Mike Dunleavy played all but nine seconds of Tuesday’s game as the Chicago Bulls edged the Atlanta Hawks. He led the team in scoring with 22. Maybe more importantly, he went 4-of-9 from behind the arc, while the rest of the team went 4-of-15.
Brought in to shoot open threes off Derrick Rose drives, Dunleavy has had to redefine his role after Rose went down. He is certainly running off more down screens than he expected this season, but he has been very valuable to a team that struggles to score without its superstar.
Yet, there is a certain segment of Bulls fans who wish he was on another team right now. Plenty of people thought that Dunleavy should be dealt at the deadline, all in the name of cap room. The Bulls’ front office decided to keep Dunleavy, and that will prove to be the right move going forward.
At best, the Bulls could have gotten a late second-round pick for Dunleavy. First-round picks were hard to come by at the trade deadline, and there is no way Dunleavy would have been worth a first rounder to any team.
More than likely, Chicago would’ve dealt Dunleavy for nothing but $3 million in cap room next year. The salary cap for 2014-15 projects to be around $62.1 million. Assuming the Bulls amnesty Carlos Boozer, the team will have $46.6 million committed to the six players on the books for next year. As it stands now, the team would also have two first-round picks (including the Bobcats) that would slot for about $2.8 million. That leaves the team with about $12.1 in cap room.
Dealing Dunleavy would only open $3 million more, and the Bulls would still be nowhere near max-level cap room. Even if the Bulls were unexpectedly able to get a marquee free agent to agree for the max, a Dunleavy deal would not open up enough space. It would take a deal of someone like Taj Gibson (who makes $8 million next year) to get near a max deal.
So, how exactly would Chicago get more bang for its buck by dealing a proven shooter who took a pay cut to join a good team?
The answer is that the team is better suited hanging onto Dunleavy. If for some reason the $3 million salary is preventing the Bulls from signing a more valuable commodity, Dunleavy can always be dealt during the offseason. It presumably wouldn’t be too difficult to find a taker for a solid player on a modest deal.
Deals for players like Dunleavy are very valuable under the new CBA. With the constrictions in the modern salary cap, it is imperative for competitive teams to find quality role players on cheap deals. Most of these deals will come from rookie contracts, but if a veteran is willing to sign for less money, he is a valuable piece to have. The Bulls recognize this, and its the reason why Dunleavy is still a member of the organization.
Donnie Kolakowski is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on twitter @zenoknows.