NBA Trade Deadline: Chicago Bulls Have Best of Both Worlds

Ed LeiserCorrespondent IFebruary 18, 2010

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 29: Tyrus Thomas #24 of the Chicago Bulls looks to pass against the San Antonio Spurs at the United Center on October 29, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bulls defeated the Spurs 92-85.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Perhaps no team was busier than the Chicago Bulls this week.

In addition to a pair of wins against the mighty New York Knicks, the Bulls made a pair of deals that will greatly improve their future—without sacrificing this season's playoff hopes.

The name of the game for NBA teams was cutting payroll at all possible corners, and the Bulls did just that.

By dealing John Salmons to the Milwaukee Bucks and Tyrus Thomas to the Charlotte Bobcats, the Bulls will have roughly $20 million (or more) available to lure a free agent to a max contract deal.

You've heard the names that could be available: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson, Amar'e Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, etc.

The Bulls will likely have enough cap space to sign at least one of those players (two if they get creative or lucky) and a "plan B" option, like a Rudy Gay.

The Bulls take on Hakim Warrick and Joe Alexander from the Bucks, both of whom have expiring contracts and likely won't be Bulls for more than three months. 

They also grabbed Acie Law and Flip Murray from the Bobcats.  They have—you guessed it—expiring contracts and won't hurt the Bulls' free agency plans.

Also, Brad Miller can come off the books if the Bulls plan to build their front court around Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah.

With the loss of Salmons and Thomas (and possibly Miller at season's end), plus the addition of four expiring contracts, the Bulls will be sitting pretty in June.

They also should remain in the hunt for a playoff spot, assuming Joakim Noah's health holds up.

The starting five remain for the Bulls, and they pick up more frontcourt scoring (Hakim Warrick, 10 points per game) than they had with Thomas (eight points per game), but lose a little more with the departure of Salmon's 12 points a game (Murray averages 10 points a game).

It doesn't take a genius to see how that balances out.

Joe Alexander and Acie Law are basically meaningless at this point, but the Bulls also acquire a protected first-round pick in the Thomas deal, meaning anything except a lottery pick from the Bobcats.

Perhaps most important of all, the Bulls lose one of the biggest head cases in the league in Tyrus Thomas.

Blessed with God-given abilities, Thomas never fully got on track in Chicago. 

Thomas is basically a lesser-talented, more well-behaved version of outfielder Milton Bradley—and we all know how his career has gone. 

If only the Bulls could insert Taj Gibson's brain into Thomas' body—then they'd have something.

While in many ways the Bulls are waving the white flag for this season (not only are they dealing away two of their better players, but to eventual playoff competitors), they still have enough talent on the roster to secure a No. 7 or No. 8 seed, meaning Derrick Rose can get at least four more playoff games under his belt.

They'll be a George Mason-type underdog in the playoffs, but just getting Rose, Gibson, and Noah some playoff minutes could be huge for their development.

From this point on, any real Bulls fan needs to be thinking of one date: July 1.

That's the day teams can officially begin negotiations with free agents, with the actual signings coming a week later.

Let the countdown begin.