Thanks to Bulls Beat (#38) for alerting me (sorry if this is old news to some, skip and grumble) to a pretty important fact when considering the Bulls options this offseason: a $5.2m trade exception resulting from the Wallace/Hughes crapswap.
How? You can read about it, courtesy of "Tommy Udo 6" at the RealGM board, here. Basically the Bulls structured that deal as two technically separate trades, with the 125% rule in outgoing/incoming salary creating a trade exception for the Cavs, then the Cavs using that exception in a separate transaction to acquire Joe Smith, giving Bulls a trade exception for the value of Smith's salary. At least that's how I think it worked out.
It's not that important how they did it, they do have the traded player exception, it's even 'reported' in the ESPN Trade Machine.
The exception can be used to acquire a player (or players) making up to that amount of money, for nothing in return. You can't combine an outgoing player with an exception, but this gives the Bulls an extra weapon in structuring deals by using that exception as part of a bigger deal (again, if you split deals up seperately). This is especially important considering the base-year compensation issues incurred when potentially sign/trading Deng or Gordon.
Per Doug's example on the BullsBeat podcast:
The Bulls can do a sign/trade with Ben Gordon (making $9m annually) going out, while taking in two players that total $9m.
From the Bulls perspective, the first such incoming player can have a salary that matches (within the 125%) Gordon's BYC amount ($4.5m). The second player, earning a salary up to the value of the trade exception amount ($5.2m), can be acquired with that exception.
So for the Bulls it's two separate deals, for the other team they're sending out the sum of the two players and acquiring Ben Gordon at his full new salary (per BYC trade rules).
That's just one example, and likely the simplest. The Bulls are in a bit of a roster crunch so any Deng or Gordon sign/trade likely won't be done in a two-for-one anyway. But this exception can be used in a mega-player deal to massage the salary matching in myriad scenarios.
The whole Bulls operation from top to bottom has been put into question over this past year, but one thing they've shown to be consistently good at is using the cap to their advantage. Getting this additional asset makes the Wallace trade an even bigger coup (if you needed a reminder, another team actually took Ben Wallace), and in the past they've pioneered cap tricks such as front-loaded contracts, and swapping first round draft positions in trades. So kudos to their cap wonk, Irwin Mandel.
(Now if some want to keep with the cynical and depressing theme of the offseason, we can say that all this cap massaging does is keep Reinsdorf happy with a lower payroll, and they'll never take back enough salary in a deal to go into the tax anyway. I won't feel that way, but I can't hold it against you. Maybe a little.)