The Chicago Bulls want Carmelo Anthony. Melo seems increasingly likely to leave the New York Knicks. But there’s still a big question to be addressed: is Melo in Chicago going to work under the salary cap?
The answer, based on the salary numbers available from ShamSports.com, appears to be yes. In fact, things wouldn’t be terribly different than they are right now, financially.
Let’s start with Melo himself. He can make well over $20 million next season if he signs for as much as he’s allowed to under the CBA. The Bulls, without sacrificing anyone beyond Carlos Boozer, can offer him about $13 million for next season. Trading Mike Dunleavy to a team with cap space brings that offer to about $16 million, and dumping one or both of their draft picks would free up another $2-4 million. But let’s say Melo wants to win badly enough that he signs for about $15 million in his first year. That allows the Bulls to keep both picks, though Dunleavy would still have to go.
The Bulls would, then, have $63 million committed to nine players (Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Greg Smith, Jimmy Butler, Tony Snell and two rookies, plus Melo). They probably couldn’t bring Nikola Mirotic over unless Mirotic was willing to sign for the “room” exception for about $2.7 million, which seems unlikely. But they could use the room exception on someone else or — and this is more likely — just fill the last four spots with minimum guys. That would leave the Bulls with around $67 million in salary, well below the projected tax line. Like, WELL below. Like, $10 million below.
Then in 2015-16, things get a little more interesting. Jimmy Butler will either have an extension in hand or need to be re-signed after the season. Everyone else gets slightly more expensive. And you’d definitely want to bring Mirotic over.
So here’s what you’d have: $42 million combined for Rose/Noah/Gibson, $16 million for Melo, probably $7 million for Butler, $5 million for Mirotic, $1.5 mil for Snell and a combined $4.5 mil for the two 2014 draft picks. That’s $76 million total. Throw in another $1-2 million for their 2015 pick, which probably will come via the Cleveland Cavaliers, since the Bulls got swap rights for the Cavs in 2015 as part of the Luol Deng trade. That leaves them $4-5 million short of the projected tax line, which is $81 million as of this moment. But they only need three players in this scenario, so if those guys sign for the minimum, they don’t even have to pay the tax. They could even throw someone the Bi-Annual Exception if they were feeling frisky.
Think about that. The Bulls would have Rose, Butler, Melo, Taj, Noah, Mirotic, Snell and three other guys on rookie contracts, plus whoever they get for the minimum/BAE, and they wouldn’t even cross over the tax line. That’s insane.
It’s also worth noting that ditching one or both of this year’s draft picks — or taking someone they can stash overseas — so Melo doesn’t have to take as much of a pay cut doesn’t change this projection much. Any increase in Melo’s salary would come with a corresponding decrease in the salary committed to young guys, who could be replaced with minimum-salaried players. And I didn’t even bother to account for the Bulls’ 2014 2nd rounder or the two 2nd rounders (their own and Portland’s, via the Deng trade) they’ll have in 2015, which would allow the Bulls to fill out their roster with players making even less than the veteran’s minimum, if they chose.
There is also the possibility that the Sacramento Kings would send the Bulls their 2015 pick, but it’s top-10 projected and I just don’t see that happening.
So, as it turns out, the Bulls’ financial future is pretty bright. I’m sure Jerry Reinsdorf is already scheduling the #FinancialChamps parade.