Bulls

The Carmelo Anthony-to-Bulls trade waiting to happen

The Carmelo Anthony-to-Bulls trade waiting to happen

Reports have come out that indicate the talks between Carmelo Anthony and the Thunder have progressed to the point where he is meeting with other teams. The Thunder have to decide what is the best option to get rid of Anthony between buying out his contract, stretching him (which means spreading his one-year contract out over multiple years) or trading him, with the latter being the toughest but most favorable for the Thunder.

Anthony’s discussions with other teams have likely been about what his role would be when he becomes available. So far this list has included contending teams like the Rockets, and teams looking to stay relevant like the Heat. The Bulls are of course nowhere on his radar, but they have a few contracts that could make a deal worthwhile for Oklahoma City, while still being beneficial to the Bulls.

It has been extremely difficult for the Thunder to find suitors for Anthony’s contract because of the massive $27.9 million left on his deal. Any contending team that wants him would not be able to afford that, and that is why they are anticipating a buyout. A buyout frees a team of his salary, but they would pay Anthony whatever amount is negotiated in the buyout, and as we’ve seen with Dwyane Wade, that can be costly. 

But the Bulls are operating as one of the few teams with salary cap space, even after re-signing Zach LaVine. And if they want they could attempt to undo one of their more curious signings by getting involved in facilitating Anthony’s move to a new team.  

Here is a trade that would work:
Bulls trade Cristiano Felicio and Robin Lopez to the Thunder for Carmelo Anthony

Why the Bulls would be interested: 
This trade would allow the Bulls to basically undo their four-year $32 million contract to Felicio, which has three years left. He has shown little growth, in fact he took a huge step backwards last season, finishing with some of the worst on/off numbers in the league. 

And while Lopez is still a decent center, moving him would free up minutes in the rotation to further develop Lauri Markkanen, Bobby Portis and Wendell Carter Jr. This move would end the Bulls logjam in the frontcourt by pushing the issue on to the Thunder. 

The final piece of this trade for the Bulls is the fact that Anthony would of course not play for the team. This trade would be made with the assumption that the Bulls have already agreed to buyout Anthony. Chicago could pick up a draft pick in this deal, or they could simply take on Anthony and complete the buyout to set up for the 2019 offseason, where the Bulls figure to be major players. 

Why the Thunder would be interested: 
When Felicio was playing well two seasons ago, the main skill he showed off was an impressive ability to finish at the rim out of the pick-and-roll. Scoring on lobs off the pick-and-roll is a skill that would have much more value in OKC next to an elite point guard in Russell Westbrook.

Of course Felicio would not play a ton with Steven Adams and the newly signed Nerlens Noel in front of him, but Noel is on a two-year, minimum contract with a player option. That means if he plays well, he is likely to seek a more lucrative offer in free agency. Felicio would act as insurance for the team should Noel depart after a season or if one of their other big men get hurt. 

Robin Lopez is a veteran who is a great locker room presence, and still has enough game to be a serviceable center. But with a crowded frontcourt, Lopez would likely be on the move again if he was traded to the Thunder. They would use the fact that he has an expiring contract to try to entice a team into giving up a draft pick of some sort, or find some depth at the shooting guard spot as Andre Roberson insurance. 

But we won’t pretend that this move is motivated by anything other than financial reasons for the Thunder. They likely wouldn’t care what players they get back in a trade of Melo, because it is apparent that OKC would love to avoid the straight up buyout if they can, with hefty luxury tax payments on the way regardless. 

Final verdict: 
This trade is essentially two teams swapping mistakes. The Thunder won’t have Anthony on their roster next year, and while they want to trade him, the market for the 34-year old forward is incredibly non-existent. Chicago isn’t worried about luxury tax payments anytime soon, so taking on Anthony’s contract (and the subsequent buyout) would be worth it just to get rid of a few big men to give Carter and Markkanen even more time to gel as the frontcourt of the future.

How Jabari Parker impacts Bulls’ salary cap in 2019

How Jabari Parker impacts Bulls’ salary cap in 2019

The Bulls ‘rebuild’ seems to be just a one-year experiment after the team signed Chicago native Jabari Parker to a two-year, $40-million dollar deal on Saturday. Although on first look Parker’s contract would seem to restrict what they can do in free agency next summer, the reality is that the 2nd year team option gives the Bulls plenty of flexibility with—or without- Parker next year.  

If the Bulls pick up the option on Parker, they will still be able to sign a max free agent next July if they make the right moves between now and July 1, 2019.

The NBA projects the 2019-20 cap will rise to $109 million, up from $101.9 million for the upcoming season. The league bases a ‘max’ salary on years of service. A 10-year vet like Kevin Durant is eligible for more ($38.2 million) than his teammate Klay Thompson ($32.7 million), an 8-year vet. If the Bulls keep Parker, they’ll enter free agency with approximately $15.4 million next summer—far short of the cap space needed for a player like Durant or Thompson, but that number is misleading. The $15.4 million also includes cap holds (salary slots assigned to a player based on several factors including previous year’s salary). The cap hold is designed to prevent teams from completely circumventing the soft cap model the league uses. The cap holds for Bobby Portis ($7.5 million) and Cameron Payne ($9.8 million) are just theoretical if the Bulls don’t sign either to a contract extension before the October 31, 2018 deadline. 

Let’s say the Bulls are in line to sign a star free agent like Thompson; all they would need to do is rescind any qualifying offer to Payne or Portis, and then renounce them as free agents. This would effectively take the cap holds off the Bulls’ cap sheet and give them approximately $32.7 million in cap space. Coincidently (or perhaps it’s no coincidence), that’s the exact salary a 7-9 year free agent like Thompson would command.

In order to create enough space for Durant and his increased ‘max’ slot, they would need to waive and stretch a player like Cristiano Felicio or incentivize a trade involving a player by attaching another asset in the deal, like a future 1st round pick.

If the Bulls decline the team option on Parker, then they will enter free agency with anywhere between $35 million and $53 million. 

Gar Forman finally comes through on promise

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USA TODAY

Gar Forman finally comes through on promise

"We felt we needed to start getting younger and more athletic..."

It was 2016 when Bulls general manager Gar Forman made this statement, drawing ire from many Bulls fans for what felt like—at the time—a disingenuous statement. A swap of Derrick Rose for Robin Lopez, Jose Calderon and Jerian Grant making you younger and athletic? No one was buying it.

But fast forward to July, 2018, and it is clear that at the very least, Forman has finally made good on his promise. The signing of Jabari Parker has been met with mostly positivity, as a short-term commitment to a former No. 2 overall pick is something that is difficult to hate. But when you factor in the rest of the pieces currently on the roster, it is OK for Bulls fans to be downright giddy over the future.

Lauri Markkanen is 21 years old, Wendell Carter Jr. is 19, Zach LaVine is 23, Jabari Parker is 23 and Kris Dunn is the elder statesmen of the group at 24 years old. If these five become the starting group moving forward, as expected, it would represent one of the youngest starting groups in the league with an average age of 22. 

And athleticism can be checked off the list as well. We know Markkanen has hopsLaVine showed off the explosiveness he was known for last season and Dunn had some dunks last year that legitimately gave fans a Rose flashback

Markkanen and Carter Jr. have both flashed the ability to switch onto guards for a limited amount of time and guard in space, a huge component of any defense that wants to switch a lot. And it also is the type of athleticism that is much more important at their position.

At this stage, Parker represents the biggest question mark athletically speaking. Despite his young age, the two ACL injuries make you wonder if there is any room for him to improve his agility. But at the least, Parker can drive to the basket and finish over the top with authority, even if his defense doesn't catch up.

So, Bulls fans are starting to become intrigued with this roster.

Fred Hoiberg wants his teams to play an up-tempo game, and last season was the first year during Hoiberg's Bulls tenure where the team actually ranked in the top 10 in pace. So if you have followed the Bulls carefully since Thibodeau's departure, you see a front-office that supports their new head coach, yet wasted a couple years to commit fully to his vision, and to a direction for the franchise.

But the point is Forman finally chose a direction.

The Bulls have a young core, and financial flexibility moving forward. And for all the jokes the "GarPax" regime have endured over the years, they have put the team in a position to have sustained success if they hit on all the young players they have acquired. 

And if they are wrong in their assessment of their young talent? 

The Bulls would be able to let Parker go, now that we know the second year of his contract is a team option. LaVine's offensive skill set will allow him to still have trade value years from now, as his contract won't look nearly as bad over time. 

And if the Bulls flurry of moves make the team significantly worse in a year where many expect them to take a step forward, all it would mean is being equipped with a high lottery pick in what is shaping up to be a top-heavy 2019 NBA Draft.

So Gar Forman wanted the team to get younger and more athletic, and though it took longer than it should've, the front-office made good on their promise. That is something that Bulls fans can believe in.