Bulls signings of Brewer, James and Amundson- the hidden motive Part 2

Bulls signings of Brewer, James and Amundson- the hidden motive Part 2
Image by Midgejong

In part 1 of this article, I looked at the Bulls’ financial situation this summer, and why they won’t amnesty Carlos Boozer and clear out as much cap space as they possibly can, and why they signed Ronnie Brewer, Mike James, and Lou Amundson for more than just insurance against injuries in the playoffs.

Now, it’s time to get into the details of exactly how much money the Bulls will have to spend this summer. Assuming things play out as proposed in Part 1, and the Bulls sign Hinrich and Mirotic on the first day which they are allowed to do so, the Bulls’ payroll would look like this on July 10, 2014 (the first day after the July Moratorium on transactions):

  • Derrick Rose…. $18,862,876
  • Joakim Noah…  $12,200,000
  • Taj Gibson……     $8,000,000
  • Nikola Mirotic..    $5,305,000
  • Mike Dunleavy..  $3,326,235
  • Kirk Hinrich*…     $2,500,000
  • Jimmy Butler…    $2,000,748
  • Tony Snell……      $1,472,400
  • N. Mohammed*      $915,243
  • Total                   $54,582,502

*Hinrich could sign for less, but that’s the best guess I have as $2.5 million is more than the Bi-Annual Exception most other teams would likely offer.

*Mohammed would actually make $1,448,490 as a veteran with 10+ years in the league, but the Bulls would only pay the lower figure and the league covers the rest.

Even though the Salary Cap is expected to be $62.1 million next season, the Bulls are NOT under the salary cap. The reason for this is that they are charged cap holds for:

  • Unrenounced free agents
  • 1st round draft picks
  • Any unused exceptions (in this case, the Bi-Annual Exception)
  • A cap hold called an “incomplete roster charge” if the team has fewer than 12 players

As I mentioned in Part 1, the scale salaries of the Bulls’ two 1st-round picks, combined with the non-guaranteed salaries of James, Brewer and Amundson, adds up to $6,692,808. The Bi-Annual Exception for next season is $2,077,000. Added to the nine players under contract, the total is $63,352,310.

We’ll start with the easy part, the Bi-Annual Exception. For good reason, every Bulls fan I know would love to see the Bulls bring back DJ Augustin, as he has been the team’s leading scorer since he joined the roster. But realistically, Augustin has probably priced himself out of the Bulls price range. And his height precludes him from playing anything but point guard, and obviously that’s Rose’s position.

Rose and Butler are going to play 35 minutes at a minimum- and Bulls fans all know those are low-ball figures. Dunleavy will get at least 20, as will Hinrich- that only leaves (at the most) 34 minutes available at the PG-SG-SF positions, and that’s if Tony Snell never leaves the bench. Realistically, at least early in the season, Snell will play some of the minutes Hinrich will get at SG later in the season.

Assuming the Bulls make their big move for a wing player who can create for himself and others, shoot 3’s, and and defend, the BAE will probably go to a true center who can back up Noah (and serve as insurance in case Mirotic can’t handle Boozer’s 25 minutes right off the bat).

But the $64,000 question is- what wing player can the Bulls get who fits that bill, and whose salary they can absorb without giving up any of their core players?

If the Bulls are only offering cap relief and draft picks, the $6,692,808 they have to deal will bring back as much as $10,139,212 in salary.

If they include Snell, they can take back $12,347,812 in salary.

If they include Dunleavy- which is possible if they trust Snell to take his minutes- they can take back $15,019,043 in salary.

If they do the unthinkable and include Gibson, they could take back $19,692,808 in salary.

The free agent market is pretty short on difference makers this summer. There’s Melo of course, and if Phil doesn’t think he can make things work with Melo in NY, he would probably be open to doing a sign and trade with the Bulls. But obviously that would mean sending Gibson out just to be able to pay Melo the money he’ll want, and I’m not sure the Bulls do that trade. I don’t.

I think the Bulls would be more interested in a younger player- Utah SG Gordon Hayward just turned 24, and while he’s a restricted free agent (meaning Utah can match any offer sheet he signs), the Jazz already have 22-year-old Derrick Favors and 21-year-old Trey Burke and Enes Kanter, plus a top-5 pick in this summer’s stacked draft. And $30 million or more in cap space if they don’t resign Hayward.

They might just prefer to use that cap space on a couple of veterans to provide leadership for all their youth- not to mention selling tickets, and winning more games- instead of giving Hayward a 4 year, $52.7 million contract (what the Bulls could give him in a sign-and-trade including Snell). And I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t want to give Hayward a 4 year, $64.1 million contract (in a Dunleavy sign-and-trade).

Personally, as of right now Hayward is my preference. He’s still young but with four years experience. He’s a pretty efficient scorer (career .550 TS% and .369 3pt%). He’s a very good ball-handler, passer and rebounder (5.2 ast and 5.0 reb per game this season). His shooting is down this year, but that’s because he’s had to force so many shots late in the shot clock on a horrible Utah team.

But in the clutch, he has been outstanding- his season eFG% is .453, but it goes up to .514 in clutch situations (per 82games.com). On clutch shots taken with 9 or more seconds left on the shot clock, he has an amazing 68.4 eFG%.

And he’s one of 5 players to average 16 pts, 5 reb and 5 ast this season (Durant, Westbrook, LeBron, Michael Carter-Williams).

But Lance Stephenson is an intriguing possibility- the Pacers will most likely not be able to afford him, but would they work out a sign-and-trade that helps out their fiercest long-term rival? Even if they would, I’d prefer Hayward, but Stephenson would be a nice consolation prize. He can create, he can defend, and he’s become a much better 3pt shooter (35.1% this season). Plus, a lineup of Rose/Stephenson/Butler/Gibson/Noah would probably be the most athletic in the league. And quite fierce on defense, which Thibs would love.

If you look at bad rebuilding teams that have a high salaried wing they would trade for enough draft picks, you have Arron Afflalo at the top of the list. He’s a very good defender and a 39.1% career 3pt shooter, but he makes less than $8 million, and I can’t see the Magic trading him, even for four or five 1st-round picks, since the highest any of them can possibly be is #10.

You might get an OJ Mayo or a Kevin Martin, but I think Hayward has a better all-around game than either of them.

Give me Hayward, send out Snell in the sign and trade to get him, and roll with a lineup of:

  • PG- Rose, Hinrich
  • SG- Hayward
  • SF- Butler, Dunleavy
  • PF- Mirotic, Gibson
  • C- Noah, Mohammed

With a veteran C or SG signed with the BAE, and 3 spots filled with veterans on minimum contracts, and you’re looking at a team that can beat either Indy or Miami in the playoffs. And your payroll is $70,280,643, which is more than $5 million under the luxury tax threshold.

Of course, this all works just as well if the Jazz would sign and trade Hayward for Boozer’s expiring contract, but I just don’t see any way that happens.

Be sure you leave a comment and let me know what you think. I’ve laid out the financial details, is there another player you’d rather get than Hayward?

UPDATE: I will be adding a part 3, where I look at some other possible ( but in my opinion extremely unlikely) scenarios for the summer.

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    Don Ellis started covering sports professionally when he was 15. The same year (1980), as a student assistant at Seeger Memorial High School in West Lebanon, IN, he was one of the first in the world to use, study and implement analytics in basketball. He attended Daytona State College and Ball State University, and some of his past credits include InsideHoops (NBA Runaround: The NBA According to Ellis) and ESPN Florida (The Florida Sports Reporters), where he was fortunate enough to work with many rising stars, including NFL Network's Dan Hellie, Redskins coach Jay Gruden, Magic radio and TV personality Dante Marchitelli, and WSB-TV (Atlanta) Sports Director Zach Klein. In addition to running the Bullsville blog and officiating basketball, baseball and football for the KHSAA, he is also a bass player and vocalist who writes and produces music in his spare time (you may remember his internet hit "I Hate Eddy Curry"). He's a 3rd-generation Cubs fan, a Bulls fan since the days of Van Lier and Sloan, and a life-long New England Patriots fan. He's seen Primus 9 times and thinks Les Claypool walks on water. By far his greatest accomplishment is being a father of three and grandfather of one.

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