Chicago Bulls with Decisions to Make on Key Members of ‘Bench Mob’
Over the past two seasons, the Chicago Bulls have prided themselves on their “Bench Mob.” The Bulls have been one of the deeper teams in the NBA, and on plenty of occasions, we have seen the bench take over games with dominant defense and occasional flashes of offense.
But with Derrick Rose’s extension kicking in next season and the luxury tax looming (complete with that harsh repeater tax penalty soon coming into play), the Bulls may look to chop salary this offseason in order to try and get under the tax line. We all know that Jerry Reinsdorf has avoided paying the tax like the plague, and with the Bulls not likely in championship contention due to the Rose injury next year, ole Jerry may try do whatever it takes to not pay the tax.
And if the Bulls are not going to amnesty Carlos Boozer (they won’t), that means breaking up the “Bench Mob.”
Omer Asik is a restricted free agent and is in line to get a raise. Both K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune and Aggrey Sam of CSN Chicago have stated that they expect the Bulls to match any offer sheet on Asik, although there are possible scenarios where he could become very expensive to keep in a few years.
But if the Bulls do match an offer sheet on Asik that pays him $5 million in the first year of a deal (that’s the most he can be paid in the first year), that means the team will have $68-69 million committed to eight guys (Rose/Boozer/Deng/Noah/Hamilton/Gibson/Asik/Butler). The luxury tax threshold will likely be around $71 million (cannot be less than the 2011-12 threshold of $70.307 million), so that leaves barely any space for the rest of the roster if they want to stay under the tax line. I’m not even sure that would be possible in this scenario, but the Bulls may still look to avoid going over the line too much.
Besides Asik, the Bulls will have decisions to make on Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson. Brewer’s $4.37 million salary and Watson’s $3.2 million salary are fully unguaranteed if the Bulls waive them by July 10, while only $500,000 of Korver’s $5.0 million salary is guaranteed. If the Bulls want to try and avoid that tax, or at the very least pay as little tax as possible, one or more of these guys will have to go.
Let’s take a closer look at each player’s situation.
I’ve been saying this for quite some time now, but Brewer is the most likely candidate to move on. And my thoughts have been echoed by those in the know, particularly K.C. and Aggrey. Quite simply, having Brewer and Jimmy Butler both on the roster is somewhat redundant. They are both defense-first wings with limited offensive games. However, Butler is younger, much cheaper and has a higher ceiling on the offensive end. The Bulls may end up deciding to keep Brewer around because of Luol Deng’s wrist injury, but I’d be content giving Butler the majority of those minutes instead. Since next year may be a “treading water” type season anyway, the Bulls might as well do all they can to develop Butler into a competent bench threat (or possibly a replacement for Deng down the road).
With Rose and Deng both likely out for the beginning of next season, the Bulls will need scoring/shooting in the worst way. Hell, they sometimes need that stuff even when both of those guys are in the lineup. Korver is obviously not a great scorer and he may be a bit overpriced, but he’s the Bulls’ only legitimate sharpshooter from deep. Sure Watson and John Lucas III can be dangerous from three, but Korver’s ability to move without the ball and work off screens is almost unparalleled in the NBA. Even when he’s not hitting (and he can be quite streaky), teams always have to worry about Kyle getting free for an open look. The Bulls certainly could look to draft a shooter at 29 and cut Korver loose, but I think Kyle should be brought back for the final year of his deal. Whether that actually happens is anybody’s guess. I’d put it at 50/50.
The Watson situation is rather intriguing. When healthy, Watson is almost a steal at $3.2 million. However, he battled injuries all last season and underwent procedures on both his feet to correct an issue with plantar faciitis. Combine these injury issues with how last season ended (C.J. peeing down his leg against the Sixers), and the Bulls may look to go in another direction. Rumors of Steve Nash and Jason Kidd have already surfaced, while guys like Kirk Hinrich, Chauncey Billups and Andre Miller among others will also be on the market. The Bulls will likely have limited funds to lure these guys (unless they really did some serious “Bench Mob” house cleaning), so who knows if signing one of these players will even be possible. Also complicating matters of course is the Rose injury. Would the Bulls be okay with signing a new point guard, dumping Watson, and then going with JL3 as the primary backup until Rose returns? Or would they prefer to sign somebody and keep Watson around as the backup? If you put a gun to my head, I would guess that Watson returns, although it certainly would not shock me if he does not.
Thanks to our friends at Sports Media 101.