Bulls avoid luxury tax is not really news, since it has been widely reported for over two months that the team would almost certainly stay under the tax threshold as soon as Erik Murphy was claimed by the Utah Jazz after the Bulls waived him.
But for some strange reason, the overwhelming majority of Bulls fans still believe that avoiding the tax was the team's number one priority after Derrick Rose suffered another season-ending knee injury. While ignorance of the law is no excuse, it is simply inexcusable for a Bulls fan to not realize that the team actually tried to pay the tax this season.
Fans who read Bullsville on a regular basis are already aware of this fact, and these well-informed folks are the ones who make Bullsville the "Home of the intelligent Chicago Bulls fan". But with all of the comments I have seen all around the internet since "news" of the Bulls avoiding the tax this season became "official", I figured I needed to devote a story to it.
Why do so many Bulls fans think that the Bulls' only concern after the Rose injury was avoiding the luxury tax? There are several reasons, a few of which are actually based in fact.
- Until the 2012-13 season, the Bulls had never paid the luxury tax since its inception (it first came into existence in the 1999 Collective Bargaining Agreement).
- The Bulls are consistently one of the most profitable franchises in the NBA, and for some reason many fans want the team to have a higher payroll just to have a higher payroll (even if it limits their ability to make roster moves, and even though there is no correlation between having a higher payroll and winning).
- National writers, like Bill Simmons, say that Reinsdorf is cheap.
- Some writers, like this guy whose Twitter profile asks people to "Please take me seriously as a sports journalist", publish blatant lies to make Reinsdorf look bad:
the team has never once paid into the luxury tax
This guy should probably be banned from ever writing another story about the Bulls, ever- it takes what, two minutes to check out ShamSports' Complete History of Luxury Tax Payments?
So how can we be sure that the Bulls first priority wasn't to avoid the luxury tax? It's quite simple, actually.
Before the Bulls traded Luol Deng, they offered him a contract extension. It was widely reported, and even confirmed by Deng, that the team offered him a 3 year, $30 million extension. The CBA dictates that contract extensions for veterans can only be four years in length, including the current season, so they offered Deng as many years as they could.
If Deng would have accepted the Bulls' offer, CBA rules would not have allowed the team to trade him for 180 days. With Deng's salary on the payroll for the remainder of the season, the Bulls would have been $8 million over the luxury tax threshold, even after losing Murphy's salary.
Between their luxury tax bill and missing out on the cash distribution paid to teams that don't pay the tax, it would have cost the Bulls approximately $13 million this season if Deng would have signed the extension. They would have made some of that money back if they had kept Deng- assuming they would have been more successful in the postseason with Deng on the roster, they would have made money from the extra home playoff dates.
It would have basically been impossible for the team to avoid the luxury tax with Deng on the roster- they could have dumped a significant amount of salary to get under the threshold, but the team proved in 2012-13 that they don't care to operate that way. They could have gotten out of luxury tax territory last season by dumping Rip Hamilton's contract at the trade deadline, but it would have cost them a first-round draft pick to do so.
Wisely, they refused to give up a draft pick, so they paid the luxury tax instead- and they would have done the same thing this season if Deng would have accepted the very fair offer they made him.
He may get a little more than $10 million a year this summer as an unrestricted free agent- but it almost certainly won't be with a team that features not only two players who have been First Team All-NBA in the last four years, but also a coach who is widely regarded as one of the absolute best in the league.
Don't believe everything you read- the plain and simple truth is that the Bulls preferred to keep Luol Deng long-term than to avoid the luxury tax in 2013-14.