Gordon Hayward received a maximum offersheet of four years and 63 million dollars from the Charlotte Bobcats which shows you why Kyrie Irving decided to stay in Cleveland and also shows you why "the max" means something totally different depending where you are in your NBA career.
One of the real oddball rules of the NBA is the way salary slots are protected for older players. The oddity of this is that players are typically worth less as they age rather than more. Take Carmelo Anthony as an example. His max deal with the Knicks is 129 million dollars for five years vs Kyrie Irving's max deal which was a shade over 91.
Ignore whatever gaps you perceive in their talent for a minute, Kryie Irving doesn't have nearly the same risk of falling off a talent cliff by the end of his deal as Carmelo Anthony. It's almost expected that Anthony will be radically overpaid at the end of his deal due to declining with age. From a talent evaluation perspective, a guy's most valuable years are probably 26-30.
The new Derrick Rose rule evens out the playing field for the younger superstars by allowing them to take real max contracts. Thank you 2011 CBA for screwing the Bulls on that one, without this rule, we'd be a lot more of a threat to sign Carmelo Anthony, but such is life. One of the oddities of the NBA is that each iteration of the last three CBAs has completely screwed the Bulls.
1999 installed the max salary which made it so San Antonio could pay Tim Duncan more than we could otherwise the Bulls would have blown him away with money. It may not have worked, but it might have.
2005 created the one and done rule which made Kevin Durant play one year of college otherwise the Bulls would have had him at the #2 pick in the draft in 2006.
2011 created the Derrick Rose rule which added three million to our cap room and may prevent us from signing Carmelo Anthony.
At any rate, the CBA now protects teams pretty significantly when it comes to guys like Hayward. His maximum offer sheet gives him about 15.75 million per year on average over four years. Now personally, I'm not touching that with a 10 foot pole for Hayward, but it shows how difficult it is to pry a good player away in restricted free agency [and impossible to pry a great one].
Even if Utah opts to match this, it's not that bad. It only lasts for four years, and you can live with 15 million even if it's three or four million too much per year. Expect Eric Bledsoe and Greg Monroe to eventually find similar offers.
When looking at this market, I think the obvious move is to bid on Lance Stephenson before everyone else wises up. You might literally be shaving five million per year off Lance's contract due to his attitude. There's no way I'd rather have Hayward than Stephenson on my team if you subtract the attitude, and Hayward just went for 15. Lance isn't even restricted so a team that signs him definitely gets him.
Yes Stephenson is a risk, but Stephenson provides many of the things the Bulls really need: athleticism, size, strength, and most importantly, shot creation. Stephenson's the type of guy who wouldn't have been bullied athletically in the Washington series.
Imagine the Bulls perimeter defense with Rose, Stephenson, Butler, Gibson, and Noah on the floor. They'd be a complete terror defensively. They'd swallow opposing offenses.
However, the best thing is, the Bulls maintain that defensive identity while getting drastically better on the offensive side of the ball. Stephenson's a young player who's three point shot will likely continue to improve, but in the mean time he can create in isolation better than anyone on the Bulls not named Derrick Rose.
He can dribble, pass, and get into the paint. He's a terror on the glass, and he's still just 23. He's going to get better as long as he keeps working.
You get all of these basketball skills for five million dollars less guys who aren't as good because he's an emotional roller coaster. However, the Bulls championship window is just about closed. Chicago can't continue to wait and hope. Even if Derrick's back he's maybe got four years. Noah and Gibson will be in serious decline mode in two to three.
Whatever the Bulls are going to do it has to be now. They should continue to pursue Carmelo Anthony, but if they can't find a way to get it done then they have to to roll the dice on Lance. He's got the most upside after Anthony and LeBron are off the board and is the ONLY free agent left that has a shot at being the missing piece, however small that shot is.
Lance solves much of what ails the Bulls, and Chicago feels like a locker room that could take on one risky attitude. It's not a move I'd normally want to make. It's a move I may have even said you can't make before, but looking at the Bulls alternatives? It's a move you have to make if Anthony is gone.
Anything else and the team turns to dust while you wait.
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