State of the Cap: Chicago Bulls
2012-2013 Payroll: $74.80 Million
2012-2013 NBA Salary Cap: $58.044 Million
Roughly $16.75 Million over the cap
Highlights: The Bulls may appear to be lacking the salary cap space to be major players in the free agent market anytime soon. However, they already have their franchise cornerstone in Derrick Rose. He’s coming off a major injury, and is unlikely to play a significant portion of the upcoming season. On the bright side, that should allow their other players to develop their games further while still staying competitive thanks to the additions of players such as Nate Robinson, Kirk Hinrich, and Marco Belinelli. Rose will be back at some point and as long as he returns to his old self as is expected, the team will be in good shape.
Rose is locked up for the next five seasons on a max deal, and unless his injury keeps him from returning to form, it figures to be money well spent. Rose was the youngest MVP in the history of the league and brings the team hope for the future as the centerpiece of a title contender.
With Rose out, it will give first round pick Marquis Teague an opportunity to get the playing time needed for him to learn the NBA game and develop into the backup point guard the team needs in order to prevent Rose from being overworked in the regular season. In addition, they also have stellar players such as Joakim Noah and Luol Deng that will be leaders on the team while waiting for Rose to recover.
Joakim Noah is a warrior and though he is probably a tad overpaid, his competitiveness and willingness to do the dirty work makes him the Bulls most indispensable big. He's locked in for the next four years at an escalating $11-14 million deal. The Bulls should be getting Noah's best years out of him and if his offensive game can develop some, he'll have a chance to justify his contract.
Luol Deng has just two years left on a long term deal that pays him 14 million per. He's been one of the better small forwards in the game and while he's not the all star difference maker one would want for the money, he's a key complimentary piece. At 27, he will be entering the twilight of his career when his deal runs up so Chicago can look to deal him in the next two seasons as an expiring contract or resign him for considerably less moving forward.
Taj Gibson has proven to be a steal where the team drafted him, late in the first round. He's a tremendous clubhouse guy who never complains and brings a blue collar work ethic to the table every day. His rookie deal will end after next season and teams around the league are sure to come calling. The Bulls will need to decide how much they value him and whether they can fit him into their cap moving forward.
The team went out and added a number of short term rentals with the re-addition of Kirk Hinrich as well as Marco Belinelli and Nate Robinson to one year deals. These players should help the team stay respectable while Rose rehabs his knee.
Lowlights: The team is, with good reason, built around Rose. The other players on the roster are almost exclusively players that excel when playing alongside a star player. Noah, Deng, and Boozer are effective when Rose is on the floor, but without him they can struggle to produce points on offense. Noah is a defensive specialist, Boozer can score the ball but is either incapable of or unwilling to play anything resembling defense.
The team has Carlos Boozer on the books for franchise level money, at over 15 million per for the next three seasons. Boozer has proven to be extremely "un-clutch", failing to play his best basketball when it matters most. Boozer can be of use, but he has not been the consistent power forward they thought they were getting when they signed him to his big contract.
Without Rose to tie them all together, the pieces are capable of winning, but not contending in a conference featuring the reigning champion Heat, the Knicks, Pacers, and the new look 76ers. Without salary cap room, they are relying very heavily on a young player who struggled to stay healthy last season. It’s unlikely to come back to bite them, but there is some risk involved.
The Future: I’ve harped on the fact that the Bulls don’t have the salary cap room to use in adding to their team. While it is, in fact, true, that could very well change if they want it to. If they want to become players in free agency, the first step would be clearing Boozer’s contract through the use of their one time amnesty clause. They’d still have to pay him, but for salary cap purposes he’d be an afterthought.
They could also trade Deng to a team with cap space to take back contracts worth less money or expiring deals. He makes over 14 million and would be an expiring deal in the 2013-2014 season meaning there could be a number of suitors. By then declining their option on Rip Hamilton, they would have approximately 18 million in cap space to burn, and that’s assuming the salary cap doesn’t grow as it is expected to do.
Did you forget the Boston Celtics are still in the Eastern Conference?
Gibson will need to be paid. Dengs contract runs 1 year too long. Since the Bulls are already at the luxury tax (and there are penalties for repeat offenders) I predict a change sometime this season or next offseason. Boozer, Deng or Noah... one of em has to go. Its probably for the best anyways. Even with a completely healthy and vibrant lineup, the bulls missed their shot a few seasons ago with this rosters top end. There's no chance they can compete with the Thunder, Miami, Boston, Knicks...even Brooklyn. Teams are just too stacked these days and your salary cap needs to be effectively and efficiently spent. Deng, Noah and Boozer are all overpaid to the point you could pickup a high level SG at 10 mil per with the difference...if theose guys were on more realistic contracts.
Since Rose won't be 100% this season, the Bulls should offload Deng (the easiest one) and Boozer (a challenge) for picks, tank the season and look forward to a recharged roster ready for a run the following year.
The Bulls will have a future 1st round pick from the Bobcats which they can use to add a lottery rookie or to unload together with a bad contract like Boozer. This pick will sure help Bulls'cap and should have been mentioned in this article as a highlight.
Im pretty sure its top 10 protected, so Chicago will never see it.
top-12 protected in the 2013 Draft, top-10 protected in 2014, top-8 protected in 2015 and unprotected in the 2016 Draft.