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The Chicago Bulls right now have no cap space, but they will. While millions of Chicago Bulls fans eagerly anticipate the amnestying of Carlos Boozer this summer, it's unlikely to happen.
The following year, though, there's reason to believe it could. Here's what some casual fans miss.
The way the soft cap works is that you can use certain exceptions to sign players, even if you are over the cap. For instance, you can carry two players with a mid-level exception if you're over the cap. That's a $5 million-per-year contract, but the catch is that you can only sign one player per year and carry a maximum of two with the mid-level exception.
You can re-sign players using the Larry Bird Exception, even if it puts you over the cap.
However, what you can't do is amnesty a player, or even let a player with an expiring contract go, and then sign someone else for the same amount of money. You can only do that if you're that far under the cap.
If a team is over the cap by $15 million and a $15 million contract expires, it can only add a player for $5 million, and that's only if it hasn't used both its mid-level exceptions.
If they were to amnesty Boozer and Richard Hamilton, that would relieve them of $19 million in cap space.
Ergo, Boozer's $15 million contract cannot be replaced with any $15 million contract. They would need to trade his contract for another contract of like value, and no one wants Boozer's $15 million contract any more than the Bulls do.
If they were to find someone who wanted the contract, they'd have to take back another bad contract. For example, the Brooklyn Nets would probably jump at the chance to give the Bulls Kris Humphries' $12 million contract and another player for Boozer's $15 million contract, but the Bulls wouldn't get any better or have any reason to do that.
Pretty much the Bulls aren't going to be able to do anything with Boozer's situation that makes them better until the summer after next. Then it makes sense. Luol Deng's contract comes off the books. Kirk Hinrich's contract comes off the books.
Taking Boozer's contract off the books would mean they could do one of two things. Either they could A) re-sign Deng for about $8 million a year and another player for about $10-12 million or even more depending on what the cap is, or B) Sign a player for around $15-20 million a year and couple that with C) bringing over Nikola Mirotic. Or if Deng is willing to take less, and if the cap goes up a few million, they could conceivably sign a player for around the $12-13 million range.
One such available player would be Eric Gordon.
So the Bulls could conceivably have a lineup that looks like this.
PG: Derrick Rose/Marquis Teague
SG: Eric Gordon/???
SF: Luol Deng/Jimmy Butler
PF: Taj Gibson/Nikola Mirotic
C: Joakim Noah/???
The question marks could be filled in with the Bulls' draft choices between now and then. It's also possible that Mirotic would be the starting PF.
Or consider the possibility that the Heat don't win three straight titles and the big-three get busted up, which they might have to do considering the Heat will have massive taxes due then, and in spite of popular belief, Miami is not a major market.
What if LeBron James becomes available and the Bulls land him this time? What if you have a lineup like this?
PG: Derrick Rose/Marquis Teague
SG: Jimmy Butler
SF: Luol Deng
PF: LeBron James/Nikola Mirotic
C: Joakim Noah
I know, "don't go there again," "fool me once shame on me, fool me twice shame on the media" and all that. I'm just looking at different options. The Bulls will have a lot more freedom come 2014-15 than they do right now.
The reality is that the Bulls will have a solid core who are ready to win a title. They'll have a point guard who has already won an MVP and will just be entering the prime of his career. And they'll be playing the third-largest city in the country, which has been the home of two of the best-endorsed NBA players ever.
These are just a couple of ideas that I'm bouncing around. The Bulls will have cap space and the ability add, at the very least, a high-quality scorer if they haven't already done so through the draft. They'll be an attractive landing place too.