So…let’s get this straight.
A contract worth $25.1 million over three years for a guy who averaged 3.1 PPG and 5.3 RPG with a Player Efficiency Rating of 13.4 while playing only 14.7 MPG last season?
For those of you who enjoy simple math, that deal would have Asik making around $8 million per year.
If you’re wondering how Houston was able to offer Asik that much cash, ESPN’s John Hollinger breaks it down detail-by-detail. Here are the main points:
Under the “Gilbert Arenas” provision of the league’s collective bargaining agreement, a player such as Asik — a second-round draft pick coming off his second season — can be offered only a maximum of the midlevel exception in free agency for the first two seasons but can be offered any amount up to the maximum in years after that.
Houston took advantage of this provision by limiting his offer to three years, rather than the maximum of four, and offering the maximum eligible salary in Year 3.
It’s so damaging because of how the league assigns the salary cap and luxury tax hits for the respective sides. In Houston’s case, the amounts are averaged over the three seasons, requiring the Rockets to have a little more than $8 million in cap room to consummate the deal.
As it turns out, the Rockets can absorb that cap hit without much trouble. The Bulls? Not so much. Hollinger continues:
The league calculates the cap charge differently for a team matching the offer sheet, using actual salaries instead of the average. So the Bulls get off easy in the short term; a $5 million cap charge for Asik this year and next should have been in their budget to start.
But then in 2014-15, it jumps up to about $14.9 million. And it’s not clear how the Bulls are supposed to handle that, especially given their aversion to the luxury tax and the fact they may be subject to the repeater penalty by then. Between Asik, Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah, they have $61.6 million committed and that’s without paying Taj Gibson, retaining Luol Deng, or adding any free agent or draft picks.
They’re almost certainly a tax team, in other words, and in fact they’re likely to be deep into the tax, even if the league’s tax level rises a few ducats by then. Which makes the effective cost of keeping Asik that season closer to $30 million than $15 million. And as much as I may admire his defense and rebounding, it’s inconceivable that Asik is worth anywhere near $30 million.
I have to agree with Hollinger. Omer isn’t worth that kind of money. Not when the team has several other holes that need to be filled.
And for the people who may be screaming for the Bulls to simply use the amnesty provision to dump Boozer’s contract, it’s not quite that simple, as Hollinger also explains:
Are there ways around this? Yes, but the medicine is worse than the disease. If in 2014 the Bulls were to use the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer, who would be on the final year of his deal, that would cut $15 million from their cap number (and likely from their luxury tax bill) that season, but they would still have to pay Boozer, which would still make Asik’s effective cost $30 million — except in that case, it’s $30 million and a starting power forward.
So that doesn’t make much sense either. Meaning the Bulls are kind of behind the eight ball.
As ESPN’s Marc Stein pointed out, Bulls GM Gar Forman said after the draft on Thursday that management will be making decisions based on basketball and not finances. It makes for a great quote…but at some point finances always come into play. And it almost certainly will here. At this cost, if the Bulls match Houston’s offer on Asik, it will require major changes to personnel. Ditto if they lose Asik.
As usual, there are no easy answers.