Chicago needed help at point guard and was below the salary floor. Rondo was the best free agent point guard remaining. He upgraded the Bulls next season, and they could afford the help.
Later adding another perimeter player with subpar outside shooting in Dwyane Wade complicated matters. But, just as at the time of the signing, Rondo’s 2017-18 salary was the big unknown variable.
Now we know.
Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders:
$3 million is not a trivial amount, but if the Bulls waive and stretch Rondo, his cap hit would be just $1 million next season. That’s manageable.
In that scenario — counting Nikola Mirotic‘s cap hold and the salary for the No. 15 pick in the 2017 draft — Chicago projects to have about $24 million in cap space (though that’s based on a cap projection that could significantly change if the Collective Bargaining Agreement does). That’s not enough for a max contract, but the Bulls could extend one to someone with up to nine years experience by renouncing Mirotic (again, based on the current system).
Wade has a player option, and if he opts out, that would add major space. Chicago’s other players under contract through 2017-18 — Robin Lopez, Doug McDermott, Jerian Grant, Bobby Portis, Denzel Valentine — also appear to be easily movable.
The Bulls don’t have an easy road ahead, but at least they’re not beholden to Rondo beyond this season.