On Sunday, the Houston Rockets made a 3 year offer to Bulls restricted Free Agent Omer Asik of $25.1m. While even the over $8m annual figure would've given the Bulls pause, the fact that the Rockets made the 3rd year of the deal to be neatly $15m* does even moreso.
When we discussed the Bulls offseason questions, we knew that there was a possibility of a team under the cap making such a backloaded offer. John Hollinger (insider-only) goes in-depth of how the Rockets made the Bulls lives so uncomfortable, and surmises the Bulls may just have to consider themselves bested:
If in 2014 the Bulls were to use the amnesty clause on, who would be on the final year of his deal, that would cut $15 million from their cap number (and likely from their luxury tax bill) that year, but they would still have to pay Boozer, which would still make Asik's effective cost $30 million -- except in that case, it's $30 million and a starting power forward.
Alternatively, Chicago could use the stretch provision on Asik prior to Year 3. That would cost them $5 million a year in 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17, possibly saving them from a luxury tax in all three seasons.
But doing so only would give them two years of Asik, while still paying the entirety of the deal, which means they'll have signed him to a two-year deal for $24 million. Which is about as bad as the effective cost of three years, $39 million that we're presenting as the alternative. (You can also count the tax hits in years 1 and 2, but they're the same in both alternatives so we'll ignore them for now.)
Basically, there's no easy way out for Chicago, which is why they're unlikely to match Houston's offer sheet.
Hollinger also thinks that this proves that the 'loophole' in the Gilbert Arenas provision (which locked in the first two years to Asik's offer) is too exploitative of the incumbent team. The Rockets were able to make this offer with their $8m in cap room, and thus (if the Bulls decline to match) they owe Asik a more dollar amount spread more conventionally even over the 3 years. Hollinger suggests that the rule should be changed to force a minimum 4-year offer, so that a team trying to make a 'max' offer in year three also has to do something similar in the 4th year.
But that's all for another time, and doesn't affect the Bulls decision over the next 10 days. The fact that the incumbent team has to have incur a lopsided contract for only one season may be addressed in the next CBA, but for now that's the 'reward' for the Rockets being under the cap (and the Bulls way over).
Either way, it should've been expected that some team would try this. We'll find out if the Bulls were truly as 'prepared' as they claimed they were, or if this is the type of 'nutty' offer that they won't wind up matching after all. And nobody would really blame them if they declined to give in to the Rockets chicanery, and thus in a strange way it almost makes it a win-win for the Bulls though they'd clearly be losing a quality player for nothing.
Clarification on Year 3 of Asik's contract -- it can actually be as high as $14,898,938. They built a one-time bump into the max salaries for 2012-13, so they'd continue to rise even though the cap itself will almost certainly be the same. This allows Rox to give Asik more.
So there you go.