Wade's likely opt-in creates Bulls challenges

Ben Belden

One of the Bulls' many questions entering this summer appears to be answered: Dwyane Wade appears to be opting in to the second year of his contract.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune wrote in his latest Bulls Q&A piece that "most everyone associated with the Bulls believes Wade will pick up the option and remain in Chicago for a second season." If this proves true, Wade is owed $23.8 million this upcoming season before his contract expires next summer.

The decision comes as no surprise, as it is doubtful that Wade, who will be 36 next January, will be able to attract the same type of money on the open market.

While Wade's opt-in will have tremendous personal benefits, what it likely means for the franchise is another year of mediocrity.

In some way or another, the Bulls are looking for a way to re-build and challenge for Eastern Conference and NBA titles. Unfortunately, Wade's opt-in will delay that process. If Wade does indeed opt in, the Bulls will have about $28.5 million in potential cap room, with decisions needing to be made on Rajon Rondo ($13.5 million team option), along with restricted free agents Nikola Mirotic, Joffrey Lauvergne, Cristiano Felicio, and Michael Carter-Williams.

In short, if the Bulls bring all or some of these guys back, they lack financial flexibility to add any other pieces.

The unfortunate truth, especially in the NBA, is that if not improving, you're actually getting worse. If the Bulls fail to make changes before next season, they may fall victim to just that.

How is it, then, that the Bulls can take the first step into rebuilding a team that would make the Bulls teams of the 90's proud? Well, first off, there is Jimmy Butler. As discussed before, moving Butler may be a chance the Bulls have to take to expedite the rebuild process. Coming off perhaps his best season, Butler's stock has never been higher.

If the Bulls want to speed up the rebuilding process, dealing Butler is the way to go. However, finding a trade of equal value for Butler's talents is going to be difficult, given the climate of the NBA.

With the Cavs and Warriors dominating the Eastern and Western Conferences, respectively, many teams are hoping for a rebuild that reaches its peak at least three or four years in the future, hoping that those teams will be on the decline by then.

Teams like the Celtics, who have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, will be reluctant to part with valuable long-term assets for short-term success. The addition of Butler would make the Celtics more competitive, but whether it would allow the Celtics to compete with the Cavs is certainly up for debate.

If the Bulls are looking to deal Butler, a team like the Celtics likely will not be suitors, especially given that every indication is they will be pursuing the likes of Gordon Hayward this summer. The Lakers, on the other hand, might be interested in adding Butler, but may be unwilling to part with the second overall selection in the process.

If the Bulls are going to part with Butler and are interested in adding a lottery selection in the process, they are likely going to have to look further down the draft order to do so.

Regardless of what the Bulls choose to do going forward, Wade's opt-in limits their options.