While the Bulls have opened up some room under the cap this summer, I've noted several times that the bar to using this cap space to bring in a max player is so high that Chicago shouldn't even really consider the idea. However, using Carlos Boozer as a trade chip, technically remaining above the cap, and then having more exceptions might allow the Bulls to pursue big time free agents including Carmelo Anthony.
Prerequisites to a Melo trade
1: Melo had to tell New York he's not coming back and make them believe it.
2: Melo has to limit the destination to Chicago and one other team that can take him without New York's help in order to force New York to accept that he's leaving.
3: The Bulls have to outbid that other team.
4: The Knicks will have to be willing to stomach one year of Carlos Boozer
5: Melo has to ultimately choose the Bulls
How this could possibly work
First, looking at the top five things, it's a long list, but all of them are reasonable. I think New York probably expects Melo to bolt. A source recently came out and identified the Bulls and Lakers as two teams he'd be into going to, and listed the Bulls as favorites. The Knicks don't seem like a team scared of taking on some salary in order to improve themselves, they have massive, massive amounts of revenue.
The Lakers qualify as "the other team to apply leverage" as they have room to sign Melo to a max deal, however, L.A., while having cap room, won't have much of anything useful to give up for Melo unless they're willing to part with their draft pick in this draft (unlikely if it's a star potential player).
Chicago offers up Carlos Boozer, their first, Charlotte's first, and the 1st rounder from the Kings acquired as part of the Luol Deng trade for Carmelo Anthony. While none of the first round picks projects into a star player, New York is bereft of draft picks to build around if they get rid of Anthony, getting three firsts for him will allow the front office to hit the reset button and start building through the draft again.
They'll be able to fill in the cheap type of role players that will allow them to build a talented team and still have some cap room available to make a big splash the next chance they get or possibly get their own star through one of their own picks later or a surprise player from one of these selections.
It's not a great offer, but it's probably better than what teams will typically get for a star who's leaving as a FA either way where there isn't a ton of leverage. The trick to limiting the Knicks leverage is the threat of the other team to pry Melo away without the Knicks help.
What this leaves the Bulls
|Mike Dunleavy Jr||$3,326,235|
|Richard Hamilton buyout||$333,334|
|Vet min x5||$4,576,215|
The Bulls are over the projected luxury tax line by almost two million dollars, probably not all that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. They could also potentially drop the minimum salary commitment by getting rookie 2nd rounders (I've slotted in 3rd year vet minimum players which is the amount any player going into his third year or longer would receive).
The Bulls could also offer D.J. Augustin the Bi-Annual exception which would add two a shade over a million dollars on top of this number. I think D.J. will demand more than that on the open market, and while I'm sure he's appreciative of his opportunity in Chicago, he'll likely be thinking that this window of opportunity won't look quite so good with Rose back next year. Certainly not good enough to take a smaller offer to stay.
The Bulls would still need to find a back up center and a back up point guard. However, if Mirotic translates this team might be the best team the Bulls have fielded in the post-Jordan era even if Rose never comes back to superstar levels. If he does, it's trivially the best team.
The Bulls could have three premier offensive threats in Rose, Melo, and Mirotic if all goes well. If they're still able to bring a similar caliber defense that they've done in the past, they'll finally have the multi-faceted offense to attack their opponents with multiple players that can create for themselves and multiple players who can shoot the three at the same time.
Shot creation, three point shooting, spacing, and depth... It could all be there for the Bulls.
It would remain to be seen if Rose could make a full come back, whether Carmelo can learn to be an effective team player, and whether Mirotic could translate, but it's a team that could potentially become a title favorite instead of a "puncher's chance" type of squad.
It won't be easy to pull off, but Carmelo Anthony via trade might be the Bulls best shot at a title in the next three seasons.
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