The Bulls on Tuesday officially will announce they have declined to match Omer Asik’s three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet from the Rockets, sources said, paving the way for multiple signings that began Monday with Kirk Hinrich.
This isn’t too surprising. The structure of Asik’s offer — which included a “poison pill” third-year salary of just under $15 million — was both ridiculous (considering he struggled to average 3.1 PPG last season) and prohibitive (because it would have pushed the Bulls into the luxury tax and limited their ability to sign free agents down the road).
I know some fans have interpreted this move as a further sign that Bulls management and ownership are a bunch of miserly, tightfisted, penny-pinching cheapskates. And it has opened GM Gar Forman to some mockery for his statement that: “Our decisions this summer will be basketball decisions, not financial decisions.”
But you know what? This was both a financial and a basketball decision.
Sometimes they’re the same thing.
Did Omer Asik make the team better (if primarily on the defensive end)? Absolutely.
Is Omer Asik going to be worth $15 million three seasons from now? Absolutely not.
In the short term, losing Asik will hurt and make the Bulls a little worse. But management won’t have to work around that $15 million cap-killer when shopping for free agents prior to the 2014-15 season…and that will make the Bulls a little better. Maybe a lot better depending on how things turn out.
Now let’s look ahead.
According to Johnson, Hinrich will be signing a two-year deal worth about $8 million, and his signing will be officially announced today during a 2 p.m. press conference at the Berto Center.
Hinrich said (via a statement): “I’m very excited to be back in Chicago and to wear a Bulls uniform once again. I look forward to getting back out on the court as a Bull, and contributing to the team in any way I can.”
Bulls GM Gar Forman said (also by way of statement): “We are pleased to be able to bring Kirk back to Chicago. His ability to play both spots in the backcourt will help us immensely this season. Kirk’s tenacity and passion for the game complement our style of play, and we look forward to seeing him back in a Bulls uniform.”
Expect Kirk to be the team’s starting point guard until Derrick Rose returns from injury. After that, he’ll likely back up both Rose and shooting guard Richard Hamilton.
Furthermore, Chicago native Nazr Mohammed will be signing for the veteran’s minimum ($1.3 million) and free agent shooting guard Marco Belinelli is expected to sign for the bi-annual exception (a bit less than $2 million).
According to ESPNChicago:
By using the bi-annual exception, the Bulls hard cap themselves at $74 million for the season. As ESPN salary cap expert Larry Coon has stated, the hard cap may preclude the Bulls from making any major in-season acquisitions. They will have to add minimum salaried players to fill out the roster.
ESPNChicag’s Nick Friedell provides a succinct breakdown of what this means:
While the organization hasn’t come out and said they are in a holding pattern for the next couple seasons, it appears they are building towards making a push at the free agency class two summers from now. At that point, Luol Deng’s contract comes off the books and Carlos Boozer figures to be amnestied. Those two moves would give the Bulls $30 million of free cap space as the team tries to go after another major star to pair with Rose either via trade or free agency. Aside from Rose, the only other players on the Bulls roster then figure to be Joakim Noah, who signed a five-year, $60 million dollar extension which kicked in last season; Gibson, who is already in the process of discussing an extension with the Bulls which figures to earn him close to $8 million a year; and Butler and Teague, both of whom will still be under rookie contracts. The Bulls could also decide to bring foreign import Nikola Mirotic over to the NBA if both sides feel he is ready, or package some of those assets, along with a Charlotte Bobcats first-round pick from the Tyrus Thomas deal, to acquire another star.
This fits with what I’ve been saying for the past few weeks. The Bulls are about to embark on a couple “placeholder” seasons. They will be competitive and well-coached but won’t have the firepower necessary to compete with the league’s elite teams (Celtics, Heat, Lakers, Spurs, Thunder, etc.). They are taking steps backward in hopes of a brighter future down the road after Rose is back and fully recovered.
For fun, here’s a free agent list for 2014.