The Chicago Bulls, in just one year, have graduated from the "still looking for major pieces" category to the "tinkering around the edges" club. Well done! A painfully young MVP (Derrick Rose) and the best record in the NBA will do that.
Here's a look at the Bulls' salary cap levels over the past six seasons.
Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf is famously thrifty when it comes to his basketball team, though he has the distinction of handing out the two most lucrative player-seasons in NBA history (both to Michael Jordan). The Bulls' payroll sunk last year as the team cleared space for the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade derby and came up with just Carlos Boozer and roleplayers in Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson. It (plus the hire of Tom Thibodeau) worked just fine, though. Joakim Noah's extension kicks in this season, and Rose will sign a deal that takes effect for the 2012-13 season. So the luxury tax is coming, whether Reinsdorf likes it or not.
Heading into free agency, the Bulls have a cap figure of $64 million with the leaguewide team salary cap set at $58 million and the luxury tax line at $70 million.
The Bulls' free agents are:
Thomas could be back in as a roster filler; he'd be behind Noah, Boozer, Taj Gibson and Omer Asik. Butler could similarly be retained to fill out the perimeter roster; Scalabrine remains a mascot only.
Chicago has the full mid-level exception to work with, and will be in the mix for top veteran roleplayers like Jason Richardson, Jamal Crawford and Vince Carter. It's no coincidence that all three of those are scorers: Chicago has the best defense in the land, but lacking in scoring punch behind Rose and Boozer, something made unignorable in the playoffs. It's not current Bulls' management's style to chase scorers, but that's what the team needs, and there are plenty available.
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