It’s far from certain it would have been possible to trade Boozer this summer, no matter what the Bulls demanded or were willing to take back in return. But Boozer needed to be gone, one way or another.
The doomsday option of Chicago making Boozer an amnesty case—paying him to go away, while no longer suffering his weighty, $15 million contract against its tight salary cap—isn’t the best decision in the short term or even from a basketball standpoint. But for Chicago’s future, it would have been the right one.
After exhausting all trade suitors, the Bulls needed to bite the bullet and take the hit of paying off the power forward.
Chicago brass has said in the past that the Bulls would pay a luxury tax, but due to the even more dire circumstances of doing so under the new CBA (the escalating penalties for “repeat offenders,” for example), the team would have to be stuck right in the middle of a title run to do so. In other words, had a luxury tax existed in the title contention years of 1990-98, Jerry Reinsdorf would have forked it over. But to do so in mere hopes of reaching a conference final or NBA Final? Not gonna happen.
Clearly, the Bulls have no choice to but view 2012-13 as gravy. If Rose can come back to the Bulls at close to full strength and push them deep into the playoffs, scaring or upsetting a Finals favorite along the way, all the better for 2013-14. But the coming season, for all planning purposes, is a…gulp…wash.
With the Bulls playing for the future, a move to eradicate dead weight and retain fresh meat—say, amnestying Boozer and matching the offer on a solid asset like Asik—would have been a better move for both the present and the future.
You get the sense that Chicago is holding the amnesty of Boozer as a trump card—that is, if they can sell a member of the 2013 or 2014 free agent class on Chicago, then and only then will they pay Boozer to go away. For a team that’s been burned a few times in free agency, you can’t blame the Bulls for playing it close to the vest.
But Boozer is going to be gone at some point before his contract is up. He’s not going to earn that $15 million in 2012-13, even if he matches his lofty 2011-12 performance. Jettisoning him this summer would have been the right move.