There isn’t a ton of optimism that the Chicago Bulls will make many — if any — major moves this offseason. Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas told the media after the NBA draft on June 23 that he has the support of the front office to spend, even if it means going into the luxury tax.
Don’t count on that happening, though. The Bulls have entered the luxury tax just once in their history, back in 2013, and it’s highly unlikely it will happen again this year. That means some middle-of-the-road talent will likely be heading to the Windy City.
A few players have been mentioned as names to watch for the Bulls, and one of those is Los Angeles Lakers center Mo Bamba. In a June 23 appearance on 670 The Score’s Bernstein & Holmes Show, insider Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times said the 25-year-old Lakers big would love to play for the Bulls.
Cowley: Mamba ‘Wants to Be a Bull’
Co-host Dan Bernstein asked Cowley if there might be a defensive-minded rim patroller available for a reasonable price and one name specifically came up.
“Keep an eye on Mo Bamba,” Cowley told Bernstein. “This is a guy that’s wanted to come to the Bulls for the last couple years. I don’t know if it was something that was engrained in him growing up and that’s what he saw … and that’s what he fell in love with, but this is a guy who wants to be a Bull.”
The sixth overall pick for the Orlando Magic in 2018, Bamba was traded to the Lakers last season as part of the four-team trade that ultimately sent Patrick Beverley out of L.A. The 7-foot, 230-pound center suffered a high left ankle sprain this past season, which forced him to miss over a month with L.A., but he had some good games when he was healthy.
While with the Lakers, Bamba averaged 3.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 0.6 blocked shots, shooting over 31% from beyond the arc in 9.8 minutes a game. Those numbers are down from the ones he put up in Orlando, when he averaged 7.3 points, 4.6 boards and shot just under 40% from downtown in 17.0 minutes of work per game.
Bamba has a non-guaranteed $10.3 million contract for 2023-24 that becomes fully guaranteed at the end of June, and it’s doubtful the Lakers will pay it, so he could very likely be a free agent soon.
Is There Room for Bamba in Chicago?
The Bulls are currently attempting to re-sign veteran big man Nikola Vucevic, who started all 82 games for them last season. HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto reported on June 18 that the Bulls and Vooch are looking at something close to a three-year deal worth around $65 million.
Bamba would be an affordable backup option, with his salary likely falling in the $5-6 million range for next season. “Rim protectors don’t fall right into your lap. You have to cultivate one, or one has to come and play for you,” Cowley added. That’s true, but Andre Drummond, 29, was Chicago’s backup center last year.
Drummond has a $3.4 million player option he’ll need to decide on by June 29 (he’ll likely accept), but Bamba could be a real option if the Bulls want to move on from Drummond, who scored 6.0 points and grabbed 6.6 rebounds in 12.7 minutes of work last season.
It’s not major drama, but Chicago’s backup center position will surely be one to watch in the coming months.