With no games to discuss, talk surrounding the Chicago Bulls has turned to the composition of their roster come next season. Calls are being made to move or amnesty Carlos Boozer or sign this player or that player. In the end, from both a financial and a talent standpoint, the best decision the Bulls can make is to keep their roster intact.
From a financial standpoint, the Bulls do not have much flexibility. Derrick Rose's extension kicks in next year, and with it the Bulls will have approximately $63 million committed to seven players. The Bulls have another $12.5 million in non-guaranteed contracts they will most likely exercise on Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson.
With the salary cap for the 2012-2013 season expected to be around $60 million, the Bulls' only options for bringing in new players are the mid-level exception or a trade where the salaries match up.
It should be noted that the much-discussed scenario of amnestying Boozer and signing a top free-agent does not work under the salary cap. Amnestying Boozer does reduce the Bulls' cap number, but they would still be over the cap.
Ultimately, the Bulls would have one less player and as a cap team, they would only have the mid-level exception available for a free-agent signing. Boozer, for all his shortcomings, is undoubtedly better than what the Bulls can bring in with the mid-level exception.
And about that mid-level exception. It probably won't be available, since the Bulls will likely use it to re-sign Omer Asik. The terms of the new CBA prevent teams from offering more than the league average salary to players, like Asik, who have two years or less of NBA experience. Even if a team were to make an offer to Asik, the Bulls can match it and keep Asik at the league average salary—a tremendous value for a seven-footer with his defensive abilities.
Using their mid-level exception to lock up Asik leaves the Bulls with veteran minimums as the only contracts they can offer to free agents.
With amnestying Boozer not an option and using up their mid-level on Asik, trades may be the one real option the Bulls could try to utilize.
Again, Boozer's name comes up often in potential Bulls trades. But Boozer has over $47 million left on his contract, and it is unlikely that any team in the league will be willing to absorb that sort of money. With Rose, Noah and Deng likely untouchable, Asik and Taj Gibson would seem to have the most trade value.
But here again, the Bulls are unlikely to find players more talented than who they have now. Asik and Gibson are not great offensive players, but they work very well within the Bulls' defensive framework. They are, arguably, the two best defensive players on the Bulls. And on a team who's hallmark is its defense, that makes them precious commodities.
Also, consider that Gibson is still on his rookie salary, and the Bulls can keep both players at a combined salary of around $7 million. An unbelievable value. And with the Bulls over the cap and required to match salaries on any potential trades, it is highly unlikely they can get players better than Asik and Gibson for around $7 million.
Moreover, the Bulls will be starting next season without Rose and Deng. The Bulls are better off holding on to their known quantities as opposed to rolling the dice with someone else. Asik and Gibson are integral to the team's success, and they often share the court together in the fourth quarter in favor of the Noah/Boozer tandem. It would be hard to replicate or improve on what they bring to the table for the Bulls.
With the finances limiting what the Bulls can do in free agency, and any trade options likely forcing the Bulls to give up more than they would receive, keeping the roster intact is likely the team's best option.
Before injuries, the Bulls were expected to compete with Miami for the Eastern Conference crown. The Bulls have utilized one of the league's most talented rosters to produce the NBA's best record in each of the past two seasons. The Bulls players, who think of each other as brothers, should be given an opportunity to prove what they are capable of when fully healthy.