It was a bit strange that the Bulls waived Erik Murphy on Thursday. Even with the rumors of them signing other players for the playoffs, the Bulls were near the roster minimum and thus didn't need to move Murphy. And with his salary guaranteed in January, there didn't look to be any cap savings to be had.
That is, unless Murphy was claimed off of waivers...which is what happened. The Utah Jazz claimed the Bulls 2nd-round pick from this past draft on Saturday.
The Bulls catch a break with Utah’s claim of Murphy, whose cap hit will now come off Chicago’s books. This should give them enough room to sign multiple players to prorated minimum-salary contracts and remain beneath the luxury tax threshold even if Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah trigger bonus clauses in their contracts.
Indeed, while the Bulls will have paid nearly all of Murphy's contract this season, for cap purposes it's now on Utah's balance sheet. As HoopsRumors points out (as did Mark Deeks) this kind of waiver claim is rare. But knowing the Bulls, they had something worked out beforehand or else they probably wouldn't have waived Murphy in the first place.
Why would the Jazz do this, when they could've just waived for Murphy to clear waivers and signed him as a free agent? Maybe they actually like him, or at least his non-guaranteed contract for next season, and some other team did as well. Or this interesting theory from Doug Thonus of Bulls Confidential.
Would bet anything the Murphy pick up by Utah was prediscussed as a return the favor for the Bulls S&Ting Boozer to give Utah a TPE— Doug Thonus (@dougthonus) April 5, 2014
Indeed, way back in 2010 the Bulls could've signed Boozer outright with cap space but worked out a sign/trade for no real purpose other than that they could. Maybe this was indeed a payback favor from Utah. By keeping the Bulls below the luxury tax threshold, they forfeit a bit of money given the Bulls are now another payee at the end of the season. But for the Bulls, it saves a significant sum of money, and (theoretically) some flexibility with respect to the repeater tax.
Murphy was useless, sure, as was Marquis Teague before him. Throwing them away to save cash shows how thorough (and good, if you want to spin it that way) the Bulls are at this financial game.