With Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James both opting out of their contracts, the sweepstakes begin. Teams all around the league are scratching and clawing to get their hands on a star like these guys at whatever costs necessary. Some teams are basing their entire free agency on getting one of these guys, bringing in other assets to entice them or clearing cap space to give them a max contract. While most teams won’t have enough money to actually offer a max contract, they’ll scrape up as much money as they possibly can and offer it up in order to pick up one of the top stars in the league.
This is the first of a series I’ll be doing in which I’ll analyze what teams need to do to get either Melo or LeBron. The first team I’ll look at is the Chicago Bulls. The NBA salary cap for next year is set at $63.2 million, and the Bulls are already over it by $4.8 million…
1. Amnesty Carlos Boozer
Boozer has been pretty solid as the starting PF for the Bulls over the last four years, but injuries have always been a problem for him. Last year he averaged 13.7 PPG and 8.3 RPG, both of which are his lowest averages since his rookie season over a decade ago. He’s clearly on the decline, yet he’s set to make $16.8 million next year. That’s absolutely too much money for a player like Boozer considering where he’s at in his career. He’s probably still good enough to start, but they already have Taj Gibson, so there’s really no room for both of them. While amnestying him would require them to pay him the money, the $16.8 million will come off the books and won’t count against the cap, clearing up a ton of room. If they don’t unload Boozer, they have no shot of getting either player. Cap room after this move: $12.0 million
2. Trade Mike Dunleavy
Dunleavy is another longtime veteran that probably has to go if they want to clear enough space for a big free agent. He actually played in every single game last year, which was his first season with the Bulls. I’m not sure exactly what they could get out of him, but packaging him in a sign and trade is always a possibility if the Knicks/Heat are trying to do that with their stars. He’s due $3.33 million next year, and since every dollar counts, it would help them more if he was gone than if he stayed. Cap room after this move: $15.3 million
3. Trade Tony Snell
Snell was the Bulls’ first round draft pick last year, but like most of the rookies from that draft class, he severely under-performed. He averaged just 4.5 PPG, 1.6 RPG, and 0.9 APG, which basically translates to they don’t need him anymore. Trading him away (possibly in the same sign and trade deal with Dunleavy) would only free up about $1.47 million, but like I said before, every dollar counts. Cap room after this move: $16.8 million
4. Waive Mike James and Louis Amundson
Both of these guys have unguaranteed contracts, and cutting them loose wouldn’t really hurt them too much. Combined, it would clear about $2.75 million of space. Of course, making all of these moves means they barely have anyone on the roster, but they can fill those guys in later after signing a top guy. Cap room after this move: $19.6 million
Of course, they also have to sign the guys they ended up with after the draft, Doug McDermott and Cameron Bairstow. Based on the NBA Rookie Scale projections, McDermott is set to make about $1.9 million in his first year. But, if they wait to sign him officially, I believe they can still “pretend” his salary hasn’t been added to their team salary yet.
So overall, the Bulls have a fair amount of cap space to bring in either Anthony or James, but probably not enough for a max contract for either guy. That may be a factor in who these guys sign with, but overall I see $19.6 million as enough to try to reel in a guy like Melo. They’re in a pretty good situation if they can follow these steps or similar ones.