Making sense of Chicago's free agency options

Either the Bulls haven't contacted any free agents yet, or they've kept a lid on whom they're talking to. The Bulls are in a difficult spot in terms of what they can get done this season in terms of adding people and may quickly have to come to deal with the loss of Omer Asik who looks likely to get an offer that prices him out of what Chicago wants to pay.

What's the deal with Omer?

Omer Asik had discussions with both the Blazers and Rockets after midnight. The Blazers have gone ahead and offered Roy Hibbert the max as an RFA, but it seems more likey than not the Pacers would match such an offer seeing as though it's only for four seasons. Asik is certainly their back up plan.

The early rumor is that the Rockets are offering him a deal that will probably pay him 5/5/11/11 over the next for seasons. Asik's status as early bird free agent means the first two seasons will be around five million per year before teams can upgrade to the max in the final two seasons.

Is it worth it to Chicago to match on Omer to play as back up center for Chicago when his salary jumps to 11 million per season? Probably not. That's too much money to allocate to that role on the team. At the same time, it's not an insane offer for another team to make. Crappy centers are getting around 10 million per season, and four years averaging eight million per year isn't really out of bounds for Asik.

Unlike under the old CBA, the Bulls trying to get a S&T with Asik seems like a stretch. Omer has little incentive to do so as you can no longer offer bigger raises or an extra year with a S&T. The Rockets/Blazers have little incentive to do it as they can simply call Chicago's bluff.

The Bulls could probably wrestle a second round pick out of one of the teams and a trade exception in order to remove the risk of matching, and they might possibly be able to get a bit more, but odds of a serious return in trade value are low. This is why I noted at the deadline last season that the Bulls should consider trading Omer right then if they weren't going to be able to afford him this season.

That said, trading Omer at that point may have looked foolish if Rose stayed healthy, and we needed him for a playoff run. That's the type of tough decisions the Bulls front office will be making perpetually now.

Bulls should try and deal with Gibson immediately

The Bulls can offer Taj Gibson an extension early, and if they're looking at how much teams are willing to pay Asik, they should be panicked about how much Gibson will make in two seasons. If Gibson won't agree to a four year 32 million dollar extension, then Chicago should look to trade him at the deadline (or right now) this season rather than ending up in the same boat they're presently in with Omer.

Unlike last season with Omer, the Bulls aren't as likely to seriously compete for the title this season. Thus if they decide they can't come to an agreement with Gibson long term, making a move now makes more sense than watching him leave for nothing later.

What are the Bulls doing in fA?

Early reports are that the Bulls contacted Kirk Hinrich and Brandon Rush.

Kirk Hinrich

Forget what you think you know about Kirk Hinrich from his Bulls days, since leaving Chicago his game has gone south. His role in the offense shrunk considerably at Atlanta where his per 36 passing and scoring numbers both dropped considerably since being with the Bulls.

Hinrich's 32 now with limited athleticism, his defense was fundamentally strong but never particularly disruptive and age combined with pedestrian athleticism and length are both likely to take their toll. He finished with a PER of 9.2 [out of the league caliber] with Atlanta last season and had a 9.8 with them after the trade to bring him in the previous season.

I'd love Hinrich at the vet minimum, but Hinrich's probably not made so much money in his career that he's looking to sign at a discount. If we have to dip into the MLE/MMLE [which we have will depend on whether we keep Asik and the non guaranteed players] for Hinrich then it looks like a significant mistake to me.

Quite frankly, at 3 million why not just keep C.J. Watson who's simply a much better player at this point in his career?

Brandon Rush

Rush is an intriguing fit next to Derrick Rose when he comes back healthy. The downside to Rush is that he's not a combo guard, so the Bulls will be playing with a very thin point guard rotation until Rose returns. The good news is that Rush is the type of player that could help the Bulls considerably as a SG.

He shot over 50% from the field last season, over 46% from the three point line, and has the size/athleticism to defend [even if he's not an elite defender]. The Bulls could certainly use his shooting packaged up with his athleticism. On the downside, Rush isn't the best ball handler, nor is he much of a shot creator.

I think he makes a quality MMLE option for the Bulls though and is a quality fit long term, especially with the Bulls drafting Marquis Teague so the need for a long term combo guard is less once Derrick Rose returns.

How about O.J. Mayo?

The Grizzlies opted not to give Mayo a qualifying offer making him an unrestricted free agent. Mayo would be another solid fit in Chicago giving them more of a combo guard who has very good athleticism along with decent shooting/shot creation. Mayo's never lived up to his reputation in the NBA, but he has plenty of skills the Bulls need and would be given more responsibility to create offensively than he was in Memphis.

His downfall in Memphis came as the team added more and more offensive pieces and his role diminished, but the Bulls lack offensive pieces and would be in better position to take advantage of his strengths. Chicago may have initially figured that Mayo was simply out of their price range, but they should monitor the situation and consider adding him if they can get it done.

What's the story with our non guaranteed players?

Chicago has three options with their non guaranteed players, and which of them they take will say a lot about their commitment to winning vs their commitment to profits.

1: Keep the players

Obviously this helps maximize the quality of the team. All three of them were quality players that contributed to what the Bulls did the past two seasons. If they keep them around again, they'll have the ability to match salaries at the trade deadline or simply use their skills to improve the team this season.

2: Trade the players now for other players

The Bulls could offer a team some salary savings and use such a trade to accumulate more 1st round picks or talented but expensive players. This move would also improve the team in the long run, but it would cost a quite bit of money.

3: Waive them

They'll simply let the players walk away with getting nothing for them. This will maximize profits, but it obviously won't do anything to improve the team. The Bulls will be worse for this action.

I'm expecting them to choose door number three here. They've talked about making basketball decisions rather than financial ones, but C.J. Watson said flat out that the Bulls told him keeping him was related exclusively to whether they were in the luxury tax.

Now the Bulls would have to pay a ton of luxury tax to make the above moves, but for an ownership group that's made around 100x their investment in the Bulls, I think they owe it to the fans to do exactly that. Even paying significant luxury tax, Chicago would rank in the top three in profits.

Many teams, such as the Dallas Mavericks, were willing to forgo profits in order to win a championship, it's not too much to expect the Bulls to sink to 3rd in the NBA in profits to improve their team while they have a chance to win. That said, this is an ownership decision not a Gar/Pax decision, and it will be made regardless of what we would like to happen.

Don't expect much action soon

Chicago will likely play free agency patiently. They should be looking for ring chasers and the best values after the initial guys are off the market. They don't have the money to knock anyone's socks off and are likely unwilling to use their non guaranteed contracts to trade for a big name player.

As such, the best plan is to get the best of who's left once things settle down. The Bulls effectively have one bullet to use over the vet minimum with the MLE/MMLE, so they'll need to do their best to make it count.

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  • Wow the more I read about the Bulls situation with trying to decide on who to sign and who to let walk, the Build are screwed with their big money players contracts. They really need to trade one or two of their big money making players cause this team is not built to win a championship anytime soon.

  • If the Bulls won't match 5/5/11/11 for Asik, they might as well go into complete rebuild mode.

  • In reply to JayJohnstone:

    You must be kidding Losing Asik you think the Bulls should rebuild lol are you drinking milk in your water?

  • The current core is a team one that would half to be in the lux tax to be elite.

  • In reply to JayJohnstone:

    It's difficult to build anything that won't be significantly in the luxury tax and still be elite when you've got a team with three superstars that took a discount and will still be deep in the luxury tax as the primary competition.

  • I don't agree with you on this one Doug. It makes no sense for the Bulls to just let him walk. The 1st two years of the contract are totally doable.

    The Rockets would at least have to give up Lee or K-Mart. The Bulls could always trade Asik next year and get more value than a 2nd rounder. Letting him walk for a 2nd rounder is ridiculous.

    I don't see Houston being that opposed to dealing one of thier SG's since they have like 5 of them.

  • It's time to think long term, not just what hole we need to fill next year and who we can get. We've been talking about the team the last couple of years under the "pay for a winner" assumption that we could just get players and then down the line we'll sort out the finances, and sure we worry about the tax but that's flexible. It's pretty clear that's not how it works. We need to think financially first, second and third when building a team.

    I think we have to count on the Bulls not paying the tax ever, and if they do it's like playing with house money. 70 million is the hard cap for next year. And it will be the hard cap for the future (OK, will probably go up a little, but contracts increase yearly too).

    With that in mind, how do you build a roster? I think you need at least 8 quality NBA players, and since we're on a budget, that's probably all we can afford.

    You have to have 3 core vets, whether that's Rose/Noah/Deng or some other players they'll be paid about the same. They take at least 40 million of your 70 million already.

    Lets also budget 5 million for the collection of scrubs down the end of your roster from position 9 onwards. Yeah in theory it could be a little cheaper, but you'll always have a guy you spend a bit more on for backup or whatever. So we're at 45 million.

    25 million for 5 players. The good news is that late first rounders and second rounders are cheap, so if you can draft like the Spurs and pluck a rotation guy at a high rate you can probably fill 3 rotation spots with them, then move them on before they get paid. Really tough to do that in practice but it's super crucial you do if you want to remain competitive, since rookies are such great value deals. Budget 5 million here, and really hope you can manage it.

    That leaves at best 20 million for two more vets. So in an ideal circumstance you could fit a Boozer type deal and a MLE deal ... but you leave yourself no wiggle room if a pick doesn't pan out and you need to sign a vet or whatever. So probably not. Boozer has to be amnestied at some point, we all know that. So realistically you're probably looking at a 10 million plus a MLE type deal, to leave enough buffer space that you don't pay the tax.

    So to this off season the question becomes: is Gibson good enough to fill that non-core vet above the MLE slot? If we match the Rockets deal is Asik?

    I think it's a clear no on Asik. I think gunning for a Lee S&T is also a bad move, Lee will probably want a MLE type deal and I think the Bulls can do better with that salary slot. On Gibson ... hmm, maybe on Doug's lower end 8 million per which gives you wiggle room to offer another guy about the same. If he wants 10+ million then we have to trade him.

    So, let Asik walk, try to trade Gibson for picks if he wont agree to the deal, and since we seem to be dead set on not giving Boozer the flick it's just sign some cheap vets on short term deals and go into a holding pattern for the year. Depressing, but given the operating parameters the Bulls have I don't see what else to do.

    Really at this point the Bulls are very up in the air going forward. Only Rose/Noah/Deng are certain (and we could still shake that up with a trade, although I doubt it). Boozer we'll probably amnesty at some point ... but who knows, will we cheap out elsewhere to make it work? We don't know if Teague or Butler will ever be good enough to be part of a rotation. We don't know if Gibson or Asik will be affordable. And we don't know if we'll ever even see Mirotic.

  • In reply to Shakes:

    Smart post, Shakes.

    The two majors in building a championship team are talent and money. Not just throwing money at a problem area, as was done with Boozer, but getting the biggest bang for the buck. Keep the cost/benefit ratio as low as possible. That is exactly why some of us wanted to see the Bulls trade or buy more picks on draft day!

    How much does a superstar cost in the new CBA? $17 million/yr? Then would Chicago be better off with a star and a scrub or with two Asiks? Of course, superstars are even harder to get than 7-footers!

    Houston will likely offer something for Asik if they really want him. Maybe Asik would sign for a bit less to stay with the Bulls, say 4 years at $29 million, but maybe not - there was, last I checked, no state income tax in Texas, so that's another 7% per year savings in TX.

    Asik should have been moved 2 years ago for Mayo, which might have gotten the Bulls past Miami in the ECF. The talent evaluators overvalued him. Hopefully Houston will offer something in an S & T. They probably will. If not, it's a tough call, but overpaying is a sure long term recipe for mediocrity!

  • There is one incentive to do a S & T

    Offers to Omer from other teams are limited to the MLE for next season

    But if Bulls sign their own player, there is no such limitation. They can sign him to $8 mill a season for 4 seasons & then trade the contract. Omer & agent get $8 mill in first year rather than $5 million

  • In reply to bulls6:

    No they can't, the Gilbert Arenas rule means the Bulls are limited in the same way other teams are.

  • As I've pointed out several times over the past week or so. IF the Bulls are unwilling to amnesty bozo on July 11th, the Bulls have only 2 options this offseason they can match an offer to Asik, or they can let him go and use the full MLE on a free agent. They cannot do both due to the "apron cap".

    So the question is, is there a better free agent available at the full MLE, (4 years @$22 million) than Asik at $5/5/15. Given all the craziness that surrounds free agency, I am not sure that there is.

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    With the new CBA, is there still such a thing as the "injury exception?" If so, wouldn't the Bulls be eligible for it, considering D. Rose will most likely miss the better half of the season?

  • In reply to Kenny VIII:

    Disabled player exception requires the player to be out for the remainder of the season. Rose is expected back so doesn't count.

  • As Doug, said the handwriting was on the wall to trade Omer as we could likely not afford a(nother) sizable contract for a 14 minutes a night no offense player. We could have had a solid player in Courtney Lee .433 and 40% from three on 3.5 attempts per game with solid defense(and if necessary a solid trading chip). A better player then CJ, Ronnie, Bogans i.e any of the Bulls stiffs.

    Now we have Nothing. Losing Omer for NOTHING. Gar/Pax not only are you Jerry's patsies, yes the guy who insulted Pax's coaching hires so they would buzz off and not cost him any real money, but you also threw away a shrewd late round pick that could have garnered you a first round proven vet talent. You f-ing idiots. This team is back in full league joke mode.

  • As Doug stated we should have seen the handwriting on the wall, and traded Omer(for Courtney Lee) when we had the chance. It's that simple. The last thing we can afford(due to Reinsdorf's cheap ass amnesty $5 Mil a year refusal) is sign another sizable contract for a no offense 14 minutes a night player.

    Courtney Lee at .433 and 40% from three on 3.5 attempts a night is easily better then CJ, Ronnie, or Bogans. And young as opposed to old and infirmed like the "Answer" Rip Arthritis formula Hamilton. Plus he would have made a solid trading chip. Gar/Pax i.e Jerry's patsies have lost Omer for Nothing. NOTHING. The guys who watched as Jerry Reinsdorf insulted their prospective coaching hires so he wouldn't have to pay any real money. Then instead we get stuck with My Cousin Vinny. The Bulls are now back in full league joke mode.

  • Two posts lost? Whatever. The Bulls in Gar/Pax(due to Resindorf's cheap ass refusing to spend $5 Mil a year on Boozer's amnesty) have probably just lost Omer for nothing. NOTHING. We could have had a .433 shooting, 40% from three on 3.5 attempts per game Courtney Lee. And a sloid chip in a trade. A player better then CJ, Ronnie, or Bogans and young as opposed to old infirmed Rip Arthritis forumla Hamilton.

    Gar/Pax whow atched Jerry insult prospective coahcing hires i.e name guys so he wouldn't have to spend any money. Instead we got the clown My Cousin Vinny. The Bulls are back in full legue wide joke mode.

  • You are right Doug! We as Chicago fans deserve better! The darn Cubs and have set a unprecedented degree of mediocracy and we have been spoiled with having the greatest basketball player in Jordan play for the Bulls and win then 6 championships along with the rest of the cast, especially Pippen....but when is it ok to pocket all the profits, much of them from years gone by (Jordan years) and not capitalize on winning the lottery and drafting local boy Derrick Rose and not going even slightly into the tax to surround him with a team that can win the championship?! Mark Cuban has been spending his billions on the Mavericks for years and has very much deserved the championship the Mavs won last year!

    We aren't that far off from having a champion contender again in Chicago! Sure the Heat and Thunder, and others are out there but we aren't or weren't that far off...well with Rose hurt and not knowing what capacity he is coming back at is a huge ?.

    I'd love us to get Mayo, he isn't much of a risk in that we need a scoring SG and the change in scenery would do him very good!

    I'd love us to trade with Houston for KMart, or even Lee.

    If Houston wants Asik that bad then lets get something for him!

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