The 2018 season was all about youth for the Bulls, as it should have been. Of the 12 players that were on the roster for the entirety of the season, 10 of them were, and still are, 25 or younger. Letting the young guns on the court more often helped the Bulls both develop and evaluate the roster while simultaneously piling up enough losses to earn a coveted high draft pick.
That plan put the Bulls’ two veterans, Robin Lopez and Justin Holliday, in a precarious position.
The experienced duo spent the majority of the second half as healthy scratches. While they were on the court, they both had career years scoring the ball and the coaching staff praised their leadership. We’ll find out soon if the organization values that leadership enough to keep them around.
They both have just one year left on their contracts, which likely makes them more tradeable now than they were back at the February trade deadline. However, it seemed that the Bulls were strongly, actively shopping Lopez and didn’t come close to finding a trade partner willing to meet their asking price. Will the Bulls be able to bridge the gap between their asking price and what the market actually values Lopez at?
Considering Lopez is set to make over $14M next season, can’t do much offensively but set screens and clean up around the rim, averaged less than five rebounds a game, posted a below average DRtg and isn’t of much use defensively against the pick and roll, my guess is no. Lopez has more value to the Bulls as a rotational big that provides leadership in the locker room while helping the Bulls reach the salary floor in 2019 than he does to them as a trade piece. Paxson has essentially already come out and said so:
“We do view Robin as part of our future,” Paxson said. “Even as much as the game has changed, Robin gives us a solid foundation guy. You know what you’re going to get from Robin every night. You’re going to get effort, rebounding, scoring around the basket. The time he’s not been playing, he’s been working on his perimeter shot, working on his range. He fits our team and our culture.”
Holiday, on the other hand, could interest someone. He posted a respectable 47.4 eFG% last season and is set to make just $4.3M next season. Also, moving him will free up 31.5 minutes a game on the wing for the Bulls, which might be necessary depending on who they add in the draft. The Bulls could probably find a trade partner willing to depart with a veteran backup point guard to acquire Holiday, which would fill the locker room void created by Holiday’s departure. Both Fred Hoiberg and Kris Dunn would benefit by having a veteran presence leading the second unit on the court next season.
The new league year officially starts two months from today. Until then, Lopez and Holiday’s futures will remain murky.