The Chicago Bulls have come to terms with Kirk Hinrich. The deal is for two years at the taxpayer MLE meaning the Bulls won't be restricted by the hard cap. The rest of the Bulls off-season should now come into focus.
What does using the MMLE on Hinrich mean?
For starters it means we can't use it on anyone else. The MMLE was the Bulls only exception if they go over the tax apron. This means that the Bulls will be restricted to sign and trade moves and the veteran minimum for the rest of the off-season. If the Bulls had kept C.J. Watson [200k more this year, but one less year], then the they could have used the MMLE to add someone else while still filling their PG hole with Watson.
That said, it also means the Bulls are setting themselves up to pay luxury tax dollars and potentially significant luxury tax dollars. The use of the MMLE means Chicago wants to keep the flexibility to go over the 74 million dollar tax apron rather than being hard capped at that amount.
It certainly isn't an all in scenario like keeping Watson, Korver, and using the MMLE on a wing would be, but it still does show considerable financial commitment which is nice to see.
What does Hinrich do for Chicago?
From an impact perspective, it's my personal opinion that C.J. Watson is a considerably better player than Kirk Hinrich and fills their needs far better as well. The Bulls obviously didn't feel that way or they would have kept Watson who was a cheaper overall commitment since he only had one season left.
Watson creates his own shot better and shoots from the perimeter better. Hinrich was at one point a better defender, but I personally don't believe that's the case anymore, particularly defending quicker PGs. Hinrich's played very, very poorly the past two seasons, and he'll need to play much better in Chicago.
My fear is that his situation in Atlanta was actually better for him than the situation in Chicago, and he played quite poorly there. In Chicago, he'll be counted on to create offense. In Atlanta, he merely needed to distribute the ball to other scorers. I don't see Hinrich as much of a shot creator at this stage of his career.
Korver likely returning, at least initially
Korver has no guarantee date, so the Bulls will keep him around for awhile. They have flexibility with Korver. At the very worst, they could probably trade him along with cash to a third team and have the third team waive him in order to create a trade exception. They could then use the trade exception to bring in a player later similar to what LA did with Nash except that their trade exception would be smaller [just five million].
This creates a great arbitrage situation for Chicago. Say the Bulls keep Korver until Jan 8th, then trade him to a team under the cap to have them waive Korver. They pay that team 1 million dollars. The team immediately waives Korver, and I believe owes him nothing [he'll have made more than 500k from Chicago already]. The Bulls will not have Korver on the books at all, so none of his salary will count against the tax, and the Bulls will have a five million dollar trade exception.
The team taking on Korver and waiving him gets $1 million dollars for free. The Bulls would owe more than $1 million dollars in luxury tax if they cut him themselves. It's a situation where everyone comes out ahead. It does require that at least one team the Bulls can work with remains five million under the cap or a team willing to use up a trade exception for the cash.
Bulls can match Asik
The stage is set for Chicago to match on Omer Asik. By using the taxpayer MLE (MMLE), the Bulls can exceed the tax apron. The fact that they are keeping flexibility open to go over the tax apron is a pretty strong commitment that Chicago will, at the very least, pay some luxury tax and is setting themselves up for the possibility of significant luxury tax.
It's only a guess, but I would say the Bulls are more likely than not to keep Asik.
Sign and trade or Vet minimum
That's how the Bulls can fill out the rest of the roster. Korver can be used in a S&T sent with some cash in order for a team to have a minimal cap hit used in the trade. The Bulls could then pay the salary and the other team would likely have no negative consequences to the deal.
However, this is only valid for a team that doesn't want to bring back the player themselves and still has the ability to sign the player. Many of the renounced FAs were renounced so teams could use the cap room. If the Bulls strike quickly, they could still work this out if the team has 500k of cap space left.
Example: Raptors sign and trade Bayless to us for 5 million dollars and take Korver back. They then waive Korver. They now have only lost 500k of cap space, and make the rest of their signings.
However, let's say Chicago doesn't work out this S&T before the moratorium is over. Now Toronto makes all of its signings. They no longer have the cap room left available to sign Bayless to that five million dollar deal, because they used it on their signings and renounced his bird rights in order to free up the cap room.
This type of scenario is fairly common throughout the league, so if the Bulls are going to use Korver in a S&T, the odds are pretty good they need to figure something out prior to the moratorium ending otherwise many of the options will dry up.
All in all, not a fan
Don't like this signing. I'd rather have Watson, but it is what it is. We'll have to hope Kirk has a resurgence back in Chicago.
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