Omer's contract offer will test the Bulls seriousness in paying for a winner. If the Bulls are willing to pay the tax and do whatever it takes to win, then this is a pretty easy deal to match. If not, then this is a pretty difficult deal to match.
I'm not quite sure how the math works out on the offer can be 25.1 million, but Houston is clearly offering Asik the maximum legal amount over three years. My math comes out to something like this:
Year 1 - Roughly 5 million
Year 2 - Roughly 5.23 million (4.5% raise)
Year 3 - Roughly 14.11 million (12.922 * 1.045 * 1.045 represents max value * two max raises)
However, I'm guessing the max contract will be slightly higher than the 12.9 million I'm using which is last year's number or the MLE is expected to raise slightly. Either way, I think it's fair to assume that however the math works out exactly the number is accurate. I've wrote it a few times, but if you're unfamiliar with why the contract looks so odd, it is the "Gilbert Arenas" provision.
Long ago, Gilbert Arenas was a restricted free agent who played his way into a near max deal. The Golden State Warriors badly wanted to keep him, but with only early bird rights they could only match a deal that they could fit under the salary cap. To rectify this, the league made up the Gilbert Arenas provision so that teams can not offer restricted free agents deals their original team could not match.
The first two years had to be at MLE prices (why the second year we won't know, but it seems to do nothing other than screw over the player, in fact the sensible thing to do is to get rid of bird rights all together and make it so you can simply go over the cap to pay any player who was on your team the previous season). At any rate, in the third season the salary can jump the maximum allowable salary of what the player would make in the third year of a real max contract (presuming the signing team has cap room).
The contract average then has to fit in the cap room of the offering team (in this case slightly over 8 million).
Should the Bulls match this contract? Well, Omer's on a very reasonable deal for years one and two. At five million per season, he's a tremendous defensive presence. I think Chicago would have no problem paying him that rate for his ability even if he remains a 20 minute per night back up.
The third year, he jumps up to a 15 million dollar expiring contract which can be used to match salaries in trades and attempt to bring in a star player. Granted, under the new CBA the value of expirings is likely to decrease substantially as the salary matching rules have lessened considerably. However, if the Bulls are over the tax, the salary matching rules are far more strict so having that 15 million dollar deal might be necessary in order to match a trade for a star.
All in all, three years 25 million isn't a crazy deal for Asik overall, and the actual timing of the payments isn't particularly poisonous to Chicago either. In his one very heavy year, the Bulls are generally expected to bring over Nikola Mirotic as well as amnesty Carlos Boozer while Luol Deng will be off the books [though possibly will resign with Chicago and depending on how things go in the next couple seasons will determine the price and whether that happens].
If Chicago is willing to pay the tax this year, then they can make out a very good team simply by keeping C.J. Watson, signing Brandon Rush, and keeping Omer. When Derrick Rose is back healthy, this squad would compete with last year's squad while likely sitting around five to six million into the luxury tax.
Of course, this will put Chicago in a tough spot with Boozer next season. If the Bulls keep him, they'll definitely be in the tax then as well and though C.J. Watson falls off the books, the raises everyone else gets from yearly increases will chew up his salary while the Bulls will owe Taj Gibson a substantial raise which means they'll likely be sitting around 10 million into the tax if they don't amnesty Boozer.
They'll also have a much tougher time in year three keeping Luol Deng while staying out of the luxury tax. Keeping a quality team together at this point makes the repeater tax seem far more likely even if Chicago isn't scheduled to go deep into the tax in any given year.
Quite frankly, paying that amount of tax SHOULD be a no brainer relative to the profit margin and revenues of the team. They are banking serious cash, and even if they pay a bunch of tax over the next three seasons, they'll likely be in the top three in terms of profits in the NBA. However, ownership needs to give clear guidance as to their tax tolerance, because Omer is the player you want to let go if someone has to leave over the tax.
If you're going to get squeamish over the bill later, you have to decide that up front rather than losing Gibson or Deng in the next couple of seasons. If the Bulls are truly willing to spend, this is a great deal for them. Cheap salary, cheap salary, massive expiring they can use as trade value to bring in a star. If they aren't willing to spend the final year is enough to make them let Asik go.
The Bulls can pursue an alternate course as well. They could tell Houston they intend to match, but they have reservations and for a first round pick they'll let him go and work out a S&T. Once an official offer sheet is signed this option is off the table, but the July moratorium means needs no official offer sheets can be signed until July 11th. As such, while this is an oral agreement between Asik and the Rockets, the teams can meet to restructure it.
This move allows the Bulls to save face on Asik and get something of value back for him. In this case, they can go back to the fan base without looking to cheap to try and win and have some type of asset to help add a quality player down the line. Quite frankly, I'd be happy with this solution as well. I love Asik, and you can never have enough defensive big men, but with Noah and Gibson both being considerably better, I'd rather allocate more money to the backcourt or an offensive oriented big man than a third defensive big.
Getting the draft pick will limit the team this coming year somewhat as they'll be weaker for having lost Asik, but I think the Bulls best chance to win starts in the 2014-15 season and adding draft picks probably enhances rather than reduces that window. If Houston is unwilling to do a S&T then I'd hope Chicago has enough power from ownership to ensure luxury tax payment and keep Asik to maximize the team quality.