Bulls enter free agency with little flexibility
CHICAGO -- When trying to decipher what the Bulls' plan will be as they head into free agency early Sunday morning, one must first understand what is already in place as far as both personnel and financial figures are concerned. When broken down into individual parts the decisions that face Bulls' executives Gar Forman and John Paxson are easier to understand.
This is the group Forman and Paxson intend to build around heading into next year.
Derrick Rose: The superstar guard will be rehabbing his knee well into the season, but the organization likes the way his program is going. The team is hoping to have him back around the All-Star break or soon thereafter. The will be the first year of Rose's max deal he signed before last season.
Joakim Noah: The 27-year-old center continues to rehab the ankle injury he suffered during the playoffs, but he still expects to play in the Olympics for Team France and should be ready to go for the start of training camp. He will be in the second year of a $60 million dollar deal.
Carlos Boozer:The veteran forward has not lived up to his contract in his first two years in Chicago (in fairness, even if was putting up 20 and 10 every night it would be hard to live up to that bloated deal), but he will be counted on early in the season to score without Rose on the floor.
Luol Deng: Much has been made of Deng's decision to play in the Olympics. Most within the organization were resigned to the fact he would have to have surgery to fix a torn ligament in his wrist, but Tom Thibodeau went on “Waddle & Silvy” on ESPN 1000 Friday morning and said that he expected Deng to be ready for training camp. If that's the case, that is a huge emotional boost for the Bulls. Deng has two years and almost $28 million left on his deal.
Rip Hamilton: The veteran shooting guard struggled to stay on the floor all of last season because of various injuries. Given his track record the last few years, it will be hard to expect him to stay healthy for an 82 game season. He has another guaranteed year on his deal at $5 million.
Taj Gibson: One of the Bulls' most consistent players, Gibson is in the last year of his rookie deal; he is already in the early stages of talks about an extension. The Bulls hope to keep him around for a while.
Jimmy Butler: The second-year forward figures to see a lot more playing time this year. He is still in his rookie contract and will be a bargain for the Bulls if he can produce.
Marquis Teague: The newest Bull won't be expected to produce much early, but Thibodeau has stated he will let the 19 year old earn his playing time, especially with Rose out for a majority of the year.
The possible returnee
There's only one name in this group because it's the only one Forman seems insistent on keeping at this point.
Omer Asik: Forman has repeatedly stated that one of the Bulls' top priorities this summer in re-signing Asik. The young center regressed offensively this past season, but he is still regarded as one of the best defenders on the team. He will be a restricted free agent beginning on Sunday. The Houston Chronicle reported on Saturday that Asik will be one of Houston's primary targets. The most a team can offer the big man in the first year of a new deal would be $5 million and a small increase in the second year. A team could really make it hurt is in years three and four of the deal, however. Re-signing Asik would put the Bulls right up against the luxury-tax threshold. While Forman has been consistent in saying the Bulls would make basketball decisions, not financial ones, the organization will do what it can to avoid going too deep into the tax.
The question marks: These players are likely on the way out because of their salaries, or because the Bulls are looking for an upgrade.
Kyle Korver:The long-range bomber improved defensively this season, but he hasn't been as consistent from beyond the arc as the Bulls would have liked. Given the financial constraints the Bulls are trying to impose on themselves, it's a stretch to think they would bring him back for $5 million. There aren't many pure shooters out on the market, though.
C.J. Watson: Even with Teague in the fold, the Bulls need to sign at least one more point guard with Rose on the mend. They have a $3.2 million option on Watson, but his inconsistencies in the playoffs, combined with his price tag, may have booked him a ticket out of town.
John Lucas III The diminutive, determined point guard wants to come back to Chicago and was well liked because of his work ethic, but the Bulls will likely look to upgrade before making a final decision on him. He is an unrestricted free agent who could get a raise.
Ronnie Brewer: With Butler in the fold, the Bulls feel they have a younger, cheaper option who can replace Brewer on the roster. Thibodeau always liked Brewer's work ethic and approach but the swingman appears to be on his way out.
The potential targets:
This is where things get fuzzy for Forman and Paxson. The moves they make in free agency are contingent upon the moves they do or don't with the current roster.
For argument's sake, let's say they match an offer for Asik at $5 million coming into this season and decide not to bring back, Korver, Brewer, Watson or Lucas. That means they're still hovering close to the luxury-tax threshold, which is expected to be around $70.3 million, according to ESPN capologist Larry Coon.
With Asik in the fold, the Bulls would have nine players under contract after signing Teague. That also means they'll need to sign at least three more players to fill out the roster. Those players would have to come cheaply. With that in mind, let's take a look at some of the options the Bulls may look at heading into Sunday.
Kirk Hinrich: This is the man plenty of Bulls fans want to see back in the United Center. He would fit in well with what Thibodeau has built and would help bridge the gap until Rose returns. The reunion sounds nice on paper. The reality is that Hinrich, who made $8 million last season in Atlanta, would likely have to take a pay cut of between $5-6 million to return. If he's willing to do that, the Bulls would be happy to have him.
Andre Miller: He falls into the same boat as Hinrich. The Bulls would love to have him, but he made almost $8 million last season as well. It's doubtful he'd be willing to take that much of a pay cut next season for a team that doesn't appear to be built for a title this year.
Jonny Flynn: The former Syracuse star has struggled early in his NBA career, but he is still young and has listed the Bulls as a potential landing spot, according to ESPNLA.com. He would come cheaply and play alongside Rose when he returns.
Delonte West: The veteran guard comes with plenty of baggage, but he has been in the league long enough to know what to expect and he would also come cheaply. He only made $1.2 million last year in Dallas.
Brandon Roy: Yahoo! Sports reported Saturday that Roy will meet with the Bulls this week and is one of the finalists for his services. The issues for the Bulls regarding the Roy are multi-faceted. Pending other moves, the most Forman would likely offer is in the $2-3 million range. Would Roy want to come to Chicago when he could make more elsewhere and may have a better shot to win a ring this season? Would the Bulls feel comfortable adding Roy and his chronic knee problems when they already have Hamilton on the roster?
Courtney Lee: He's been on the Bulls' radar for a while, and they could have had him a couple years ago if they were willing to part with Asik. If there isn't much of a market for Lee, who is a restricted free agent, the Bulls would likely be interested.
Danny Green: The Bulls would love to have the young forward in the fold, but as a restricted free agent, he figures to get a lot more than Chicago can offer.
Jamal Crawford: The former Bull did not have a solid season last year in Portland. Like the others on the list, if he was willing to take less money, the Bulls may be intrigued.
Shannon Brown: The Chicago native averaged 11 points a game last season in Phoenix. He was miffed a couple years ago when the Bulls didn't make a push to sign him. He would likely listen if Forman picked up the phone.
Maurice Evans: Evans is a veteran and made just over $1 million last season. He doesn't have the same athleticism he had early in his career, but he could come in and give Thibodeau spot minutes when needed while tutoring Butler.