While I wouldn’t necessarily hit the panic button just yet, the Bulls clearly offer a compelling value proposition.
If LeBron’s exclusive criterion in selecting his future destination is to have championship-caliber pieces placed around him – as he claims it to be – his choices would appear to be readily apparent. Friend and mentor Charles Oakley said it best. “Chicago or Miami.”
If I were Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, my pitch would be synthesized into one sentence: Anything the Heat can do, we can do better.
And depending on how you believe he can manipulate his roster, he would be right.
For all of the bantering about coaching stability, about living in the shadow of Jordan versus sharing the spotlight with Wade, about the warmth of South Beach versus the beauty of Chi-town, all of these issues are inherently subjective in nature. So let’s set them aside for the moment and focus strictly on the numbers.
The Bulls have six players under contract for next year: Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, James Johnson and Joakim Noah. They will make a combined $31,850,976 in guaranteed payroll next season.
LeBron would eat up another $16,568,908.
The Bulls also have the 17th pick in the first round of the upcoming draft. Unsigned first round picks are included in team salary immediately upon their selection. For the 17th pick, the amount will be $1,302,600. But, of course, the Bulls don’t have to use it. It can always be traded. So let’s not count the pick.
That’s seven total players and a total team salary of just $48,419,884.
At the currently projected $56.1 million salary cap, the Bulls would also still be left with $5,312,096 to spend on any single complementary piece (after incorporating roster charges).
So that’s Rose, Hinrich, James, Gibson and Noah, with Johnson and Deng on the bench and an as yet undecided $5 million man.
Impressive! But perhaps that’s still not enough to trump a Miami Heat value proposition that includes the likes of Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
But here’s where it gets interesting.
If Luol Deng, with his $11,345,000 contract, were to be deemed superfluous in a LeBron James scenario, the Bulls could try to move him. And if Kirk Hinrich, with his $9,000,000 contract, were to be deemed superfluous behind Derrick Rose, the Bulls could try to move him too. Yes, their contracts are inflated. But they’re not ridiculous. And the Bulls have a ton of assets with which to sweeten a potential deal or two. And with more cap space available around the NBA this offseason than can appropriately be utilized, something stupid is bound to happen.