Doug Thonus at ChicagoNow breaks down the merits (as well as the opposite case) of trading Kirk Hinrich for expirings. A solid write-up, it's basically the same balance the Bulls have tried to reconcile since July 1st: future flexibility or present success? Doug's scenario of dealing Hinrich assumes that all they could get is a walking contract who couldn't help on the court. Knowing how unbelievably shallow this roster is (again realized with that performance in Oakland, with awful reminders potentially soon with the flu bug going around), it's certainly more likely the Bulls miss the playoffs if Hinrich's traded for someone who can't contribute.
Doug then hypothesizes that the added flexibility may not be worth it, since the Bulls missing the playoffs drastically reduces their chances at a top free agent anyway:
The real question with this is how big of a draw is Derrick Rose to other superstars? Would they rather go to an empty team with a potential star even if it misses the playoffs or are they more likely to go to a team with a slightly better record that scrapes into the playoffs?
I've said before if New York and Chicago finish with similar record why choose Chicago? New York has a way better crowd, a better history of spending, and will absolutely put out a 100 million dollar payroll to win. Granted, New York will lose some of the main pieces it uses to compile it's mediocre record [David Lee, Al Harrington, and Chris Duhon], but you'd feel comfortable with the Knicks pulling out all stops on trying to put a good team on the floor.
First of all: ouch.
I agree (and did so going into this season) that going for the playoffs is important, and being in the lottery again gives you a bad hand going into free agency. But worse than having a bad hand is not being able to play, a scenario that is likely if nobody is removed from 2010 payroll, whether that be Hinrich or John Salmons (Tyrus Thomas is a given at this point).
Isn't making sure they absolutely have max-contract cap room a necessity? Doug said it himself when underselling the failures of Gar Paxdorf just a couple weeks ago:
As much as fans complain about the GMing of the Bulls, they went hard to position the team for 2010. A plan I've endorsed for almost three seasons. If they are successful in bringing in a big name free agent this off-season, then some will say they were lucky, but nothing would be further from the truth. They've gone hard after 2010 and made sacrifices to make it happen.
Readers to this site know that I have an issue with this. Their plan is indeed to be very lucky, though if there is also an element of craftiness, it's that even if the plan 'fails' it succeeded: in reducing future payroll. Not much of a sacrifice* there.
So no, they haven't 'gone hard' for 2010 free agency until they actually have the necessary cap room to sign a max-contract player (yes, there's also sign/trades, but the Bulls are bereft of assets due to this 'plan'). That means more sacrifices, and they better be ready to deal Hinrich if that's what it takes. If it costs them a playoff spot (and playoff revenue!) and a shot at those free agents, so be it. It's certainly a risk, and why I always thought this was a bad idea in the first place.
(*this raises an interesting question I've wondered lately: Did the Bulls braintrust actually believe they were 'sacrificing' when letting Ben Gordon go? A very interesting report went under the radar suggesting that Gar Paxdorf told VDN they recognized the team would take a dip without BG, though the fans were told 'ball movement' and defense would more than make up for the absence. I don't mind them lying to us as much as I would mind them actually believing that)