I've thought about this for a solid two hours, listened to the relevant sources (Doug Thonus and Shamsports) and I've come to conclusion that the best move for the Bulls right now, and going forward is to amnesty Carlos Boozer this summer.
I'll try to keep this short and sweet. What makes the Bulls good? What makes them a team that has led the league to back-back best records in the league? Depth-chemistry-defense-Rose - that is the heart and soul of what the Bulls is about. Keeping Carlos Boozer for just one more season threatens that. He simply isn't worth it. (Now it isn't my checkbook, so we are talking about worth as far as winning, and not dollars and cents).
The consequences of keeping Carlos are real. KC has already said AT MOST, the Bulls will bring back 1 of Korver, Brewer and CJ. Basically the perimeter players of the Bench Mob. The most likely guy to be brought back is CJ because he makes less than the other two and is our only competent pg on the roster to fill in for Rose. The Bulls could also lose Asik, because they can't afford to invest so much in a 4th big man, especially when your starters are bringing in a combined $26 million. Simply bringing Asik back for the mid level will likely force the Bulls into the tax.
The current CBA has real penalties for teams that are over the tax multiple years. For the first time the Bulls have a good excuse to be cheap, because the new CBA threatens flexibility going forward for teams who are repeatedly over the tax. So the Bulls have a great incentive to not pay the tax next year especially when they don't know how healthy Rose will be. At the end of the summer the Bulls could lose Brewer, Korver, Asik all for the honor of keeping ... Boozer? And for how long? We all suspect that when Mirotic comes to the Bulls, Boozer will be amnestied anyway. The bulls risk current depth, chemistry and flexibility so that they can amnesty boozer.. a year from now?
The benefits of amnestying Boozer now -
1. You keep your chemistry and depth together. Aren't the Bulls still like a 60 win team when healthy if they get rid of Boozer and keep all the other pieces together? I'm not saying Boozer isn't contributing to wins, but I don't believe he alone provides more value than Korver/Brewer and Asik. That is an awful lot of depth to lose on a team that is already missing Deng and Rose to start the season.
2. You maintain flexibility to chase a true 2nd scorer. Korver, Brewer and CJ are all expiring contracts that can be used in combination with other assets to bring in a 2nd scorer during the season. At the end of next season, they all come off the books along with Hamilton (who has a small buyout). Basically, the Bulls would be going into the trading deadline with $18 million in expiring contracts. And those guys can be traded. Boozer likely cannot be. In addition you sign a bunch of scrubs and they likely have no trade value. You sign guys to multiple year deals (like Hinrich), they also likely have no trade value. At the end of the summer, you subtract Boozer (and the expirings) and that means only Rose, Deng, Noah, Taj, Butler and Asik are under contract in 2013/14. You now have flexibility moving forward while keeping the core together.
The alternative is to let those guys go (Korver, Brewer, CJ and Asik) and replace them with either guys so bad that they are willing to take 1 year deals (Bogans/JL3) or take a chance on jeopardizing flexibility in 13/14 to sign a cheap replacement for Korver and Asik to a multi year contract. And this is all so you can keep Boozer around 1 more year?
3. You avoid the luxury tax. Explained above, but the Bulls lose flexibility for being a tax paying team in multiple years under the CBA. With Boozer-Rose-Noah and Deng making about $55-57 million over the next 2 years, you are likely to be close to paying the tax anytime you try to field a competitive team. Given that the Bulls aren't exactly looking like they want to maintain top competitiveness next year, they should try to maintain flexibility. I argue that you have more flexibility with Korver, CJ and Brewer's expiring contracts, than with Boozer. It also puts you in a position where you can actually use your MLE this year, instead of holding on to it b/c you don't want to go over the luxury tax.
4. You get to evaluate Taj as a full time starting PF now that he has some years in the league. The Bulls don't necessarily have to lock Taj up this year. I suspect that they will not. The question is can Taj and Noah be a championship level frontline. Next year, with both guys being starters, you could start to get your answer. Taj isn't the same guy he was his rookie season. Still, there is a question of whether he and Noah are a great fit long term as starters together. Wouldn't you like an answer to that question before you lock him up long term, especially considering the Bulls are likely to amnesty boozer anyway?
5. You keep the emphasis on staying young, defensive minded and athletic. That is what the Bulls are about. A lot of the Bulls advantage is garnered from their size, athleticism and depth. I don't want to give that away for Boozer.
Next year if the Bulls ran with this roster:
doesn't that look more formidable than this roster?
Hamilton/ rookie or free agent
Butler /free agent or rookie
Noah/Taj or free agent
This isn't an I hate Boozer post. This is a post about saving flexibility and the bench mob. The core 4 guys of this team make too much money. Boozer's replacement is already on the roster. Amnestying him reduces roster turnover while increasing flexibility. Plus, I heard Boozer looks good in orange. Amnesty Now!
Update: I added the ? because I guess it would be better to bring everyone back. I just don't have any faith the Bulls would do this and go over the tax. Even keeping 1 of Korver, Brewer or Asik is likely to put the Bulls over the tax. They never paid it before. Will they pay next year?