When going into this trading deadline, the Bulls had a tough (if self-imposed) set of restrictions. They absolutely had to guarantee themselves maximum cap space heading into this offseason, else this 2010 'plan' was a complete joke. We can look at the lack of truly maximum free agents out there, and the handful of teams with the ability to sign the guys (including a couple with the ability to sign two), and see how the Bulls are likely not going to get a franchise-changing player (or correctly pay one that shouldn't command the max) out of this offseason, but once they set forth their plan on July 1st of
reducing future payroll obtaining a second star through free agency, they had to at least give themselves the opportunity to sign someone to a maximum contract. Whether they spend that money wisely is an issue for the summer.
While completing this top goal, they also had to look at keeping themselves under the tax this season (with a little over a $1m in room), as well as keeping themselves competitive enough to make the playoffs. It is not easy, considering that the guys most eligible to be traded were Kirk Hinrich and John Salmons, and there wasn't much of a market for either that would net a return of attaining all three of those goals.
So by seemingly doing so in the Salmons trade, that's a job well done. It's also the most base, necessary job to do, but it is reassuring that the Bulls priorities at least truly were with this summer's free agency instead of the maximum possible success this season. We knew that this season didn't matter in terms of truly being 'a team on the rise', they are only one in terms of perception...but that's important too. As long as Rose and Noah play well, and the team is in the playoffs, a season of running in place (and possibly taking steps back) doesn't hurt their case much to prospective free agents. What would hurt more is not being able to offer them a maximum deal.
That said, it's still a bit disappointing that the Bulls couldn't wane on some of their other goals to get yet more cap. While I did not think moving Deng simply for cap space was worth the risk (as he's an above-average young player still), I wish I felt confident that they did what they could to deal Hinrich, and better allocate the $17m he's owed over the next two seasons. We know they had an opportunity to move Hinrich for expiring deals, but let's face it: the Bulls really like Kirk Hinrich. We hear the talk about his fit, intangibles, 'glue guy', 'thrust', and any other ways you can put lipstick on a sub-40% shooting pig, but it's become increasingly clear that it can't be just propaganda when the moves they make (or don't) say that they believe their own hype. They really do think it's worth the extra potential cap space for what he brings in his ability to help the team make the playoffs this season, and even help them after they get top free-agent.
So there's that limitation of not wanting to get too much worse, and the luxury tax always looming, that kept the Bulls from making an even bolder move, like trading Hinrich for 'junk' exprings, or packaging him in a deal for Amare Stoudemire. They truly think Hinrich helps that much. They're incorrect, but Hinrich is not useless, and will help this team down the stretch of this season, in fact being counted on more than ever.
Because they did not get great talent back in this combination of deals. They've seemingly kept to their philosophy of not even giving VDN the choice of having too many toys, as Joe Alexander and Acie Law are pretty much useless to the point where VDN will (rightfully) not even try them out. It's cumulatively a 2-for-2 swap of actual rotation players, with Salmons gone for Flip Murray, and Tyrus Thomas gone for Hakim Warrick. No doubt the package coming from the Bucks necessitated the move of Thomas for guards, as the roster was imbalanced and we know VDN would love to not play Tyrus in favor of a new acquisition.
(I can't get into the overall bungling of Tyrus Thomas, we know the Org. doesn't like guys like him, and likes guys like Hinrich, but as it stood today I see their point of moving him after acquiring Warrick. Getting a draft pick (especially a Bobcats one) is a nice bonus, but don't be fooled by Bulls brass saying that this move helped their cap situation, because they could renounce Tyrus and his cap hold just as easily as they would with Brad Miller. The fact that they didn't get more for him makes me wonder if the beef between him and VDN was worse than they were letting on, else I'm not sure why they pay the pick compensation-a swap of firsts and two seconds- to get Warrick when he so obviously duplicated Tyrus. I'm going to miss the guy and am now far more a Bobcats fan than I was 24 hours ago.)
The problem is that both of what the Bulls received are worse than their counterparts. We know that Tyrus and Salmons have not had good seasons and were relegated to the bench, but Warrick is more polished but similar to Tyrus on offense, and the team defense and rebounding will certainly suffer (no matter how you think Tyrus' contributions on that end were all hype, the smaller and slighter Warrick has the same lapses with none of the shot-altering). And as much as we quickly soured on Salmons as an inefficient chucker, he was playing better whereas Flip Murray shoots and makes even fewer 3-pointers than Salmons did.
The Bulls didn't have a high margin for error in terms of making the playoffs as it was, so this is a risk. But you don't swap players and help your cap situation without losing a bit on the talent ledger. The 2010 plan was always about getting worse first, and this day of moves is worth it for even the opportunity to score in the offseason. And if VDN isn't forced to coach, Noah gets healthy soon, and Derrick Rose continues to mask a lot of mistakes, they should be fine. Fine as in a first-round exit, but that was the plan all along.