I will presume the Bulls hit the trade deadline with several goals. I will place them in order of my own personal order.
1: Ensure adequate cap space is available to pursue a max FA in 2010.
2: Have a playoff caliber team for this season.
3: Make incremental future improvements.
How did the Bulls do?
On item #1, mission accomplished. The Bulls trade of John Salmons will get them far enough under the cap to ensure a shot at a maximum free agent as long as the cap is over 51.77 million. That seems like a lock given the league's memo that the cap would be between 50-54 million this summer, and the follow up memo that ticket revenue was only down 1.7% vs an expected 6-7% drop.
Let's be honest, it was a buyers market out there. When you think of what the Knicks had to do to dump Jeffries (give up a 2012 top 5 1st, the option to swap picks in 2011, and the guy they took high in the lotto in 2009), the Bulls got off awfully cheap in terms of dumping Salmons. They gave up two seconds, and the right to swap in 2010 which is probably no better than 50/50 to be used at all and extraordinarily unlikely to cost them more than 5 slots even if it is used (with the worst pick they could give up being pick #11).
The trade of John Salmons deserves an A in my book given the circumstances it was made under relative to the rest of the market and the Bulls needs. Now we won't find out if it was necessary to get that max cap space until this summer when Salmons chooses whether to opt in or opt out, nor will we find out if we can use that max cap space wisely until then. Still, even if the Bulls only have a 2% chance at getting LeBron you go for it because it means titles if you're successful.
On the second note, the Bulls may have failed quite miserably. Despite Benjamin's claim that Flip Murry is a quality player because of his offensive and defensive ratings, I'm not buying it. I don't think this team is better with Flip Murray than with John Salmons. He's a worse shooter and doesn't bring much else we need to the table. I expect Kirk Hinrich's role and minutes to increase with Flip Murray picking up some of the slack, but it's going to be a downgrade.
Similarly, I don't think Hakim Warrick is as bad as his offensive/defensive ratings, but I think he's also a step down from Tyrus Thomas. The Bulls will have to hope that increased chemistry yields something positive for the team in the case of Tyrus for Warrick, but I don't think Tyrus was such a distraction that it was hurting the team on the court in any way.
There's no two ways about it, the Bulls are a worse team for the 2009-2010 season today than they were two days ago despite Gar Forman's words to the contrary. The other problem with making the playoffs is the Bulls directly strengthened the two teams fighting them for the last two spots.
Gar Forman claimed he kept the core together and simply named everyone who was still on the roster. I'm sure this struck most Bulls fans as amusing given that they were shopping Kirk for expirings the entire last two months and coming up empty then named him a core piece they wanted to retain all along after the fact. The Bulls didn't get killed in talent, but they definitely lost something.
Chicago is a half game ahead of Charlotte and two and a half ahead of Milwaukee. They need to stay ahead of one of those two teams (or have Miami fall off the face of the Earth) to make the playoffs this season. That could prove awfully difficult all of a sudden. Certainly, the Bulls needed 2010 cap space, so trading Salmons was an imperative, but the follow up trade of Tyrus is awfully dicey. Does that trade help them make the playoffs? Could they not find a better expiring guard than Flip Murray or did they value the pick over production this year?
That leads us to the final goal. The Bulls gave themselves incremental future improvement by picking up a draft pick from the Bobcats. Would you value that pick over production this year? That's an interesting debate in and of itself. That pick isn't coming due for a long time. It has potential to be incredibly valuable, but only if the Bobcats miss the playoffs for five straight seasons starting in 2012. That's not necessarily a bet I'd want to take, but given that the Bobcats have never made the playoffs it's not an impossible gamble either.
It's hard to project the value on that pick except to say that it's highly likely to have relative minimal value. It's most likely to be worth a guy who turns into a low level rotation player [mid 1st rounder] that's not coming due for a long time. It is something, but it's not really much.
The decision to opt for that pick over talent is an interesting one, but I'll try to break it down into three simple scenarios:
1: If the Bulls make the playoffs they absolutely made the right decision in the second trade.
2: If the Bulls missed the playoffs, but Flip Murray was the best available guard regardless of the hope for future pick inclusions then they made the right trade.
3: If the Bulls had a better one year rental player offer that included a better guard, but didn't include future draft considerations then the Bulls made the wrong trade.
The real reason that this isn't a straight make/miss based on the playoffs is that John Salmons being traded is the most likely reason we'd miss the playoffs. With Hakim Warrick on the roster, Tyrus staying over Flip Murray probably wasn't going to help us that much anyway. We have a decent replacement for Tyrus while not having any replacement for Salmons. However, trading Salmons was an imperative whether it cost us the playoffs or not.
Were there better guard offers out there for Tyrus? I don't know for sure. It stands to reason the Bulls could have acquired Roger Mason and Matt Bonner for Tyrus + Jannero Pargo, but that's just a guess. Would that put the Bulls in better position to make the playoffs? I'd think so, but Mason may not outproduce Murray in the same situation. The role in San Antonio is simply easier.
Overall trade deadline grade for the Bulls: B
I don't grade on a curve like the rest of the reviewers, where merely accomplishing some things that helps them gives them an A. Accomplishing minor goals is a C. The Bulls accomplished a significant one in ensuring cap flexibility in the future at a cost that was far less than what New York was able to achieve which means they did a ncie job.
The cost to do those things may prove high as missing the playoffs may directly impact the quality of player we get with that cap space, and they didn't pull off a trade that made you go "wow, they sure did great there!". However, they do what they always do. They made quality moves that put them in a better position than they were prior to the deadline.
One of the things I've always respected about the Bulls management team is after a trade, I can always immediately recognize why a deal should work out well for them [even if it doesn't always ultimately happen that way]. You'd be surprised how few teams you can say that about.