Yesterday mid-afternoon, Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news that the Chicago Bulls were entertaining the idea of using the mini-Mid Level Exception (MMLE) on Mike Dunleavy Jr. and were meeting with him. Just a few hours later, a tweet from ESPN’s Marc Stein broke the news that the Chicago Bulls and Mike Dunleavy have verbally agreed on a 2 year, $6 million deal that will become official on July 10th. As of now, there are no details if any of the contract is non-guaranteed or if there is an option.
The move is slightly surprising as many Chicago Bulls beat writers such as Mike McGraw, Aggrey Sam, and K.C. Johnson have previously reported that it is highly unlikely that the Bulls would utilize the MMLE this season and would likely only add a few players on minimum deals. K.C. Johnson theorizes that the signing may be an olive branch to Rose after the Bulls let go of assistant Ron Adams, who Rose was close with. The Chicago Bulls 2013-2014 payroll at just over $80 million which means the Bulls will be paying approximately $15 million in tax.
Signing Dunleavy has several big implications for Chicago.
First this signing spells the departure of Marco Belinelli unless Belinelli is willing to return to the Bulls on a veteran’s minimum deal. This may not be all bad for Chicago. Last season compared to Belinelli, Dunleavy posted up better points and rebounds and as many assists per 36 minutes. Dunleavy also posted better better true shooting , effective field goal, and defensive rebounding percentages while also boasting a better offensive rating and win shares per 48 minutes. The Bulls will lose Belinelli’s ability to work off of the dribble but that is a role that can be taken up by Kirk Hinrich.
Secondly, the signing finally gives the Bulls a much needed 3-and-D to help spread the floor and play defense. This past season Dunleavy shot a career high 42.8% from beyond the arc while going 44.2% from the field. In his career, Dunleavy is a 37.2% three point shooter and a 44.4% field goal shooter. Paired with Jimmy Butler, who shot 38.1% from three point range last season, and Kirk Hinrich, who shot 39.3% from long range last season, the Bulls now have some pretty good floor spacing.
Lastly, the signing may give some much needed rest to both Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler throughout the season. One of the biggest concerns with Tom Thibodeau is his tendency to play his starters an absurd amount of minutes. With Dunleavy in the rotation, Deng and Butler may see their minutes drop to normal NBA levels which could help the team come playoff time.
While the signing isn’t a flashy, the move could be of great benefit for the Chicago Bulls if Dunleavy does what is asked of him. Early reactions to the move have been positive. CBSSport’s Matt Moore calls the move a steal at $3 million per year. Time will tell if Dunleavy is a steal and if the Bulls made the right move.