Bulls signings of Brewer, James and Amundson- the hidden motive

Bulls signings of Brewer, James and Amundson- the hidden motive
Photo by Keith Allison

It has long been rumored that the Bulls will amnesty Carlos Boozer this summer, a move that would put them under the salary cap and keep them from of paying the luxury tax next season. The only problem with that scenario, according to CBA guru Larry Coon, is that doing so would only give the Bulls about $8.7 million in cap room.

That's just a waste of time, because that won't get them a top-level free agent, and it also would mean that they would have to renounce the rights to all of their free agents just to use that cap space- and clearing that cap space would mean that they couldn't use the Mid-Level Exception ($5.305 million) next season.

The Bulls could clear more cap space by dumping Taj Gibson and Mike Dunleavy in trades where they don't get back any salary, but all indications are they they don't want to do that (and rightfully so). Taj and MDJ are exactly the kind of productive veterans on reasonable contracts that the Bulls need to compete for a championship.

So how do the Bulls add another big-time scoring threat without decimating the quality depth they need to win a championship? The Tribune's KC Johnson writes that recent moves by the Bulls front office indicate that they might be looking at either trading for a disgruntled star, or doing a sign and trade for a big-time free agent:

Tom Thibodeau said the Bulls' rotation is set, so the additions of Ronnie Brewer, Mike James and Lou Amundson — the latter two signed Thursday — are in part late-season injury insurance.

Potentially of more importance, they are offseason depth that can be used in a bigger move.

That's because, according to sources, Brewer's and James' deals are structured with non-guaranteed team options for a second season. That puts those contracts in play for trade talks this summer.

If we assume that Amundson's deal also has a non-guaranteed team option for next season, he and Brewer could be traded at salaries of $1,316,809. James, who has been in the league longer, could be traded at a salary of $1,448,490. That's $4,082,108 that the Bulls can trade away to match salaries in a trade, and their new team can simply cut them and owe them $0.

That $4 million is huge, because in any trade for a high-salaried player, the Bulls can only take back $5 million more in salary than they send out. It's especially important in a sign-and-trade, because usually the team sending their free agent out doesn't want to take back much salary- they want cheap, young talent and draft picks.

And assuming the Bulls and Bobcats both finish as high as they can in the standings this season, the Bulls would get the #17 pick in the draft from Charlotte, as well as their own pick at #20. That's another $1,395,400 and $1,215,300 they could include in a trade, or a total of $6,692,808 in outgoing salary, without touching the current roster.

The Bulls could also include two more of their own future first-round picks (let's say 2015 and 2017), plus Sacramento's first round pick in 2015, 2016 or 2017 (the pick is top-10 protected each year, then it turns into a 2nd round pick).

Obviously, the Bulls would prefer to just trade Boozer's expiring contract in any deal they can make this summer. While it's certainly possible that a team might do that if the Bulls send them enough other assets, I wouldn't hold my breath. I'm just going to assume for now that the Bulls are going to amnesty Boozer.

So let's assume that Nikola Mirotic will sign this summer for the Mid-Level Exception. Kirk Hinrich has made it clear that he wants to remain a Bull, and since they will have his Early Bird Rights, they can pay him up to $7.1 million without using their Bi-Annual Exception. I also won't be surprised if they bring Nazr Mohammed back for another year at the veteran's minimum.

That leaves the Bulls with this roster:

PG- Rose, Hinrich
SG- Butler, Snell
SF- Dunleavy
PF- Gibson, Mirotic
C- Noah, Mohammed

Yes, that's the exact same rotation the Bulls are running with right now, with Rose replacing Augustin and Mirotic replacing Boozer. Just making those 2 changes to a team that is 34-14 since the first of the year and 19-7 since the All-Star break (and add the #17 and #20 picks in the draft), and you've already got a fringe contender.

But there's no need to fear, Underdog is here. Sorry, I mean in Part 2, I'll look at the possibilities for how to finish the roster.


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    Don Ellis started covering sports professionally when he was 15. The same year (1980), as a student assistant at Seeger Memorial High School in West Lebanon, IN, he was one of the first in the world to use, study and implement analytics in basketball. He attended Daytona State College and Ball State University, and some of his past credits include InsideHoops (NBA Runaround: The NBA According to Ellis) and ESPN Florida (The Florida Sports Reporters), where he was fortunate enough to work with many rising stars, including NFL Network's Dan Hellie, Redskins coach Jay Gruden, Magic radio and TV personality Dante Marchitelli, and WSB-TV (Atlanta) Sports Director Zach Klein. In addition to running the Bullsville blog and officiating basketball, baseball and football for the KHSAA, he is also a bass player and vocalist who writes and produces music in his spare time (you may remember his internet hit "I Hate Eddy Curry"). He's a 3rd-generation Cubs fan, a Bulls fan since the days of Van Lier and Sloan, and a life-long New England Patriots fan. He's seen Primus 9 times and thinks Les Claypool walks on water. By far his greatest accomplishment is being a father of three and grandfather of one.

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