The Chicago Bulls are at, well, let’s call it a mini-crossroads, as next year could be the major one — but that’s for another day. However, today, they are at a mini-crossroads and I’ll tell you why.
Even though many think they’ll be able to contend for the championship next season without making major changes, but simply by adding Derrick Rose back to the mix, there is a potential deal out there that could put them over the top next season (assuming no one else tears an ACL) almost for certain.
Reports just recently came out that the Milwaukee Bucks and Monta Ellis did not come to an agreement on a contract extension. Ellis is on the last potential year of his contract as he has a player option, but it is now very likely that he will, in fact, opt out.
If this does come to fruition, the Bulls must have Ellis on their radar as he could be the missing piece to making them the beasts of the east.
The young two-guard is a fantastic scorer. While playing for the Golden State Warriors, Ellis put up numbers to the tune of 19, 20.2, 21.9, 24.1 and a career-best 25.5 points per game during his third through seventh seasons in the league. Then he was traded to the Bucks, where he did not perform as well, as his shooting percentages dropped a few points. Whether it was the system or the personnel, who knows? But in a bad situation — which Milwaukee certainly wasn’t a good one — some players just don’t play the same.
However, on a team like the Bulls with great chemistry, leadership and structure, as well as a coach like Tom Thibodeau, Ellis could very easily thrive once again as a potent scorer with Rose. But how can they acquire him? He’s going to take quite a bit of cap space, something the Bulls don’t have much of at the moment. But there’s always a way.
The amnesty clause that was negotiated in the last labor deal gives GM Gar Forman and VP of Basketball Operations John Paxson the opportunity to cut one player from the team without having to account for any owed money in the team’s salary cap. As many Bulls fans know and have called for, Carlos Boozer‘s name comes up a lot in this conversation of the amnesty clause. Though Boozer had a strong year in 2012, he’s mostly been a disappointment in his three years with the Bulls, and still has two years worth just over $32 million left on his contract.
Amnestying Boozer is the initial step of making a run for the former-Buck. The second (and likely final) step is trading — wait for it — Luol Deng.
The Denger is a fan-favorite, and a truly great player to root for, but he isn’t the scorer the Bulls need. And with Jimmy Butler proving how good of a player he will be moving forward, especially defensively, they can afford to cut ties with Deng. If they were smart in this scenario, they’d get a much cheaper and younger power forward to back up Taj Gibson (who would replace Boozer in the starting lineup) and perhaps a first round pick in next year’s draft, which is going to be very strong. Perhaps someone like Tristan Thompson, if the Cleveland Cavaliers were willing to part ways (which I doubt, unfortunately).
Those two moves free up just under $30 million in cap space, which would put the Bulls at a total of roughly $43.5 million in player salaries. The salary cap is set to be around $58.5 million for each NBA team in the 2013-14 season, which means that the Bulls would have almost $15 million in cap space to try and sign Ellis, which is more than enough.
These are a lot of “what ifs,” but if I can come up with this scenario in less than an hour, then the Bulls front office could certainly figure it out as well.
If, somehow, this situation did come to pass, we would see a dynamic starting lineup of Rose, Ellis, Butler, Gibson and Joakim Noah. On the bench they’d have Kirk Hinrich, Marco Belinelli (if resigned), the power forward they traded Deng for and new backups at small forward and center, which they could easily use the mid-level exception on.
It seems so simple on paper, doesn’t it?