After being upset by the Washington Wizards in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs this year, this Chicago Bulls need to use this off-season largely to address what direction they want to take their team in. Counting on Derrick Rose to ever stay healthy again seems foolish at this point, but they still have a relatively deep team that features Joakim Noah (perhaps the best passing big-man in the league), Taj Gibson, Mike Dunleavy, Jimmy Butler, a vastly improved D.J. Augustin and an elite head coach in Tom Thibodeau. What they lack without Rose is someone who can score and create opportunities for everyone else on offense at a consistent rate.
This off-season, with the general thought process regarding Rose being hope for the best but expect the worst, the Bulls could look to add another star. Whether it is Kevin Love via trade or Carmelo Anthony in free-agency (who covers the scoring part but not the creating for teammates), the chance to do that may present itself this off-season.
The biggest hurdle for the Bulls may be clearing enough cap room to make a move like that feasible. The NBA salary cap for 2014-15 is set at $63.2 million, while the Bulls are already committed to over $64 million worth of salaries (per Hoops Hype). The Bulls certainly are a team that could approach the $77 million luxury tax threshold, but even then, they wouldn’t have enough money to give Anthony a max deal (which would entail giving him north of $20 million per season) or to support Love’s current deal, which guarantees him $15.7 million next year and he has a $16.7 million player option for 2015-16, that he will almost certainly decline in hopes of a max deal himself.
So for the Bulls to make any noise this off-season, they will have to clear a substantial amount of payroll. Logic would suggest that the easiest way to do that would be to use their amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer, who saw a decline in points-per-game, rebounds and field goal percentage in year four of a five-year/$75 million pact with the team. An ESPN report would suggest that the Bulls are hoping that they don’t have to go that route.
Forman said the Bulls will evaluate their options with Boozer. Sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that the Bulls are going to do everything they can to try to find a trading partner for Boozer before seriously considering the amnesty option. The amnesty clause would allow the Bulls to lose the $16.8 million cap hit for Boozer in 2014-15, but the team would still have to pay the veteran forward his remaining salary after releasing him.
To move Boozer, the Bulls would have to find a team that has ample cap space, and probably some sort of interest in trading a bad deal of their own. Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders suggests that the Sixers could be one of those type of teams.
The 76ers may likely find themselves stuck with Jason Richardson’s $6.6 million player option this summer; would swapping him for Boozer work for Chicago?
On the surface, this answer is an easy no from the Sixers perspective. Richardson isn’t someone that I necessarily want to see return, but if he does he doesn’t require nearly as much ball time as I think Boozer does. I’m also scared that Boozer could have a bounce-back year and keep the Sixers from returning to top-five pick land next year.
But what if the Bulls threw in a first-round pick?
Boozer’s production this season plummeted, so finding a taker for his remaining $16.5 million is not going to be easy, but given how many teams project to have cap space the question becomes would someone like Philadelphia or even Orlando trade a roster player for Boozer and the 19th pick?
If they did, then certainly it’s something worst considering. Overthinking this type of scenario is pointless though, because the Bulls aren’t going to give up a first-round pick in a deep draft just to avoid using their amnesty clause. And I’m not sure the risk of adding Boozer, who would require a lot of touches for someone who you have no interest in long-term, makes a ton of sense.