7-foo-2 wingspan that showed potential to stretch the floor early on. That has since gone by the wayside.

He remains a solid paint defender despite being listed at just 215 pounds.

The first pick of the second round in the 2019 NBA Draft, Claxton is coming off of a career-best 8.7-point, 5.6-rebound season, his third as a pro. He shot 67.4% from the floor which was also a career-high. His 1.1 blocks per game were down from 1.3 per outing last season.

He still would have led the Bulls last season.

That rim protection is surely a big part of why Nets general manager Sean Marks wants to retain his services as the executive explained.

He is not going to get more than a midlevel offer from a team like Charlotte or Chicago, and if that is the case, they’re comfortable matching it. He is restricted, they can match anything another team gives him. He is looking at something like three years, $35 million…Sean is a believer in development and they are not going to give up on him that fast.

The Bulls will have access to the mid-level exception worth about $10.3 million this offseason.

They will not have cap space to sign anyone above the vet minimum unless they lose Zach LaVine and renounce other players. If that happens, they will have bigger problems than securing Claxton’s services.

Go After Claxton Anyway

Just because the Nets say they are willing to match any offer for Claxton does not mean that the Bulls should not make an overture. This could be a smokescreen to deter teams from even trying as the executive does not think the Nets view Claxton as the guy at center.

They are not sold on him as the big guy of the future but at that number, they’d keep him around, and know they can move him in a deal next summer if they have something better in mind. Trouble is, they’ve got a short window here so they can’t wait for him too long.

A Western Conference executive recently told Deveney that the Bulls could look to stay below the luxury tax and swap out guard Coby White for Philadelphia 76ers wing Matisse Thybulle. Their biggest hurdle would be finding a third team with Philadelphia also looking to shed some salary.

Perhaps they pivot instead to something with Claxton and White plus a future pick. They cannot trade the 18th pick directly. But they can move the player immediately after making the selection.

The Bulls also have a future first-rounder coming from the Portland that will convey the next time that the Trail Blazers make the playoffs.

Plus, Brooklyn did entertain the idea of moving Claxton in January, per Brian Windhorst on the “Hoop Collective” podcast. However, Hoops Hype’s Michael Scotto reported that they would only do so if it brought back a “star or really high-caliber starter”

Bulls Options to Upgrade

The Bulls could have to get creative to fill out their roster while improving on the margins. That could even lead them back to a familiar face in Thaddeus Young. Securing a budding talent such as Claxton, though, would be beneficial short and long-term.

Marks is well aware of that and sounds as though he will do what is necessary to keep Claxton in the fold in Brooklyn.

Despite Claxton’s yips at the free-throw line during the postseason, Bulls vice president of basketball operations, Arturas Karnisovas, would be doing himself and the Bulls a disservice to not force the Nets’ hand. Even if it is only to make them commit the resources.

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