Bulls offseason rumors: All indications look to Bulls staying under tax, cutting where necessary

It's an annual occurrence: reading those who cover the Bulls lower our expectations for talent acquisition. It's all there, yet again: flexibility, luxury tax, core, flexibility, and flexibility.

Aggrey Sam at CSNChicago has the most eye-popping headline, with a source saying the Bulls will look to pursue future Hall of Famers (will they wear Bulls hats?!?!) Steve Nash and Jason Kidd. But it's amongst more sobering news.

Brewer is the least likely to return, as rookie swingman Jimmy Butler is poised to fill his role, while Korver, despite his long-range shooting being such a needed asset on a team mostly lacking that quality, may have too high of a price tag for a team trying to avoid the league's luxury tax.

Although it's a possibility that Watson returns due to both financial reasons and the fact that the Bulls might not find a better player to fill in for Rose at a similar salary, there is a chance that organization looks to upgrade the position during their superstar's absence.

I'm not sure Kidd would even be an upgrade over Watson during the course of a full season, and I highly doubt Nash is taking the MLE to be Rose's future backup. But even in the case of them landing Nash: why wouldn't Watson, reasonably priced and effective, still be retained as the backup?

It's the Luxury Tax, as we all know. Though KC Johnson doesn't mention it by name, his insistence that the Bulls will match any offer to Omer Asik, and even figuring the Bulls let Brewer go, puts the team right near that mark.

Barring an unforeseen trade, the core is the core. With Rose's maximum contract extension beginning next season, they won't have financial flexibility until Luol Deng's contract expires following the 2013-14 season. That's also a time they possibly could use the amnesty provision on Boozer.

They could 'possibly' amnesty Boozer in a few weeks, too. But all indications are that they won't, including new indications in that both KC and Sam Smith displayed the same stat placing Boozer in the top-10 scoring+rebounding threats. Hmm.

Sam continues in the consensus that the Bulls will merely work around the edges:

With the ceiling lower because of a more penal luxury tax, more teams are going to have their few top paid guys and more minimum guys. So players like Korver making $5 million might become $2 million guys...I think given the Bulls have four players next season making a combined $56 million, they’re going to wait until later in the summer to see if better players slip through the cracks and they can pick up someone short term for short money. I think you’ll see fewer teams using the mid level exception.

(At least everyone's doing it.)

Since our offseason speculation started (unfortunately early), it's certainly seemed more accepted from myself and others that the Bulls will go this route. That does include ways that can better position the team, either immediately or after next season when Rose is elite again. But make no mistake: there are more options if they would simply choke down some extra cost for a season, either by paying the tax or eating the money owed to Boozer and signing replacements. So it still sucks that they won't.

We have Reinsdorf's vague non-promise that the Bulls would pay the tax if it helped them win a championship (or whatever, the wording doesn't matter: it wasn't a guarantee and had no set conditions). After getting leftovers in 2010 free agency and before this season, this offseason (and draft night in particular) was seen as a time when they could make a big acquisition. The Bulls actually do have flexibility, with assets and those non-guaranteed deals. But as was a fear then, those deals were structured that way not to parlay them into something else, but to be wiped out simply to keep the new 'core' around. So expect minimum-salaried players either backing up Jason Kidd or CJ Watson, but not both.

And it doesn't stop: KC calls Rip Hamilton as an asset as an expiring contract, though he won't be if the Bulls can't take on salary. Bizarrely, Boozer is called an 'asset' because he can be amnestied (huh?). Maybe with Rose's injury it changed everything regardless, but never forget that the option to use flexibility is there, it will just cost money.

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