Making the Call on Chicago Bulls' Toughest Offseason Decisions
The Chicago Bulls could shape their next five years this offseason, but some tough calls will be made for these changes to come to fruition.
Many of the Bulls' decisions this summer will be tailored around the possibility of signing Carmelo Anthony, one of the NBA's elite scorers. Some familiar faces might be shipped off in order to make the 'Melo fantasy a reality, though.
Chicago will have to make a few decisions on current players as well.
Carlos Boozer has had an amnesty cloud hanging over his head the past two years. Unfortunately for the big man, the forecast doesn't look too good this summer.
The Bulls could also look to address some sort of extension for Jimmy Butler, who is entering the final year of his rookie contract. After being selected to the NBA's All-Defensive Second Team, his value has surely increased some. Teams will look to outbid Chicago as Butler becomes a restricted free agent in 2015.
So, how should Chicago address each situation this July?
D.J. Augustin's Future
After a breakout season, D.J. Augustin is sure to be the most sought-after free agent the Bulls have.
Bulls management has told to Augustin it wants to re-sign him, per Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald. But the 26-year-old point guard will likely cost more than the minimum contract he signed this past season.
Augustin has said money isn't as important, but after his performance this past season, certain teams could look to sign him to a multi-year deal as a key role player or maybe even as a starter.
A decision on Augustin's future with the Bulls could rest on what they choose to do with fellow point guard Kirk Hinrich, who is also a free agent this summer. In an effort to save money and keep cap space for a potential Anthony deal, the Bulls should retain just one of the two guards.
That guard should be Augustin.
There’s a small chance Derrick Rose's minutes will be limited given his back-to-back, season-ending injuries. If that’s the case, Augustin—who plays a similar style as Rose—could be a perfect backup point guard.
Augustin could keep the Bulls' offense going at a similar pace. His scoring ability is also far superior to Hinrich's, and Chicago could use all the scoring it can get from its second unit.
The price will have to be right, but the Bulls have to try to keep Augustin around.
Jimmy Butler Extension
While it's not essential for Chicago to make a move on Butler right away, signing the defensive stalwart to a multi-year extension should be somewhere on the list.
The Bulls can extend a qualifying offer next summer to make Butler a restricted free agent, allowing them to match any offer sheets he signs. Chicago would be smart to sign him earlier than that, though.
Last time the Bulls were faced with a notable restricted free agent, they were insanely outbid and lost Omer Asik, a significant part of their second unit.
Chicago has the upper hand in that they can offer him more money, but the question is how far past the cap (and possible luxury tax) would they want to go, assuming they've signed another star to a max deal?
A defensive specialist like Tony Allen demanded a deal worth $5 million per year. It's safe to assume Butler will be worth at the very least that much. Given he's a better offensive player than Allen with potential to keep improving, Butler's value could be upward of $7-to-8 million per year, similar to Taj Gibson two years ago.
Butler has proven over the last two years he will be a key player in the Bulls' future. From his fierce defense to his potential as a slasher, the Texas native is worth every penny, and Chicago should act on it sooner rather than later.
Trading Draft Picks
Yet another decision that will be affected by the Anthony situation, but Chicago has a few different options when it comes to its draft picks.
With the Nos. 16 and 19 picks, the Bulls can look to trade either or both selections for a chance to move up or a veteran scorer, as Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix pointed out they're trying to do. Tom Thibodeau has shown that he's not a fan of playing rookies, so adding two might not be a great idea.
If the Bulls trade just one—most likely the 16th—they should target a guard in the draft. Someone like Syracuse’s Tyler Ennis or P.J. Hairston, who averaged 21 points per game in the D-League, could be a big boost to Chicago’s anemic offense.
The most likely scenario, and perhaps the best one, is to trade both picks. Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders reported via Twitter that Chicago is leaning toward that exact plan.
Trading both picks would clear two rookie-scale contracts from the Bulls' books, giving them that much more wiggle room as they try to acquire Anthony and give him a better offer.
Carlos Boozer Amnesty
This might be the toughest decision, especially if the Bulls don't win the 'Melo sweepstakes.
After an incredibly disappointing year, the possibility for a Boozer amnesty has never seemed more real. There's just one problem, though: Management wants something in return for him, as ESPN's Marc Stein reported this past April.
Jerry Reinsdorf is most likely against the idea because if Boozer is amnestied and unclaimed from waivers, Chicago will have to pay him the $16.8 million he's owed anyway, it just wouldn't be part of the Bulls' official salary.
Finding a trade partner willing to take Boozer's contract won't be easy, though. The fact that it's an expiring contract will attract franchises in rebuilding mode, but Chicago may not get much return other than maybe a heavily protected future first-round draft pick. And that's a big maybe.
Ultimately, the decision will depend on whether or not the Bulls can get Anthony.
If the Knicks are unwilling to take on Boozer's contract—as they should be—cutting Boozer will be Chicago's only solution to clearing cap space.
2013-14 may have been the last time we heard "Get it Jo!"
Who Goes If Bulls Actually Get 'Melo?
Two moves that will change the franchise for the next few years: One of them is getting 'Melo, but getting a superstar player doesn’t come without sacrifices.
The Bulls will have to part ways with one or two key players outside of the Boozer amnesty if they want to sign 'Melo to a big deal.
Relieving itself of Boozer's contract gives Chicago approximately $16 million to work with, assuming a cap of $63.2 million for 2014-15, as reported by Larry Coon. However, taking cap holds into account subtracts a few million, which is why Gibson, Butler and Mike Dunleavy are constantly being mentioned in trades involving Anthony.
Dunleavy would likely be the next man up. As a spot-up shooter, Dunleavy holds value around the league, and teams were actively asking about his availability. The only problem is that Dunleavy's $3 million deal might not be enough when coupled with Boozer's mammoth salary.
What it boils down to is: Who is more valuable to the roster if Anthony was a part of it, Butler or Gibson?
I'd have to say Butler.
Carmelo showed during his three years with the New York Knicks that he excelled while playing the 4. Not only that, but the Bulls could potentially replace Gibson in 2015-16 by finally signing Nikola Mirotic. Chicago's frontcourt would lose some of its defensive tenacity without Gibson.
It would, however, keep a lockdown defender in the perimeter, something that has become crucial in the NBA.
Trading Gibson rather than Butler also helps in terms of clearing cap space since Gibson makes nearly $6 more than Butler. Boozer and Gibson make a combined $24.8 million in 2014-15, leaving enough room for a sign-and-trade with the Knicks where the Bulls can offer Anthony a max deal.
Sacrifices will have to be made, but it's a sacrifice that could take Chicago back to the promised land.