As you may have noticed, the 'what I'd do this offseason' diaries and comments have started to accumulate on the site. Usually they include the Bulls giving an opposing GM Rohypnol, and then having their way with their roster while only giving up Andres Nocioni.
But if such a grand plan must turn out lopsided in the favor of the beloved, at least make it cap-legal. The main stickiness involves two of the Bulls better players, Deng and Gordon. Both of whom, you may have heard, are restricted free agents this offseason.
This means you have to remember a few key things when discussing their role in a make-believe Bulls offseason makeover, sorted out by the extremely handy cap FAQ by Larry Coon.
Deng and Gordon cannot be traded before or on draft night. So if you had the idea of using either to move up in the draft, sorry. Bulls can't even negotiate (i.e. "go find something better than $50m, fools!") until the free agency period begins, which is after the draft. Technically, what could happen is that the drafted player remains unsigned until free agency begins and his rights are traded, or that draftee is signed and (after 30 days) is then included in a trade. I don't think a drafted player, especially a lottery pick, has ever been traded that fast, and it seems far-fetched that a pre-arranged deal could occur between draft day and free agency, with both teams and the free agents agreeing.
If Deng and Gordon are signed&traded, they are still treated as base-year compensation players. I was slightly surprised by this one, as I thought perhaps an offseason sign&trade would be a loophole. But after hearing that wasn't the case on Bulls Beat, and looking it up...the BYC status still applies.
Base-year compensation (BYC) is the designation both Hinrich and Nocioni were under this season (as they both received 20% raises when signing their contract extensions), and it basically means that in a trade with both teams over the cap (which is, as we know, nearly everyone), the outgoing salary is considered halved (or $4.5m, or last year's salary. Whichever is greater), while the incoming salary for the recipient is the whole salary.
So let's say Gordon finds his elusive 6/$66m (identical yearly payments) contract with another team that's over the cap. The Bulls can work out a sign&trade with that team, but while the incoming salary for that team would be the $11m, the Bulls outgoing salary would only be considered $5.5m. If a team wanted to deal back an $11m player of their own, that means the Bulls are taking in $11m, while only sending out $5.5m. That's not within the 125% threshhold for a trade, so the trade can't happen.
It's not an impossible situation, there just has to be more players involved. The best candidates financially being Drew Gooden ($7.15m) or Andres Nocioni ($8m. ugh), who have cap figures that are significant but not too much (when combined with a Deng or Gordon). So in the previous example, if the Bulls send out Gordon and Gooden, it's now $12.65m going out, and for the other team it's $18.15m going in. If the other team sends the Bulls a trade package with a total salary of $14.5m, it's within the 125% threshhold for both teams.
So like I said, it isn't impossible. But it's still a pretty tough situation. For the Bulls to execute a successful sign&trade with either Deng or Gordon, they'd have to find a team willing to pay their new salary, also willing to take the additional players needed to mitigate Deng/Gordon's base-year compensation, and then willing to give the Bulls a package they'd accept in return.
Not exactly easy, which is why this will likely be a long, long, offseason for Deng, Gordon and the Bulls. But I applaud anyone's creative effort, and if you can't play within those rules for Deng and Gordon, you can always trade the rest of these guys. Nobody's untouchable. No, Mike McGraw, not even the great Thabo.