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Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Bulls figure to be quiet at the deadline

By Nick Friedell

CHICAGO -- There are really only two players the Chicago Bulls wouldn't mind moving before Thursday's trade deadline: Carlos Boozer and Richard Hamilton. Trading either one would likely get Chicago out of a luxury tax hit at the end of the season and would save the franchise some money in the short term.

The problem for the Bulls is that there isn't much interest in either veteran as the minutes to the deadline tick away. Boozer has a mammoth contract that the Bulls will likely amnesty in a year and a half, while Hamilton just turned 35 years old and has been playing on a minutes limit for most of the season because Tom Thibodeau is so concerned that Hamilton's body will break down again.

Knowing these factors, and knowing the Bulls are trying hard to hold onto financial "flexibility" in preparation for the 2014 summer, it seems unlikely that they are going to make a deal by Thursday's deadline.

As usual, speculation abounds in regard to possible deals and their ramifications for the future. The most popular one being pushed in recent days is the Bulls landing J.J. Redick from Orlando. The deal makes sense on a few different levels, especially given that Redick signed an offer sheet with the Bulls almost three summers ago and was ready to come to Chicago before the Magic matched the deal. ESPN Insider's Amin Elhassan put together a proposal recently that would send Redick and a future second-round pick to the Bulls in exchange for Hamilton, Marquis Teague, Vladimir Radmanovic and cash considerations to Orlando.

Elhassan acknowledges the difficulties the Bulls would have given the fact that they are "hard-capped" for the season, but it's the last line that should give Bulls fans pause. Yahoo! Sports reported that Redick's agent, Arn Tellem, will be looking for a four-year, $40 million deal this summer. While he may not get that, it doesn't seem like the Bulls would be willing to invest that heavily in a player who would only make them marginally better.

"Conservatively assuming Redick would accept $7 million as a starting salary puts Chicago's payroll next season at almost $80 million, which carries with it the new hefty incremental tax penalties," Elhassan writes. "The Bulls have traditionally been a tax-averse team, so that would pretty much necessitate either the trade of Boozer to a team significantly under the cap, or using the amnesty provision on him, options that have been openly discussed before."

As it so often does when it comes to the Bulls and cap space, the conversation inevitably comes back to Boozer. Why would any team trade for a player with such an albatross of a contract? Also, the Bulls might be willing to eat the final year of Boozer's deal, but not the final two years at over $30 million. They still view him as a solid offensive player who can help them load up on wins in the regular season.

The bigger question for the Bulls, as it has been for the past three years, always remains the same: Are the moves they are making getting them any closer to beating the Miami Heat in a seven-game series? Let's say they found a way to make the trade for Redick, or one of the other players seemingly available on the market. Is the money they would have to invest in an extension worth the long-term hit to the cap? The point is, with the way the numbers break down over the next year and a half, the Bulls don't have much wiggle room under the salary cap barrier. They were built over the summer with a core of cheap, short-term contracts and an eye to the future. The reality for the Bulls is there isn't a player out there, at least one for whom they could conceivably get a deal done, that closes the gap with the Heat for the long term.

Aside from the fact that teams aren't banging down the door to get Boozer and/or Hamilton, that's the single biggest reason why the Bulls probably won't make any moves at the deadline.