It’s official, Kyle Korver has been traded to the Atlanta Hawks, giving the Bulls a $5.1 million TPE (trade exception). This isn’t exactly news, as the trade was reported by K.C. Johnson three days ago. Although, we now know there are no other pieces included in the trade, such as a sign-and-trade for Hinrich or a third team such as the Minnesota Timberwolves getting involved.
At first glance, the trade saved the Bulls the $500,000 it would have cost to waive Korver, which is chump change for Mr. Reinsdorf. Outside of that, from a basketball standpoint, this trade didn’t make the Bulls a better team. That’s pretty much common sense when you trade a player for nothing. Although, if Reinsdorf and Co. play their cards right, this trade could end up providing Chicago a boost.
So let’s get this straight; this off-season the Bulls have let go of Ronnie Brewer, C.J. Watson and Kyle Korver for nothing (except for the TPE, which I will explain later) and are yet to decide on Omer Asik and John Lucas III. The most obvious reaction to what has happened this summer is “what in the hell are the Bulls doing?” The bench mob has turned into a bench slob, as three members have departed, and another two can just as easily be gone in the next few days. The Bulls bench was always one of its strongest assets. Chicago’s bench players would pounce on the opposing teams’ second unit and Bulls starters would sometimes have to watch some fourth quarters from the bench. If the Bulls stand pat on the trade market and pick up a few scrub replacements, it’s hard to believe this trade was made for any reason besides Reinsdorf holding onto his money.
But wait, there’s hope. The $5.1 million TPE the Bulls received for Korver can be used to acquire a player in a trade for less or the same cost. The Bulls can still use the TPE to try and get Courtney Lee, Brandon Rush, or Shannon Brown, all serviceable replacements for Korver. They can also try to get creative and find other shooting guards with that price tag.
The problem? If the Bulls use the $5.1 million TPE to get one of those players at that price and decide to match Asik, they’ll go over the luxury tax, which is certainly not something Reinsdorf would be willing do for a team that could miss the playoffs. Once again, there’s still another loophole. K.C. Johnson also reported that the Bulls are shopping Richard Hamilton, which in a straight up salary dump would save the Bulls enough money to afford a player at $5.1 million and match Asik. Here comes another let down, there’s no interest from NBA teams to take on the $6 million guaranteed for an aging, injury-prone player.
Another option for the Bulls would be to sign-and-trade Hinrich into the TPE. Chicago would have about $2 million of the TPE left over to use on cheap bench players and would still have the vet minimum.
The last option is simply holding onto the TPE until next summer, when it expires. If the Bulls let Hamilton walk next summer (which would cost them $1 million) and held onto the TPE, they would essentially be able to offer the full MLE to two players. If the Bulls management decides they really have no chance at the title this season with Rose limping, then it might be their best option to wait it out and look for veteran pieces in next year’s free agency.
As you can see, this Korver trade can range from meaning absolutely nothing to something as promising as acquiring Courtney Lee or Brandon Rush. The fact that the Bulls just lost out on O.J. Mayo doesn't bode well, as their options continue to dwindle. What the Bulls do from here on out could signal tank or title for next season.