State of the Cap: Chicago Bulls
By Josh Redetzke
[img_assist|nid=1116|title=Derrick Rose|desc=Icon SMI|link=none|align=right|width=300|height=428]2008/09 Chicage Bulls Payroll: $47.5 million
2008/09 Estimated NBA Salary Cap: $58 million
Roughly: $11.5 million under cap
What a difference a year makes. The Bulls won 49 games last season and appeared to be easy candidates for a top seed in the playoffs. Instead, they got off to a bad start, fired coach Scott Skiles, and floundered to just 33 victories. The basketball gods must have felt sorry for them since they bestowed upon Chicago the number one pick in the draft. This is an excellent chance for the team to reverse its fortunes and add a franchise player (Derrick Rose) to the line-up.
Drew Gooden played pretty well after joining the team during the Ben Wallace trade. He averaged 14 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks in the last 18 games before missing some time due to an abdominal strain. If Gooden isn’t part of Chicago’s future plans, his $7.1 million salary for next season makes him a very tradable asset, especially since it’s the final year of his contract.
The Ben Wallace embarrassment thankfully didn’t last long in the Windy City. The disappointing forward never came close to his old, dominating self. Unfortunately, in order to get rid of him, the Bulls had to take Larry Hughes in return. His contract is slightly cheaper and the same length as Wallace’s, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less awful. Hughes still hasn’t learned how to shoot effectively. He averaged just 38% from the field this year. He also isn’t nearly as versatile in his rebounding and passing as he used to be. At $12.8 and $13.6 million the next two years, Hughes will be severely overpaid. No wonder Cleveland was so happy to get rid of him.
In the first season of a new five-year, $47.5 million dollar contract, Kirk Hinrich took a step back. His scoring average dipped five points to 11.5 and his shooting percentage fell to a sub-par 41%. Now, with the possibility of Rose joining the team, Hinrich might have to be traded to make room at the point. His contract isn’t ridiculously expensive to trade, but with four years left and Hinrich coming off a poor season, the Bulls would be selling on the low end of his value. Perhaps they will let the tandem exist together for a while and bring Hinrich's value up before looking to move him.
Andres Nocioni also started a five-year contract last season, this one worth about $37.5 million. Nocioni is an excellent role player, but just like Hinrich, after signing the big contract his numbers took a hit. For now, I’ll place the blame on a rough season that gave everyone’s stats at least a small decline. However, I’d like to see a little more production out of Nocioni for that kind of dough.
The biggest decision for the Chicago Bulls this summer might not be who they draft but how they handle resigning their two best players, Ben Gordon and Luol Deng. Both are excellent young players and restricted free agents who will command a fairly decent price on the market. If Chicago signs both to contacts similar to Hinrich, they will have roughly $50 million wrapped up in just five players the next two seasons. In other words, say goodbye to any cap space for a while. If you are winning 49 games and getting to the second round of the playoffs every year, then it is simply an acceptable hazard that comes with success. If you are winning 33 games and participating in the lottery every year, then it is disastrous.
We must also consider that the $50 million in players does not include a competent center. Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah might be good contributors in a few years, but Drew Gooden is really the only dependable frontline player that they have and he might not be around for very long. A recent marijuana charge by Noah further dampens the situation and casts some doubt about his career. Chicago might be forced to make some major moves this summer to reshape its team for a better future. That includes possibly trading Gordon or Deng along with Hinrich to get a talented center and save a little money. The decisions they make in the next few months will have major ramifications down the road. It’s time for John Paxson to make up for the whole Tyson Chandler-Ben Wallace debacle.
Despite being in 9th place before the lottery, the Bulls moved up to the top overall pick which was poetic justice as teams like Minnesota and Memphis would have been rewarded for tanking their seasons. Unfortunately the biggest culprit of tanking (Miami) won the second overall pick.
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