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The first and biggest question to ask is whether the Bulls will be amnestying Carlos Boozer. I say this is a question because it's really not a "rumor" in the sense that no major media outlets, or even minor ones for that matter, have reported it will happen.
That's because it won't.
The common misperception is that if the Bulls relieve themselves of Boozer, they will have $15 million to spend elsewhere. That is not taking into consideration all the details that are involved, though.
If you want to see the full details of the Bulls' salary situation, you can see it here. The Bulls, if they maintain the roster next year, will have $76 million in salary, which is well over the tax threshold.
They also have about $3 million in cap holds. For those who don’t know what a “cap hold” is, it means that’s money allocated to your cap space to account for your own free agents. This rule prevents teams from filling up their cap space and then using Bird Rights to re-sign your own players.
For example, it’s why the Heat weren’t able to sign Chris Bosh and LeBron James, then use money to add more depth before signing Dwyane Wade to his deal. The cap hold, which is 130 percent of a player's+ previous salary or the rookie salary for draft slots, is added on to your existing salaries.
Teams can renounce their rights to the players and thereby free up cap space if they desire.
So the point of all of this is that the Bulls are going to keep their draft hold on Omer Asik for sure (more on that later). They may or may not do so on John Lucas III (more on that later too). They also have their cap hold for their draft pick. Even if they just exercise their rights on their draft pick and Asik, that’s going to put them at $79 million.
The luxury tax threshold is 70.2 million. The mid-level exception goes down from $5 million to $3 million if you are in the luxury tax. This means if the Bulls waive Carlos Boozer, the only benefit would be that they can sign a $5 million player instead of a $3 million player.
Even if they waive Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson as well as amnesty Boozer, they would still have to have veteran minimum cap holds for their remaining players of $854,000 per player. That would mean they would only be $2.7 million under the cap. If they didn’t exercise their rights on Asik, that would climb to $4.4 million (once you account for the extra cap hold for another veteran’s minimum player).
Add in the mini-mid-level exception for teams below the cap, and you climb all the way up to $6.9 million. I know it sounds complicated, but that’s the number you need to know.
The most the Bulls could sign a free agent for without making a trade is $6.9 million. That would involve losing Carlos Boozer, Ronnie Brewer, Omer Asik and C.J. Watson, though.
Is there any player in free agency who is obtainable for $6.9 million that’s worth all that? That’s why the Bulls won’t be amnestying Carlos Boozer.
That’s also why there’s no “real” rumors. Mostly what there is is a lot of speculation declaring how the Bulls must do it. But real NBA GMs don’t get the benefit of working in a microcosm. If you want to amnesty Boozer, you have to actually find a way to make the Bulls a better team because you did so.
In a year or two, when Nikola Mirotic becomes available, it becomes both a lot more plausible and possible because the cost of Mirotic won’t be that of a free agent. It will be that of a late round draft pick.
It also makes a bit more sense if you take in conjunction with the Luol Deng trade rumors. We’ll address that next.