With Derrick Rose out for the season, there has been much talk about the Chicago Bulls revamping the team and rebuilding. There is one more hidden opportunity for the Bulls, though. They could apply for the disabled player exception.
For those unfamiliar with one of the lesser-used aspects of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA), this might sound like mumbo jumbo. Here are the answers to what it is, what the Bulls could get with it, why the Bulls might do it, and why someone else would want to help.
What Is the Disabled Player Exception?
The CBA FAQ explains what the disable player exception is:
This exception allows a team which is over the cap to replace a disabled player who will be out for the remainder of that season (it can also be granted in the event of a player's death). This exception is granted by the league, based on an application from the team and a determination by an NBA-designated physician that the player is substantially more likely than not to be unable to play through the following June 15.
Derrick Rose’s injury certainly makes it appear that the Bulls could qualify for, and receive, this exception. According to the FAQ,
If this exception is granted, the team can acquire one player, via either trade or free agent signing, to replace the disabled player:
- The team may sign a free agent for one season only, for 50% of the disabled player's salary or the amount of the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level exception, whichever is less.
- The team may trade for a player in the last season of his contract only (including any option years), who is making no more than 50% plus $100,000 of the disabled player's salary, or the amount of the Non-Taxpayer Mid-Level exception plus $100,000, whichever is less.
Since Rose’s salary is well over twice the mid-level exception of $5.15 million, that means the Bulls could sign or trade for a player worth $5.25 million.
It’s important to understand that exceptions can’t be combined with anything to get back a higher-value player. For example, the Bulls couldn’t offer Mike Dunleavy for Evan Turner and then use the exception to absorb the extra salary.
Future assets, however, can be included, because they don't impact the cap. So the Bulls could offer a second-round draft choice or a future protected first-round pick if they so desired.
Any player who is still a free agent would be obtainable for the minimum, therefore not requiring such an exception.
In order to receive this exception, the Bulls would have until January 15, 2014, to apply. They would be able to use the exception until March 15.
One other question some might have is, “What if Rose is available for the playoffs after all? Would getting the exception preclude him from playing?” Rose hinted as much in his first press conference since the injury, stating, via K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune,
If I'm healthy and the situation is right, I'm going to be back playing. If I'm healthy and my meniscus is fully healed, of course I'll be out there playing, but if it's something totally different and the outcome is not how I would want it to be, it's no need.
If that were to happen, according the FAQ, “If the disabled player comes back sooner than expected he may be activated immediately, and the replacement player is not affected.”
Whom Could They Get?
Are there players on the trading block who qualify?
It might seem like it opens a lot of doors, but players in the last year of their contracts makes for a pretty narrow restriction. Here is a list of guards in the final year of their contracts making less than $5.25 million. I omitted starters such as Lance Stephenson or Mario Chalmers, who are obviously not going to be traded.
|Potential Trade Targets for the Disabled Player Exception|
|Player||Team||Cost in Millions|
|Ramon Sessions||Charlotte Bobcats||$5.0|
|Luke Ridnour||Milwaukee Bucks||$4.4|
|Brandon Rush||Utah Jazz||$4.0|
|Salary information obtained from ESPN.|
Of course, not all of these players are interesting, and some are more so than others. Not all are equally available either. Still, a few of these names, such as Sessions or Ridnour, could be interesting.
Fredette can shoot, and the Bulls could definitely use a shooter. Ridnour and Sessions can both generate offense running the point. None of them is perfect (which is why they're available for cheap), but they would give the Bulls something.
There are enough possibilities that the Bulls should, at the very least, apply for the exception and explore their options.
Why Would the Bulls Do It?
One question you might have is: Why on earth would the Bulls do it? They’re not going to be in the finals anyway, so what’s the point?
In a recent interview with Sam Smith of Bulls.com, Gar Forman was unequivocal about where this team stands, stating,
Look, we are always evaluating our team, just like everyone else does. We felt good about this season, but we were hardly perfect. So we always are looking to get better. Everything we do is geared toward winning a championship and we will continue to evaluate any moves that will help us in attaining that goal.
So why not put Jerry Reinsdorf ‘s money where Forman’s mouth is?
If they say they’re always looking for a way to make the team better, they should do it. Poop or get off the pot.
The Bulls already have enough injuries to the backcourt, even apart from Rose. Mike James has a sprained MCL. Jimmy Butler is out with a turf toe. They could use the help now. The worst-case scenario is that you have someone filling in the Nate Robinson role.
And they could certainly use it going forward.
What happens if Rose does come back and he can play with Fredette? The lack of three-point shooting wouldn't be a problem anymore.
If the need is there, and the availability is there, why not at least inquire?
Additionally, at least in a few cases, there are the rights to the players which come in a trade that you can’t get in free agency. With Fredette, for example, the Bulls would now have right to match any offers on the restricted free agent.
Why Would Another Team Do It?
With the value this draft has, teams are looking to dump players in exchange for picks, or in some cases, just for the chance to dump “wins.” Getting rid of a player—even if the return is nothing back but a second-round pick—could move the trading partner up in the lottery.
Tanking isn't teams going out and trying to lose. It's management making roster adjustments that make it harder for teams to win.
These are all players they’re losing anyway at the end of the season and don’t seem to have any interest in keeping around as part of the future. With a couple of exceptions, they aren't really looking like they’re teams with serious postseason aspirations either.
So giving up a little of the present to have a better future? That works on both ends of any trade for any potential trading partners the Bulls would have.
In many cases, these are players on the block for that specific reason.
If the Bulls are serious about still wanting to win this year, they need to do something to step up and prove it. Having dropped six of their last seven, they obviously need to do it soon.
The disabled player exception was included in the CBA for this exact reason. Forman and John Paxson need to utilize it if they want to prove they aren't just giving lip service to competing.
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