As we went over at the outset of the offseason, the Bulls have limited options when it comes to adding to the roster. This is unfortunate: though the Bulls should still be really good next year, with the Heat (and to a lesser extent, the Pacers) in the conference it'd be a safer bet to try and improve the team instead of tread water and hope to be 'right with' your rivals. Rooting for effort to bridge talent gaps is exhausting, you guys.
There are potential course-changing moves like a Luol Deng trade or Carlos Boozer amnesty, with either or any combination being cap-neutral or has the Bulls saving money. But the following exercise is the (hopefully more likely) option that the Bulls are in it to compete for the title next year, and are looking to add around their existing rotation. And it's true that doing so this summer is tough given the Bulls lack of flexibility (ironic as they laud the term to such a high degree). But they do have SOME options that would increase payroll but also perhaps make a better roster.
Free-agent cap exceptions:
We kind of went over this in the last post, so briefly: They have non-Bird rights to their own FAs and thus can offer 120% of last year's salary. They will have the taxpayer (mini) mid-level exception (starts at $3.183 million) to offer any free agent. They also have the minimum-salary exception to sign as many players as they can fit on the roster for the minimum.
Hamilton is of little use to the Bulls anymore given his injury history and performance...though he could come back for $5m next season, he'll likely be bought out for $1m and there will be much rejoicing. But before doing that, the Bulls can use Rip's contract to try and improve the team: acquiring a player making around what Rip does and then Rip's new team would waive the deal.
The 2013-14 guarantee date on the contract is July 10th, right before the moratorium ends. This means, essentially, that for a trade using Rip to make sense (i.e., the receiving team waiving Rip and saving money)
- It has to be done before the moratorium starts (7/1), i.e. pretty much as a draft-night deal
- Since it's before the moratorium, that means the Bulls are still hard-capped so they can't go over Rip's $5m, but can get a salary up to that amount.
For example (and it's just an example, you jackals), Dallas really wants to free up more cap space so they trade Vince Carter (plus their own non-guaranteed filler like, oh, some dude named Bernard James) for Hamilton. Instead of paying Carter $3.1m the Mavs instead waive Hamilton for $1m. Maybe they are really desperate and give the Bulls a pick for being so accommodating.
[another example is what Ricky did in the SBNation mock draft]
Note: you can combine Rip with other players to make a larger trade. This is also true (to an almost negligibly lesser degree) with Malcolm Thomas, who also has a partially-guaranteed contract. This sort of combining cannot be done with the Traded Player Exception.
Traded Player Exception:
There's another option for the Rip contract: the Bulls won't even want to pay $1m to buy it out, so they trade him to a team with cap space and let them do it, offering cash or some other middling asset for the privilege. This is what the Bulls did with Kyle Korver last offseason, as he had a buyout but was instead dealt to the Atlanta Hawks, and since Korver was good and affordable Atlanta just guaranteed the contract for the year.
At the time of the trade, Korver was making $5m, so since the Bulls were getting nothing back at the time (and were happy about it!) it generated a Traded Player Exception for that same amount that could be used in a later deal to acquire a player making that much. Since using the TPE suggests adding immediate payroll, it can't be used until after the moratorium and they're no longer hard-capped. But this TPE expires on 7/16, so they'll have about a week to use after the NBA calendar changes over. (day-after thought: I suppose they could agree to a draft-day trade in principle and actually use the TPE during this time)
An example suggested in the comments before (again, just an example, if you get hung up on the specific example I swear to god....) of this TPE being used is the tax-conscious Golden State Warriors deciding to dump Brandon Rush ($4m) and the Bulls agreeing to take that on. For nothing! It's a non-simultaneous trade, essentially trading Korver for Rush but with a year inbetween where we had to watch a lot of bricks.
I won't pretend that the Bulls can make a really dynamic move using these options. But, again: this is with the mindset that the Bulls are a really good team and should be looking to get better. Not troll only for a move that gets them 'over the top', but simply try and improve as best they can. There aren't many options, but don't accept the notion that there are none. Since the Bulls are already in the tax, using Rip or the TPE or the FA cap exceptions costs a lot of cash (and if acquiring multi-year deals, could chomp into the 2014 plan), but that's it.