Ricky O'Donnell posted an article today that discussed what Bulls should do with their salary cap space if they decide to amnesty Boozer (or trade him for an expiring contract).
I agree with Ricky that if the Bulls can get Nikola Mirotic to come over next year for more than the Mid-Level Exception (MLE) of $5.3 million, but less than our $10 million of anticipated cap space, we should go ahead and get that done. We will not have the flexibility again in the foreseeable future to sign Mirotic above the MLE.
Gar Forman though recently said that to bring Nikola over this year would be "prohibitive", because the Bulls would need to pay $3.4 million to buyout his current contract with Real Madrid, and all but $600,000 of that amount would be charged against cap space. This could mean that it will be another year before Mirotic becomes a Chicago Bull. Or it could be that Gar is posturing, in order to get Nikola to sign this summer at the MLE, in which case we would not need to have cap space.
We will find out whether Gar is bluffing or not by the February 20th trading deadline. I am hoping that Gar trades Boozer and then works to bring Mirotic over at the MLE, because in this way we can use Boozer's contract to get back assets and rebuild now.
I think there are three trades that are on the table for the Bulls right now that could improve our chances both this year and in the future. In all three the Bulls would trade Boozer and one of our 4 likely 20014/15 draft picks.
New Orleans is looking to the future once again, and wants to unload Eric Gordon's $15 million contract, which has another two years to run. Trading for Boozer would free up their salary situation a year earlier, and Boozer could back up Davis at the 4 and also play some center for the Pelicans. Gordon is from Chicago and is friends with Rose. He is a scorer and can handle the ball, and he is only 25, but he has been injury-prone and has not lived up to expectations so far.
Orlando has reportedly been shopping Aaron Afflalo and is looking for a first-round pick in return. Afflalo and Glen Davis for Boozer and a pick would work. Afflalo is making $7.5 million for the next two years and Davis has one more year at $6.6 million. Afflalo is having his best year this year, averaging 20.8 points, while Davis is averaging 13.6 points and 7.2 rebounds. They are both 28, so we wouldn't be getting younger by signing them, but Afflalo could be a good replacement for Deng and Davis has proven to be a steady rotation big.
Toronto has indicated that DeMar DeRozan is available. He is making $9.5 million per year for the next three years. DeMar is averaging 21.3 for the Raptors and is only 24. I know the Bulls were interested in him a couple years ago, so they could go after him. Toronto is currently in 3rd place but their GM Masai Ujiri is on record as wanting to avoid the "no-man's land" between being a contender and a lottery team, and DeRozan is the only long-term contract still on the Raptor's books. The Bulls would need to take on Landry Fields $6.25 million salary to make the deal work.
I think any of these deals would improve the Bulls. We could do any of them without going over the tax line this year, and we could also stay under the luxury tax line again next year, while still using our MLE (hopefully on Mirotic).