The Chicago Bulls have a chance to threaten for a title run with or without Derrick Rose, but there’s a lot of uncertainty left to address. Making a few moves in preparation for the future wouldn’t be a bad decision.
According to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com, sources indicate the Bulls are “open to moving Rip Hamilton” for the right deal in an attempt to lessen the luxury tax burden that will hit teams even harder in 2013.
Under the new NBA collective bargaining agreement, teams will be taxed at a higher rate this year. Until this season, teams were taxed one dollar for every dollar they spent over the luxury tax threshold.
Beginning in the 2012-13 season, the tax rate will be incrementally higher. For every $5 million a team exceeds the limit, it will be expected to pay exponentially higher sums on each dollar.
Berger has this to say on the merits of trading Hamilton to cut back on spending and work to get under the luxury tax:
Although they planned to be over the tax for the first time this season, Derrick Rose's stated reluctance to return from ACL surgery before he's "110 percent" presents a dilemma. Why pay the tax and burn a year on the clock that begins ticking this season toward massive repeater-tax penalties for a less-than-championship season? For that reason, sources say the Bulls are open to moving Rip Hamilton in a deal that makes sense and saves them a year on the repeater-tax rolls.
The league’s new financial policies will dictate a lot of the action on the trade and free agent markets both this season and during the summer. NBA franchises may have a lot of money to burn, but none of them want to pay an excessive tax for overspending, which is exactly what the new luxury tax is going to be.
Hamilton’s contract isn’t exorbitant—he’s making just $5 million this season and next—but $5 million off the books for a player who isn’t producing as he once did makes financial sense, especially in a league in which financial flexibility is as good as the gold backing the cash.
While there’s no timetable on Rose’s return, the Bulls can afford to let Hamilton go, especially if the package they get in return helps the team in both financial and competitive aspects. Chicago has some backcourt depth, even with Rose on the shelf.
Kirk Hinrich and Nate Robinson have spent most of their time at the point guard position this season. While Hinrich is Chicago’s best option to fill in for Rose, he’s fully capable of platooning in a shooting guard role when Rose comes back.
Hamilton and 26-year-old shooting guard Marco Belinelli have split most of the minutes at the position this season. In 23 minutes per game, Hamilton is averaging 10.7 points and 2.4 assists. In 24 minutes, Belinelli is averaging 9.6 points and 1.6 assists—not a huge drop in production from what the 35-year-old offers from game to game.
Belinelli, Hinrich and Robinson are capable of carrying the team’s backcourt until Rose’s return. Losing Hamilton would be an obstacle, but it wouldn’t completely derail the Bulls’ season.
Chicago has a chance to make a splash in its final 30 games, but Rose’s absence means an “all-in” scenario isn’t really in the cards this season. The Bulls would be wise to roll the dice in moving Hamilton in an attempt to maintain financial flexibility and sustainability for the coming seasons.