Bulls Lead

Bulls Should Target Brogdon in Free Agency

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The Search For the Next Bulls Starting Point Guard is Just Up the Road and the Standings 

During the Chicago Bulls‘ end-of-season press conference, Vice President of basketball operations John Paxson made it abundantly clear that if they expect to compete, the team’s off-season priority must be to improve the point guard position. According to Paxson; “We have to get better at that position. We understand as an organization that’s a position that if we’re to make a step in the right direction, that we’re going to have to address. No beating around the bush on that one.”

What’s not so clear is which player the Bulls should target at that position. Speculation has it that the team could either trade for Lonzo Ball or Mike Conley or draft any of the remaining point guards not named Ja Morant with the 7th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Another option is to sign one of the many point guards hitting the free agent market this off-season, including Patrick Beverley, Ricky Rubio, Darren Collison, or even former Bull and league MVP Derrick Rose.

The league record-best and Central division rival Milwaukee Bucks just suffered a devastating loss to the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals. If the Bulls really want to address their point guard situation while dealing the Bucks another significant loss, it’s abundantly clear that they should prioritize signing restricted free agent guard Malcolm Brogdon to an offer sheet this offseason.

WHO IS MALCOLM BROGDON?

26-year-old Malcolm Brogdon is a 6’5”, 229-pound combo guard entering restricted free agency this offseason. He was drafted by Milwaukee in the 2nd round of the 2016 NBA Draft and later became the 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the Year. Brogdon has been a vital role player for a team who came up just short of an NBA Finals berth.

As a result of his production, league executives predict that Brogdon will likely receive offer sheets in the range of $15-20 million per year from several interested teams. One team that has a need for his skill set and the available cap space to sign him is the Chicago Bulls.

OFFENSIVE PRODUCTION

Brogdon had a very good but injury-shortened season. He was the only player in the league and just the eighth player in NBA history to reach the 50-40-90 club. His breakout season averages of 15.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG and 3.2 APG were impressive for a role player in a Giannis-centric offense, where he was usually the fourth or fifth option every night.

At this point in his career, Brogdon is not quite a high-level facilitator or playmaker. His game is more contingent on floor spacing where he can capitalize on his elite catch-and-shoot three point ability and highly underrated pick-and-roll driving ability, which he converted at a very efficient rate last season. 

DEFENSIVE PRODUCTION

While playing at the University of Virginia, Brogdon was voted the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ Defensive Player of the Year and twice named ACC Defensive Player of the Year.

Though not an elite one-on-one defender, his size and strength allow him to effectively guard multiple positions. This is an advantage and a necessity against pick-and-roll schemes which constantly force defensive switches. Brogdon also ranked sixth in the league in defensive win shares this season playing with the top ranked Bucks defense. He would likely continue to benefit by playing with young rim protector Wendell Carter Jr.

MILWAUKEE’S FREE AGENT DILEMMA

If Milwaukee expects to keep Giannis Antetokounmpo happy and prioritize retaining their own players for another deep playoff run, they must first consider resigning Khris Middleton to a long term contract. With rumors already circulating that Giannis could potentially leave after his contract expires and with Milwaukee not being a traditional free agent destination, the Bucks may have no choice but to retain Middleton.

After being selected to his first All-Star game, the Bucks forward will almost certainly decline his $13 million player option and opt for unrestricted free agency (UFA). Middleton will surely be seeking contract compensation equal to other statistically similar wing players like Andrew Wiggins, Gordon Hayward and the Bulls’ Otto Porter Jr. This means the team may have to shell out a max-level, four-year deal with a starting range of $30-32 million next season.

Assuming a $32 million first-year max salary and when you include the current Giannis and Eric Bledsoe contracts of just over $25.8M and $15.6M respectively, the Bucks could have nearly $74 million tied up in just three players next season. Then when you add another $28 million in guaranteed team contracts, that cap amount balloons to $102 million. The league’s projected salary cap for the 2019-2021 season will be $109 million. This would only give the Bucks roughly $7 million in cap space to work with.

“SUPERMAX” PROBLEMS

If they resign Middleton to the max, the Bucks’ 2019 projected cap number still does not include any money allocated to retain UFA center Brook Lopez or the impending, five-year “Supermax” extension – beginning at $42.6 million – which the Greek Freak will command when he hits UFA status in 2021.

Suffice it so say, the Milwaukee Bucks have a bit of a free agent dilemma on their hands. They will be hard pressed to keep their league-best, Eastern Conference Finals contending team together – let alone add any additional free agent help to the mix.

THE BROGDON DEAL?

Milwaukee retains the right to match any RFA offer sheet made by another team. Additionally, the team has full Bird-Rights on Brogdon, which allows them to go over the cap to re-sign him. However, if the team decides to match an offer sheet which is more than the cap space they have, his new salary would still count against the cap and could easily put them in luxury tax territory.

So the real question then becomes – “Can Milwaukee actually afford to keep him?”

The Bucks drafted Villanova guard Donte DiVincenzo before last season and will likely guarantee Sterling Brown ($1.6M) and Pat Connaughton ($1.7M). This is where Brogdon’s restricted free agent situation becomes very interesting for the Bulls.

CASE CLOSED

Malcolm Brogdon is a high basketball IQ player who fills multiple needs at the point guard position – Outside shooting, defense, facilitating – and has recent deep playoff experience. He can be the perfect complimentary player to other young superstars and another team’s core unit. With a clear need for an upgrade at the point guard position, that other team should be the Chicago Bulls.

If the Bulls are serious about taking the next step in the right direction, Brogdon is the player they need to prioritize. Hey Paxson, no more beating around the bush on this one!

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About Ben Rodriguez

NBA league analyst and Chicago Bulls basketball writer. A true Bulls fan since the Jordan era and long after.

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