Bulls waive Erik Murphy; Ronnie Brewer or Mike James to return?

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Erik Murphy era in Chicago has already come to an end, and the Bulls are looking at bringing in a familiar face for the playoff run.

When the Bulls drafted Erik Murphy in the second round this past draft, the hope was that at some point he could possibly turn into a competent stretch 4 off the bench. But Murphy never really got much of a chance this year, and when he did play, he really didn't look anything like an NBA player. And now Murphy's tenure in Chicago is over not even a full season into his career, as the Bulls waived him on Thursday.

From what I'm gathering, this move has nothing to do with trying to duck any extra luxury tax payments in case the Bulls hit the tax. According to HoopsRumors.com, Murphy's $490,180 contract became fully guaranteed in early January, and Mark Deeks of ShamSports said waiving him won't change anything about any potential tax hit. Deeks actually wrote an interesting piece before the season detailing the value of second-round picks, using Murphy as a specific example. All this makes it a bit odd that Murphy was just waived altogether, but I guess the Bulls have their reasons.

As it stands, the Bulls won't hit the tax unless Joakim Noah gets that $500K bonus for all-NBA first team. Taj Gibson's potential $250K bonus for all-defensive second team could add more money on top of that, but Gibson's bonus alone wouldn't put the Bulls in the tax (Gibson's all-defensive first team bonus of $500K would put the Bulls in tax, but that's unlikely).

The Bulls could even withstand signing a player (or two) and Gibson getting that $250K bonus, as they're about $393K below the tax line, per ShamSports. Since the waiving of Murphy has the Bulls' roster down to 12 players, another player will have to be brought in (would cost about $67K if signed on Friday).

[Note by JayPatt, 04/04/14 9:36 AM CDT Woj says there's interest around the league in Murphy, and if he's claimed off waivers, his cap hit would be off the books and I believe the Bulls would have leeway under the tax even if bonuses are met. #FinancialChamps ]

Two familiar names have already surfaced, as both Ronnie Brewer and Mike James have had discussions with the Bulls, according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago TribuneCSN Chicago's Aggrey Sam said Brewer worked out at the Berto Center on Thursday, and Sam even predicted Brewer would soon become a Bull again. It should be noted that both Brewer and James would be eligible for the postseason because they were previously waived before the March 1 deadline.

Brewer has kind of fallen off a cliff since leaving Chicago. After a solid month with the Knicks last season, the 29-year-old fell out of the rotation and was dealt to the Thunder. He barely played in Oklahoma City and was ineffective when he did. He then signed with the Rockets in late-August, but he didn't play much there either before being waived. And once again, he wasn't all that effective when he did, which means he hasn't really been a useful NBA player since Nov. 2012.

So if the Bulls did bring in Brewer, would he play? Jimmer Fredette hasn't seen any meaningful minutes since joining the Bulls, and he at least has shown more recent signs of being a competent NBA player. Fredette also has a skill the Bulls sorely need, Wednesday night's game in Atlanta (and a few others) not withstanding.

Of course, Brewer has several years of experience in Tom Thibodeau's system, and Thibs probably trusts him. I've already seen people saying Brewer would jump Tony Snell in the rotation, which I wouldn't be all that crazy about, despite me not being all that impressed by the rookie. I'd rather see Snell get some playoff experience than have Brewer steal his minutes and MAYBE give the Bulls better minutes, because again, Brewer really hasn't been any good the last two years. But perhaps being back in Chicago with Thibs would revive Brewer's career. After all, he's still just 29 years old.

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