Obtaining Melo and Keeping Taj Gibson
I like Taj Gibson. With that said, I don't see how the Chicago Bulls can obtain Carmelo Anthony this off-season, build for the future, and not gut the team with Taj Gibson's contract. Noah is the heart of the team. Rose is not a contract you will trade when he has not been playing for 2 years and it is at it's minimum value. This leaves Carlos Boozer which most certainly will not be in Chicago much longer and Taj Gibson's contracts.
Chicago leaves a lot on the table if they amnesty Boozer and the front office has came out and said they want to trade Boozer rather than using the Amnesty provision in the CBA. Amnesty frees up Chicago to sign a player or take a trade imbalance, but it also eliminates the full Mid-Level Exception (MLE) and also the Bi-Annual Exception (BAE). Yes, they gain the Room Exception which is slightly larger than the BAE, but it is a net loss of the full MLE which is about $5M that the NBA allows you to improve the team.
I think the ideal option would be 2 trades:
1. Trade Carlos Boozer and the 19th overall (Chicago Bulls) pick in this draft to the LA Lakers in exchange for a S&T of Pau Gasol for 2 or 3 years. Pau is a NBA-proven Power Forward. This cuts the payroll of Boozer eliminates the cap hold of the 19th pick to make LA consider taking on this contract for 1 year. LA can combine this pick with their own to consider trading up or include it for a S&T at the deadline for another player that will not be available in free agency this summer. Boozer expires so there is no risk of this interfering with their 2015 plans. CHI gets to keep above the cap and keep their MLE and BAE available. Pau likes the team and Thibs and knows he will not make the mistakes other LA coaches have made utilizing him.
2. Convince Nik Mirotic to sign for up to the full MLE. If they can get him for less, then that is great. Fellow Spaniard Pau Gasol should be a nice mentor for Mirotic at his position and teach him the NBA. They can immediately secure him using the MLE.
3. Pitch Chicago to Carmelo Anthony and his agent. A front court of fellow all-stars Noah and Gasol would be the most attractive scenario for him to contend immediately. Not to mention having Rose and up-and-coming Butler in the back court. Pitch a S&T of Dunleavy ($3M) + Gibson ($8M) + non-guaranteed contracts (Amundson, Brewer, James = $4M) + a signed 16th overall pick ($1.4M) + the 3 future picks obtained by trading Lu Deng (Two 2nd round picks in 2016 and 2017 + 1 protected pick which could be a first rounder or a 2nd rounder by 2018 if not). NY has no picks and this will give them something back. Dunleavy can start immediately for next season and Gibson can be a PF for the future as Amare and Bargnani expire regardless of what they do with Tyson Chandler. Carmelo would get about $17M for next year which is as much as Kevin Durant makes. NY will offer him to opt-in for $23M and possibly miss the playoffs again and will still pitch him to take less in 2015 which is no better than taking the cut now to compete immediately while he is healthy and in his prime. NY will not get more, CHI gets a 2nd offensive threat to prevent the isolation of Rose by opponents. This also takes a lot of pressure off of Rose to carry the team offensively.
4. Target a backup guard using the BAE. With a competitive team of Rose/Butler/Anthony/Gasol/Noah, there should be a lot of options. DJ Augustin should be in the discussion. The BAE is only over $2M. They can also explore what the Vet Min exceptions can gain them.
The Chicago Bulls would still have their own picks for 2015 and the future by this scenario, hardly losing all the depth for a shot at 'Melo. They would be immediate contenders next season with enough defense remaining and offensive threats to contend with the Miami Heat and best in the Western Conference for a Championship.
If you compare this with the option of keeping Taj and Amnesty of Boozer, the trade to gain Carmelo or any star is going to cut deeply into the roster for a significant upgrade and still cost both picks. There would be no depth remaining. If they Trade Gibson to keep some depth for Carmelo, it will still cost most of the picks and Chicago will have no NBA proven Power Forward on the roster. By going under the cap, they can't even bring over Nik Mirotic until the summer of 2015 so they would have a rookie or BAE only to sign a starting Power Forward. That is not a good scenario for Chicago to have a competitive roster. A move for Gasol combined with trading Gibson to get Carmelo is the best path forward. If they fail at getting Carmelo, Taj can be still considered to play the SF position like he did when Deng was hurt early last season, or CHI can shop for other available wing players by S&T using a quality player like Taj Gibson as the bait. Hayward, Afflalo, Stephenson (maybe), and others would be worth discussion. Carmleo would definitely need to think hard about signing in CHI with Gasol, Noah, and Rose. If Mirotic develops into the star he is projected to become, then Gasol will be ready for retirement by the time he is ready to be a starter. This scenario is just cleaner. I hate to say it costs Chicago a player that has been great for the city and team, but if they could pull this off, the team would be overall better set for winning now and stable for contending for a few years.