Chicago Bulls: What Does the Waiving of Rip Hamilton Really Mean?

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Chicago Bulls: What Does the Waiving of Rip Hamilton Really Mean?
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According to Ken Berger of CBS Sports, the Chicago Bulls will reportedly waive Rip Hamilton in the next few days.

This move wasn't anything unexpected, as Hamilton had two of the worst seasons of his career as a member of the Bulls for the past two years. He is set to earn another $5 million for the 2013-14 season, but only $1 million is guaranteed if he gets waived, which the Bulls have already done.

In his first season with the Bulls, Hamilton suffered from the most injury-plagued season of his career, as he appeared in only 28 games in 2011-12 and averaged just 11.6 PPG. He didn't perform much better in the playoffs, as he averaged 13.0 PPG on 41.4 percent shooting from the field and watched the Bulls get eliminated in the first round by the eighth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers.

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In 2012-13, Hamilton was still struggling to stay healthy and started to slowly see his playing time decrease as the season progressed. His minutes were being eaten up by Nate Robinson and Marco Belinelli, who both had a major impact on the Bulls' 2013 postseason run.

Now with Hamilton and his contract out of the picture, the Bulls have more room to sign or re-sign another player at the wing positions.

 

Is Marco Belinelli Here to Stay?

 

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The improvement of Belinelli on both ends of the floor made Hamilton expendable. Not only is he a cheaper option, but he's only 27 years old and his play likely won't regress in the next few years.

After his gritty play during the regular season and the postseason, Belinelli would surely get a bigger payday in the open market. As a player who was once described as a one dimensional, catch-and-shoot scorer, Belinelli's offensive game opened up and his ability to drive the ball to the rim and create a play has soundly improved. Under Tom Thibodeau, Belinelli has also developed into a respectable perimeter defender.

Belinelli has always been a much better three-point shooter than Hamilton. For his career, he has averaged a solid 38.7 percent from beyond the arc. The 2012-13 Bulls, who ranked 21st in the league in three-point percentage (per Team Rankings), would certainly welcome Belinelli back.

His contract has expired at the end of the season, but the release of Hamilton would lighten up the Bulls' cap space. They still need to sign another shooting guard capable of starting or coming off of the bench, and there aren't any better, affordable options than Belinelli.

 

Is Luol Deng on the Trade Block?

The waiving of Hamilton actually had little to do with Deng becoming trade bait.

The emergence of second-year player Jimmy Butler has made Deng somewhat expendable. Butler is 6'7" and a natural shooting guard who is strong and quick enough to guard both wing positions.

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However, he still can't do it by himself, which was evident during the Bulls' second round series matchup against the Miami Heat in the postseason. If the Bulls do decide to re-sign Belinelli, Butler would probably be asked to play small forward more than usual.

I'm not a big fan of dealing away one of the best defenders in the league, but perhaps the Bulls are looking to add one more major piece to their team in order to contend. Getting rid of Hamilton's contract may just be the first step to clearing cap space to sign or trade for a marquee free agent.

Another logical explanation is that the Bulls are clearing cap room to actually keep Deng. Deng, who's set to earn over $14 million next season, could stay with this core group of players and try one last time to compete for a championship. If the Bulls get knocked out early again, then Deng will most likely be gone after next season.

It's still unclear what the Bulls are doing for their future, but waiving Hamilton is starting in the right direction.

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