First and foremost, there is a huge difference between amnestying Carlos Boozer next year and amnestying Boozer this year. That advantage is what the Bulls are able to do in free agency if they amnesty him.
In the 2011-2012 season (henceforth this year while 2012-2013 will be referred to as next year) the Bulls could not have freed up much money in free agency because they were already significantly over the cap.
In fact the only "advantage" the Bulls could have gained is that they would have had a full mid-level exception instead of the mini-mid-level exception. Consider that there were no free-agent power forwards that were better than Boozer who could be obtained for $5 million.
Next year, things will be very different. This is what the Bulls will be looking at with both Boozer and Richard Hamilton on the roster. Salaries were obtained from ShamSports when available. Remaining salaries were obtained from ESPN's Trade Machine or explained in notes below the table.
*The $3.181 million attributed to Taj Gibson is not what he'd actually be expected to be paid. It's what his cap hold would be that would count against the Bulls salary cap unless they release the rights to him, but we'll have more on that later.
**Teague has not signed a contract yet, but since contracts are more or less written by the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, he'll be due something around $1 million.
While $73 million doesn't scream flexibility, bear in mind two other things. First, Hamilton's contract is a team option, which they are unlikely to exercise and second, they'll have the $5 million trade exception they obtained from sending Kyle Korver to the Hawks.
If the Bulls don't pick up Hamilton's option and amnesty Boozer, they would be sitting on just $53.4 million in salary heading into next season.
Depending on what the cap is, that should leave the Bulls at roughly $5 million below the salary cap. When you factor in the mini mid-level exception they'd get for teams below the cap that's about $7.5 million they would have to spend.
However, when you consider the possibility of a sign-and-trade, that $7.5 million could grow even more. If they don't send anyone and just absorb salary, then they would have $12.5 million to commit to a free agent.
If they were to actually send a player, such as Kirk Hinrich, that $12.5 million would turn into $16.5 million, which would be close to a max-contract.
That means the Bulls could look to sign the premier off-guard they have been looking for. Shooting guards available in that price range include the likes of Monta Ellis, Andre Iguodala, Tyreke Evans, Kevin Martin and James Harden.
Of those only Harden and Evans are restricted, and there is reason to consider that both could be gotten in spite of their restricted status.
Evans is not happy Sacramento and they are not happy with him. The Thunder already have two max players and will also be looking to match offers on Serge Ibaka. It's highly improbable that they will be able to afford matching both his and Harden's contracts, so they will need to make a choice.
So why would these teams be willing to let their players go for so little? Because they aren't "their" players. They are free agents. Teams would be more willing to take Kirk Hinrich and a $12 million trade exception than absolutely nothing.
The other reason that the Bulls would be behooved to let Boozer go is that they need to keep Gibson around. Gibson is emerging as one of the premiere defensive power forwards in the game today. As discussed in a previous article, Gibson's defensive numbers are as good as any power forward in the game right now.
Gibson's offense is starting to take off as well. During the postseason, albeit brief, Gibson showed flashes of offensive potential.
More importantly Gibson fits the "theme" of the Bulls better, which is defense. The Bulls would lose some offense with Gibson instead of Boozer (but that could be offset by what they gain with a shooting guard).
However, the defensive difference more than makes up for the difference. There's a reason that Gibson was on the court at the end of games last season—the Bulls are a better team when he's on the court.
Furthermore, it's the way he plays defense, and not just that he plays it well, that makes such a difference. In Tom Thbiodeau's "five men on a string" style of defense, rotations are everything and as a result, speed is everything.
This is also why I keep considering the best option for the shooting guard spot would be Andre Iguodala, whose speed and athleticism make him one of the best perimeter defenders in the game.
Imagine what Tom Thibodeau could do with a starting five of Rose, Iguodala, Deng, Gibson and Noah.
It's not merely that those are five great defensive players, but they are five fast, outstanding perimeter players who close extremely well and rebound well for their positions.
A defense like that would be able to stop Miami because of the incredible speed they would have to seal the seams at the perimeter. They could force Dwyane Wade and LeBron James to beat you with their jump shots, and they aren't good enough shooters to do that.
The bottom line is this: the Bulls could not have gotten better by severing ties with Carlos Boozer. Next year they can, and since they can, they should.