Breaking Down Why Chicago Bulls Can't Afford to Amnesty Carlos Boozer

Kelly Scaletta@@KellyScalettaFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2013

BOSTON, MA - FEBRUARY 13: Carlos Boozer #5 of the Chicago Bulls is fouled by Chris Wilcox #44 of the Boston Celtics during the game on February 13, 2013 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Many Chicago Bulls fans would love to see Chicago discard Carlos Boozer this summer via the amnesty provision. His bulky $16 million salary has not brought a corresponding return, and many believe that the money spent on Boozer would be better spent elsewhere.

However, this would be inadvisable for a few reasons—not the least of which is money.

There appears to be a common misconception that the NBA is a nonprofit business. I say this because fans constantly complain that decisions are made for "money reasons." 

When a team amnesties a player, they are still required to pay him, minus the difference in whatever another team pays him. In Boozer's case that would mean the Bulls paying $32.1 million over two years minus whatever the winning bidder pays.

Given that most winning bids have been in the $2 million or less range, that is a big chunk of change to donate to nothing. 

It is easy to complain about Jerry Reinsdorf, but it is not your $28 million, give or take, that is being given away. 

Tucked up under the basic "Jerry Reinsdorf is being greedy" rhetoric, though, there is another reason  connected to that particular dot: Namely, another team does get to pick him up.

And while he might not be earning his full $15 million, Boozer is a steal at $2 million or thereabouts. 

Only teams that are under the cap are allowed to bid initially, but what if one of those teams is your division rival, the Indiana Pacers, who have a starting power forward with an expiring contract?

Then there is also the Milwaukee Bucks who will be under the cap. Or how about the Cleveland Cavaliers or Detroit Pistons?

Literally every team in the Central Division but the Chicago Bulls will be under the cap this summer, and every one of them would be helped by Carlos Boozer. They would gladly part with the $2 million a year that would be required to secure his services.

Paying a player $15 million to not play at all is one thing. Paying him $13 million to compete against you is quite another.  

Now having said all that, it could be worth the trouble if there were some reason, either money or basketball, to amnesty Boozer.

But there isn't. 

Part of the reason many fans want Boozer to be waived is that they misunderstand the way the cap works, and they think that by cutting $15 million in salary, they can add that in replacement.

That's not the way the cap works. 

The NBA has a soft cap. What that means is there is a salary cap, but there are ways teams can go over it. It is complicated, and there are penalties if they go so far over the cap, but it is "soft" as opposed to being hard, such as in the NFL, where you can't go over the cap for any reason.

However, that doesn't mean a team can go over the cap as far as it wants, whenever they want, and just pay the fines. 

To go over the cap requires meeting certain "exceptions." For example, there are "Bird Rights," which allow a team to go over the cap (or further over the cap) if they are re-signing their own player. This is why Taj Gibson was able to sign an extension, even though the Bulls were already over the cap. 

There are numerous other exceptions, such as rookie exceptions, mid-level exceptions, traded player exceptions and bi-annual exceptions. For each of these exceptions, there is a limit to how much money a team can spend and/or the number of times the exception can be used. 

The entirety of exceptions and their corresponding rules are beyond the scope of this article, but suffice to say, a team can't simply decide to go out and spend $25 million over the cap. This is critical to understand in the conversation of amnestying Carlos Boozer. 

As it stands, the Bulls are carrying a $77 million payroll for next season. They will need to add three players to the roster, which is going to include, at a minimum, one rookie, and two player-minimum contracts. They will need that to just get to the 12-man minimum.

To keep the math simple, we'll just round that off to $4 million, meaning the Bulls will have a salary of $81 million. Now they can buy out Richard Hamilton, but $1 million would stay on the books, and they would have to replace him, which would add another million.

So if the Bulls don't waive Boozer this summer, they are right at $74 million.

If they were to drop him, then they would get that total down to $58 million, which would be right at or very near the salary cap. Being under the cap, they would be able to run out and spend $2.5 million—the mini-mid-level exception for teams under the cap—to replace Boozer.

When you consider that Carlos Boozer, while wildly inconsistent, isn't as horrible as he is made out to be, it becomes hard to justify amnestying him.  

In fact, prior to getting injured and struggling the week leading up to the All-Star break, he was playing his best ball as a Chicago Bull, which even included him winning an Eastern Conference Player of the Week Award. 

As a Bull, Boozer has averaged 16 points and nine rebounds a game. That might not be worth $16 million, but it is not replaceable with $2.5 million.

In fact, the core of Boozer, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Derrick Rose have been pretty successful, having won 85 percent of their starts together.  

No, they haven't won any titles, but other than the Miami Heat, which still-together core has?

It is not so much about how much Boozer is worth or whether he is earning his checks. It is about whether or not the Bulls can improve their title chances by amnestying him.

This summer that is simply not the case. 

All Chicago would do by amnestying Boozer is spend a lot of money, get worse and potentially make its opponents better. There is really no incentive to do that. 

In the summer of 2014, with Luol Deng's contract expiring, that could change dramatically for a few reasons. First, combining the two contracts together means there is more financial freedom. Second, Nikola Mirotic, the Bulls coveted "draft-and-stash" asset, is projected by many to join the Bulls that summer. Third, the cost of amnestying Boozer is cut in half. 

At that point, the Bulls could improve themselves by amnestying Boozer. 

For the time being, though, giving the current core a chance with a healthy Derrick Rose seems the more tenable, as well as profitable, solution. 


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