The cost of a max free agent

The cost of a max free agent

The rumors have already popped up linking the Bulls to Carmelo Anthony and slightly more laughable, LeBron James this summer. I have a feeling Chicago won't get its hopes up. The cost of a max free agent to Chicago is quite high for Chicago to bear, and in paying it, they'll limit how favorable a destination they are.

On top of that, which max FA is going to look at Derrick Rose's situation and think "He's definitely going to be healthy, I can win there!". The answer, of course, is no one. That's why Chicago shouldn't rush to open up max cap space just to get shut out. I expect Bulls management already knows this and are planning around it. There are a couple possible exceptions to this plan depending on what moves they can make right now.

Presently, the Bulls would sit around 12.3 million dollars under a projected cap of 62.1 million. However, Nikola Mirotic's salary eats into that figure as does the scale value of any draft picks the Bulls land this summer. How much the rookies cost the Bulls will vary, but if the Bulls get the Bobcats pick and their own, it will be another two to four million dollars depending where those picks land.

In the best case (Salary wise, worst case position wise) the Bulls would only lose around one million in extra room if they don't get the Bobcats pick and their own pick is non lottery.

In order to bid on Carmelo Anthony or LeBron James, the Bulls will need roughly 20 million in room. The ridiculous rumors have already fired up from New York that LeBron could head to Chicago. He could also head to my house to play on my team at the life time fitness ultimate hoops challenge, but I'm not holding my breath on either scenario.

To get to that 20 million, the Bulls need to amnesty Boozer, tell Mirotic to hold off until 2015, and trade off some other high priced salary (like Joakim Noah or Taj Gibson + Draft picks + Teague). If you knew you could get LeBron, you'd do it. However, in this case, you know you're not going to get LeBron.

There's a better shot at getting Carmelo Anthony, but would you really make all those moves just for the chance at it? I'd somewhat cringe at paying Anthony 80 million over the next four seasons anyway given that he's never experienced much playoff success and seems like a complete ball stopper, but if you could get Melo with a core of Rose/Butler/Noah it might work out.

The only problem, of course, is that you don't have much left on the roster. Maybe the Bulls can convince D.J. Augustin to come back at the minimum in this scenario. The Bulls now look like
PG: Rose, Augustin
SG/SF: Snell, Butler, Dunleavy
PF: Melo
C: Noah (or swap out Noah for Gibson and add the Bulls draft choices)

Maybe Melo will agree to a little less, and the Bulls will be able to keep their two draft picks. Maybe they'll be able to work it as a S&T with the Knicks to offer them the rights to the picks. Who knows. There's some flexibility there, but it's a team which definitely isn't ready to win in year one because it has no front court and no depth.

Fortunately for Chicago, they'd have Mirotic ready to come in next season, maybe if they moved their draft picks this year for 1sts next year they could add more talent in the draft next season as well. Either way, it'd give them more hope than the Knicks had of ever building around Melo, but it's still a team that doesn't feel like it has a great shot.

In short, the cap room plan? It's best case scenario is likely to land you Anthony on a team with no depth which isn't all that dissimilar from what the Knicks had going. It's worst case scenario is to leave you with a bunch of crap and overpaying some third rate free agent. The most talented guy the Bulls could bid on after Anthony might be Luol Deng which would be quite ironic and isn't happening.

In short, don't buy any rumors of the Bulls fixing this thing through free agency this summer. The cap room they have is generally being overstated and costs Chicago too much to acquire.

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  • Just what is the fascination with Carmelo Anthony? Why anybody thinks that guy is worth 20 mil a year is beyond me.

  • In reply to EJMF:

    First off - Bulls can't pay Carmelo 20M a year unless sign and trade. Even still, Bulls can't afford Carmelo at 20M with Rose already at 20M+ per year.

    If Carmelo wants to come to the Bulls, he'll have to fit into Boozer's money for 4 years. And if he wants that, I'm all for Anthony to the Bulls. Its a huge risk but having Anthony pair up with Rose is what both Rose and Anthony need. Rose needs someone who can command a double team in the closing minutes of games. Anthony has never played with a back court player of Rose's ilk who can be floor general and set up Anthony for high percentage shots. Anthony is not without his warts but he would provide an immediate shot at a 3 year championship window starting next year. A roster with a healthy Rose, Bulter, Anthony, and Noah is championship worthy even if the rest of the roster is not very good.

  • In reply to ripiceman:

    Now, if the Bulls do tank this year and land a top player in the draft, maybe they get the SG the team has needed forever, or even a PG that can shoot, moving Rose to SG.

    They could have Rose, the new SG, plus Mirotic comes over, and Noah and Anthony. That team could beat Miami or Indy. And they would have Butler and the Charlotte pick to build the bench. (This figures Taj goes to NY in a S&T for Anthony.) That is not so farfetched, but certainly it is no lock.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    We really need to kiil the 'switching of Rose to SG' thoughts. We're creating more challenges for Rose before knowing even he can come back at 100% at all. Rose is barely 6'3" and still has some improvement needed on his defense.

  • In reply to EDouble:

    I think the Bulls need to get the best guard they can and play him next to Rose. If that guy is a PG it's probably not quite as ideal, but it's not awful as long as he can shoot threes. Whomever is next to Rose needs to shoot threes.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    you think about positions to much... a shooter is a shooter

  • In reply to EJMF:

    Agree, I think he is not worth it. I'd pay that or even more for Lebron

  • The championship dream is over. This team will neither be elite or even a contender for the foreseeable future. The Bulls cannot afford top free agent talent, and aren't terrible enough for good draft picks. I completely agree, Doug...even if they could afford a top free agent, no one is choosing Chicago now; the league-leader in injuries. Deng was jettisoned for worthless draft picks, and cap space that won't get anything better than a decent role player. The only goal here was for ownership to avoid the repeater tax. They will now continue to dangle the carrot of Rose's potential for greatness and the possibility of uncovering a great hidden talent in the crap-load of low first/second round draft picks. I suppose there's still the possibility Snell will morph into Michael Jordan. There's about as likely a chance of that, as there is all these other fantasies about Lebron, great draft picks, or euro-saviors.

    Chicago Bulls fans...welcome to mediocrity limbo!

  • In reply to BullsMan:

    What, exactly, is the point of this post?

    Things can change very quickly over a single summer, let alone two summers.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    I'm guessing Doug is responding to a lot of the Bulls chatter that has occurred on the radio. Elsewhere too, but with the Deng trade a lot of callers have had fantasies about cap space and free agency. Most of these people probably don't follow the NBA that closely, so don't completely understand the Bulls financial situation. I think Doug was just trying to clear up some misconceptions.

  • In reply to Hoover:

    I'm questioning BullsMan's post, not Doug's.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    The point is, BullsMan is frustrated! OK, we understand that. For the last 3 years, we anticipated that the Bulls would get to the ECF and challenge Miami. And for 3 years in a row, injuries to Rose have squashed those hopes.

    Now, the #3 player on the team has been traded. Well, that move simply had to be made, IMO, for several reasons, but many fans disagree with that, and they can make a case for their belief.

    So, what next? We cannot be sure, there are too many variables. We would all like something more concrete, a plan with a guaranteed high percentage of success, but almost no teams have that. We just have to wait and see what develops, which means more waiting.

  • In reply to BullsMan:

    Welcome? We have been here for a long time my friend.

  • In reply to BullsMan:

    I understand your Bulls plight but not all hope is lost, the best realistic opportunity for the Bulls to be championship worthy again is simply - Mirotic being a stud and the ping pong gods to give the Bulls a top 3 pick or for them to somehow get a top 7 pick.

    Mirotic may not be Dirk but if he can become Dirk lite, the Bulls will be in good shape. A top pick in this years draft will go a long way in getting the Bulls back to championship status and recent and more trades to aid this effort would be prudent. Too many quality players in the top of the draft for the Bulls to miss.

  • In reply to ripiceman:

    I think that there is a very good chance that Mirotic will be the second best player that the Bulls have had since the Jordan era, particularly on offense. He also appears to fit the modern game extremely well, he is currently shooting 60% in total and 60% from 3 point range.

    So if you buy that he is better than either Deng or boozer offensively, and you are replacing Deng and boozer with Butler and Taj who are both as good as or much better on defense, then with Noah still on board the Bulls look to be a much better team next year if Mirotic comes over. Of course, it goes unsaid that everything is dependent on Rose's health.

    Getting rid of Deng and boozer, allows the Bulls to make the best offer possible to get Mirotic now, coming as close as is possible to guaranteeing that he will come this summer. I think that has been their 2014 plan all along. Getting Max cap space never factored into it. Their next opportunity at significant cap space likely won't come until the summer of 2016, when Noah's contract is up.

    Basically, we have to hope that Mirotic is a legit #2, and that we do well with our draft picks, and get as many extra picks(currently @2) as possible over the next 3-4 years. Filling in the team with judicious use of the MLE and other exceptions for quality/value veterans. Like using the bi-annual exception of Augustin for 2 years this summer. Although, I am not sure if the Bulls will have access to exceptions this summer if they get under the cap by amnestitizing the Hole.

    Is this the formula for a champion, not without some luck, but basically some luck is involved in creating every champion.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Great post.

    I'll never understand why so many people are willing to blow the team up and tank for the possibility of getting a high pick, when all the guys in the draft have proven exactly as much in the NBA as Miriotic. Not to mention they are all 4 years younger, and 4 years further away from being in their prime.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    I don't think you ever want to blow up the team, and now I think it's getting a bit late to tank.

    When the Bulls had 9 wins, if you moved Kirk, Deng, and didn't sign D.J. Augustin you would have tanked without blowing up anything for the future.

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    Very true, I'm sure Teague would improve if he was playing 30 minutes a night, but probably not that much, that quickly.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    MIrotic is definitely the Bulls best hope. He's projected out right now as probably one of the best talents from Europe ever to enter the NBA, but you never know how guys will translate.

  • In reply to BullsMan:

    It might be the case, I'm not going to deny the possibility, but the Bulls definitely have a window to still become an elite team if Derrick Rose can return to form.

    The biggest barrier to becoming elite is Rose's own regression, and I think that's still my biggest fear.

  • New York, Brooklyn and maybe Cleveland might be ahead of Bulls for playoff spot. Bulls are only one injury from nose dive into deep lottery. Kings may turn things around and so does Charlotte. You never know what the future may hold for us (Bulls) but I am keeping a positive perspective!

  • In reply to BullsDynasty:

    With 16 wins, the Bulls are going to have a tough time really tanking now.

  • Not sure how getting Carmelo Anthony on a four year max deal is bad, when are people going to learn that building a bench and depth can be done quickly and on the cheap. Worrying about depth shouldnt be the concern when we're trying to get a second star. Rose and Melo give us the best chance of any to win a title, especially when you add in Noah and Butler to the mix.

  • In reply to Dajody1:


  • I'm not too bad at math, but I do not get your calculations, Doug. You write that the Bulls are about $12.3 million under the cap -- I assume for next summer, with Hinrich gone.

    OK, if they amnesty Boozer, doesn't that increase their cap space by another $16 million? So that would make over $28 million in cap space, would it not? Which is enough for Mirotic and Carmelo and a couple of draft picks. What am I missing here?

    Not that I would pay Anthony $20 million. $17 million maybe.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    I assume the $12.3 million figure that Doug is providing is contingent on the Bulls using the amnesty provision on Boozer. Right now, if they were to keep Boozer next season, they would have a projected payroll of $64,525,410. So even if the Bulls were to jettison Boozer, they would still only be sitting at around $47.725 million (not including the various draft pick possibilities), which would still not be far enough under the projected cap of $62.1 million to sign another player to a max contract.

    h/t to HoopsHype for cap figures.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    In addition to what John was saying, the current cap is $58.6M and was only $58.1M the year before, I dont know if the cap increases by $3.5M so in reality the cap room illusion is even more unrealistic without moving Taj and Teague.

  • In reply to nolebron:

    Larry Coon projected 62.1 million, usually there are built in reasons they know it will go up (new tv contracts or endorsements or whatever).

  • In reply to DougThonus:

    The new CBA lower the players percentage of revenue from 57% to 50% but grandfathered in the old cap number. So it took until this season for 50% of the new revenues to finally exceed 57% of the old revenues. So next year is the first year that all additional revenues(a a 50% rate) will translate directly into an increase in the cap. I assume that is why they are projecting a $3-4 million increase, after a few years of no increases.

  • In reply to rustyw:

    The 12.3 million already assumes the Bulls amnesty Boozer.

  • I'm not interested in Melo at a max or even near-max contract. As Lawrence Holmes of the Score once put it, "Melo is empty calories." I just don't see a team winning a championship with this guy. Much rather hold out in hopes of Durant.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    I totally agree with you on Melo, yet I would probably feel an initial rush of excitement if we actually landed him. The only thing that makes me think that there is some chance with Melo is the leading role that he played on a couple of those "dream teams" in the mid to late aughts. The are some/many who felt that he was the MVP on at least 2 of those teams. So maybe he is a better player when playing with great talent. Are Rose and Noah the right kind of talent to get the max out of him, and/or is he past his prime in that regard.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    I can't argue with you on that, I hate Melo as well. He's one of the better realistic short term options which is why it comes up, but yeah he's definitely empty calories.

  • Doug,
    this is my first time posting but I have been an regular listener to the podcast for a few years. Thanks for all that you do.

    I agree that we can't chase the big free agents this year without completely gutting the team. That would be a risky move especially because the core of the team is one of the reasons why Melo or Lebron would want to come here.

    I think we need to open up a new window and make sure we clear space for the summer of Durant in 2016. 2016 is the next big free agent year and I want the Bulls to be in the mix. We are forced to forget about big free agents this summer and we have closed the championship window for the time being. However, the possible big free agent we could grab in 2016 could put us in the position to win a championship.

  • In reply to fenominon:

    If the Bulls can't do anything major, I agree. Make sure you have room in 2016, don't sign any contracts that prohibit you from bidding then.

    That said, if your team isn't looking very promising in 2016 what do you have to lure Durant here?

  • If the Bulls strike out on Carmelo, which they probably will. The Bulls need to do another trade and go after a guy who actually fits with Rose and Butler and that would be Arron Afflalo who is scoring 21 pts per game and is a sharp shooter from three point line at over 42%. He's a guy that Thibodeau would love as he plays DEFENSE and hustles. Unfortunately the Bulls seem content to offer the usual 2 year deal to some washed up vet like say.....shawn marion or some other broken down small forward/guard this summer. Looks like Mirotic might come in 2015 instead of this summer and so the Bulls might decide to roll with the Boozer stone monument one more year. I just don't see the Bulls making any bold moves and the window for a championship with a prime Rose continues to shrink. You either go get talent around Rose or blow up the whole thing and start completely over.

  • In reply to Defense-Rebound13:

    Why would the Magic trade Afflalo? If he's as good as you say he is, why would they want to get rid of him? He's on a great contract thru 2015 (player option for 2015-16), so unless the Magic FO are Bulls fans, what's in it for them?

    Not that he even fits with the "Rose's prime" model- he'll be 29 next season, he's only 6 months younger than Deng.

  • In reply to Don Ellis:

    I basically agree with you, but there has been talk that the Magic might want to move him for more young assets, like draft choices. So I suppose the Bulls collection of assets could be used in that regard. In any event, Afflalo is a complimentary piece, not a franchise changing one.

    Basically, assuming that Butler is the starting small forward next season, as always seems to be the case, we are going to have to address the starting 2 guard position again this offseason.

    Afflalo would certainly be an upgrade option, were he available. Thats also why, I brought up yesterdays Grantland(Lowe) article on the Bulls making a run at Lance Stephenson, despite the fact that I currently despise his persona.

  • In reply to BigWay:

    Good point, like you said Afflalo is a complimentary piece- do the Bulls really want to trade away most of their assets for a guy who isn't a franchise changing player? Especially when he'll be 29 next season and looking to get paid in the summer of 2015.

    Personally, I'm very high on Snell, I hope Thibs develops him properly the rest of the season. A Snell/Butler 2/3 combo is long, quick, athletic, outstanding defensively. And with Snell and Mirotic to spread the floor, Butler's ability to get into the lane and finish/draw fouls will be maximized.

    Augustin/Dunleavy/Gibson is a pretty damned good and well-balanced playoff rotation. With lots of offense off the bench.

  • I think it's fair to say the Bulls try to get additional assets, either bring over Mirotic or try to trade assets for Kevin Love, and then use any space they have to build around that core. Maybe they make the playoffs as the 4 seed next year and add some pieces. 2 years from now, that core can compete when Wade is in a walker

  • I feel like every day, people forget that LeBron, Wade and Bosh all conspired to play together in Miami to win multiple championships. We're in the midst of that happening and until their run is over, there isn't a whole lot the Bulls or anyone else can do about it.

    It wasn't a slight against the Bulls any more than it was a slight against the Knicks, Rockets, Mavs and every other team in the NBA, but Chicago fans take it personally for some reason. Bulls fans often act as if LeBron specifically avoided Chicago because he doesn't like Bulls management or something, or that it was Riley out-foxing Paxson.

    Once the game's best player and second best ever, IMO, "joined forces," to use his words, with another Hall of Fame player, the rest was history. This is a once-in-a-generation type of a group. It sucks but we have to wait until their run is over -- and it won't be long, but it probably won't be this year either, that's regardless of what the Bulls did or didn't do.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Yep, Spot On.

  • In reply to Roman F:

    Agree completely.

  • I think trading Noah would be intriguing, depending on what you could get in return. That trade would give the Bulls the best bang for their buck in terms of salary cap space. Partially because he is not worth his increased salary next year ($13.1 mil) and the year after ($14.2 mil).

    Sure, centers are hard to find, but you can find 6'9+" rebounders on the cheap. Sure, he's a great passer for a big, but that's not worth so much money. He can't post up. He has no mid-range game. He has that out of control drive left flip shot that bricks half the time. He is not a rim protector.

    Don't get me wrong, I love Noah. One of my all-time favorites. Just thinking like Gar/Pax should be thinking.

    If you can get multiple firsts, including a shot at Embiid in this year's draft, a poor man's Akeem, you take that swing.

    Then you sign Carmello - not that I'm thrilled with Carmello since he's a ballstopper and has never made a strong playoff run. But, Carmello is an elite scorer and can defend when he wants to do so.

    Hopefully you bring Mirotic over no matter what.

  • In reply to Granby:

    The only way that you can trade Noah, is if we get a top 3-4 pick and use it on Joel Embiid, who initially won't be as good of an NBA player as Noah. Also, while not a huge deal, the numbers that I have seen, Noah will be paid $12.2 million next season, and $13.4 the following year. Niether of which is an outrageous number for a starting center, and all defense team member. We simply cannot go forward without a quality NBA caliber center, because we are not Miami and never will be unless we get Lebron or Michael.

  • In reply to Granby:

    Not a rim protector? Say what? Noah is an elite rim protector. Looks at the stats: Noah gives up only a 42.7 FG% on shots he contests at the rim. That's good for top 10 in the league amoung players who contest 4 or more shots a game.*G*4

    You add to that the other things he can do on defense - he's not just a HIbbert type who can only camp the lane - and Noah is very much a value contract.

    I'd still trade him for the right deal, but the idea that the Bulls dumping him gets them bang for the buck on salary is crazy. He's one of the few guys in a league who is underpaid and not on a rookie contract.

  • In reply to Granby:

    I don't think you're getting a top four pick for Joakim, nor are you getting a second first with it, nor are you then going to get an expiring deal to not take any cap room back.

    I love Noah too, but he's not netting anywhere near what you hope in terms of a trade.

  • LeBron is not coming to Chicago....lets stop this garbage rumor right now.

    Some of you people never learn from the past.

  • LeBron is not happening and Melo is unlikely. An alternate option is to sign a SG like Lance Stephenson or Evan Turner. The Bulls should have the cap room to sign one of them after waiving Boozer. They wouldn't have to trade Noah or Gibson to clear cap space like they would for a max deal for Melo.

    PG Rose
    SG Stephenson/Turner
    SF Butler
    PF Mirotic
    C Noah

    Bench: Gibson, Augustin, Dunleavy, Snell, backup C, Bulls 1st, Charlotte 1st

  • In reply to Zorb:

    The Bulls cannot bring over Mirotic and sign a $10 million free agent. So if you make a big offer to Stephensen, or Turner, you have to wait another year to bring over Mirotic and even then you can only offer him the full MLE. In the meantime, what if he re-ups with his Spanish league team.

    While I don't like who Stephenson is, we do still need to find that dynamic shooting guard. How we do that is still not clear. Unless we have another Rose moment in the lottery this year.

  • The smart thing is to bring over Mirotic this summer, regardless of other moves. The Bulls will then have him for 4 years at a cheap rate. If they happen to land an elite player in the draft, then they will be very good.

    Now, if that happens, then if they can S&T Taj or even Noah for Carmelo, they might have enough to take Miami. That will then depend on how Rose plays next year.

    Several things have to happen, but they are all possible.

  • Everyone forgets how good Carmelo played with Team USA. He wasn't THE MAN. Lebron & Kobe held that distinction. Still Carmelo out preformed both of them in the Olympics. Melo was also the only member of the "Redeem Team" to make the All World Team based on his play. Carmelo Anthony can play basketball. He can score, rebound, & defend. The problem is it doesn't seem as if he has had much motivation to play hard on defense. I believe under Coach Tibs & on a team with D Rose & Joakim Noah he would have good examples as to how he should play and I believe that he would take it as a challenge to be just as good.

  • Not a popular opinion and probably not going to happen but I would love for the Bulls to trade Rose for Rondo (you might even get a future 1st). With the savings (about 9 mil) you can sign Melo at close to max (assuming he would take a little less about 19mil) and bring over Mirotic.

    PG: Rondo
    SG: Butler
    SF: Melo
    PF: Mirotic
    C: Noah

    Bench: Snell, Dunleavy, Taj

    That roster has plenty of offense with Melo and Mirotic and Rondo setting them up. The bench is pretty solid especially for the payoffs. With a starting back court of Butler and Rondo and Noah in the paint defense shouldn't be an issue.

    This lineup would also be a terrible matchup problem for the Pacers and the Heat.

    It will never happen but I think this would be the best team that could be put on the court.

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