Jerry Reinsdorf said he'd pay the tax for a winner. The tax was $1 per $1 spent over 71ish million at that point and even at that point most fans were in a "I'll believe it when I see it state". What will the Bulls do with a new, more punitive tax?
The luxury tax level isn't set yet, but it's rumored to start at $1.75 per $1 over and escalate in $5 million increments with possible additional penalties for teams paying it in consecutive years. A situation which doesn't seem all that hopeful for anyone but the richest of owners paying it.
Granted, Jerry Reinsdorf is one of the richest of owners. The Chicago Bulls are one of the most profitable franchises. They could likely add 60 million to payroll before they drop from massive profits to the break even level where many teams operate.
In order to win a championship, they may be willing to go there. We won't know until it happens. To go 10 million over the tax, it will add about 30 million in payroll based on the present estimates. 10 million isn't a magic number, but it's a number that allows the Bulls to address their biggest needs.
The Bulls are only a piece a way from serious contention for the title. They need more perimeter, scoring, shooting, and ball-handling at the shooting guard position. The need has been well documented and subject to probably 20 different posts of mine and likely 20 more if the lockout continues to drag on.
There are candidates out there to be had via trade. Contracts other teams won't really want to touch of good players, but ones who are overpaid or don't fit in as well as they could. Andre Iguodala, Monta Ellis, or even Joe Johnson [and rumors of easier to match salaries might make this more possible] might be available.
I'm going to look at 2012/13 salaries, not because we won't play an 11/12 season, but because extensions for Rose/Asik will make 2012/13 considerably worse than 11/12 from a cap perspective, and the Bulls won't likely find a one year big contract.
Assume the max for Rose will settle around 14.5 million in year one. Omer Asik will also require an extension at this point, lets assume he gets matched at the 5 million MLE.
Carlos Boozer $15,000,000
Luol Deng $13,365,000
Derrick Rose $14,500,000
Kyle Korver $5,000,000
Ronnie Brewer $4,370,000
C.J. Watson $3,200,000
Joakim Noah $11,300,000
Omer Asik $5,000,000
Taj Gibson $2,155,811
Jimmy Butler $877,300
74.7 million without cutting anyone.
The luxury tax barrier will probably sit around 70 million in two years. So if the Bulls are willing to go to 80 million payroll they'll have some options.
Korver, Brewer, and Watson are non guaranteed and can be cut with minimal payments, a plan that makes them fairly likely to be included in trades. Say Brewer + Korver + Watson for Iguodala. Iggy will add an two million to the Bulls payroll over Korver/Brewer/Watson which puts the team payroll around 77 million for eight players. Fill up the roster with veteran minimum guys and the team is sitting just inside the 80 million range.
The Bulls would then add the remaining players at the league minimum and would be sitting around 10 million over the tax with top 2-3 talent in the NBA.
The same exercise can be accomplished with Ellis, but he'll be a few million cheaper than Iguodala saving the Bulls potentially 10 million if they went that route instead. Joe Johnson is probably right out as his contract is simply too rich to pay.
If the Bulls are willing to go into the tax they have the pieces to make things happen, and there are opportunities out there to be had. The question will simply become whether or not the more punitive tax scares them off.
Will they give up an extra 30 million for a 20% better shot at a title? I hope so, but we won't find out until we have a new CBA.