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Chicago Bulls Offseason: How the Hinrich deal shows how to be bad at being cheap

There has been some fallout (though not from the local press) on the news 'breaking' that the Bulls still haven't signed their first-round pick Marquis Teague, and are possibly trying to reduce the customary amount such picks receive.

This led to Matt Moore, who writes everywhere but in this case Pro Basketball Talk, trying to reconcile that while the Bulls don't spend as much as they perhaps 'should', their prudence is the type that's usually admired elsewhere in the league.

There's one glaring problem with that theory and his name is Carlos Boozer. Moore says it was a 'fair' contract at the time and shouldn't be criticized in hindsight. But I don't see the Spurs making that type of mistake, and it's a crippling one for a tax-conscious team (whether we like it or not) like the Bulls.

But another, and less debatable, example of poor cap management is how the Bulls have handled the remaking of their bench this very offseason. Mark Deeks follows up his fine work yesterday with another post on how the Bulls not only screwed up in preferring giving Hinrich a 2-year deal instead of keeping CJ Watson for one, they also screwed up in HOW they gave Hinrich that contract: by using larger exceptions than the taxpayer-MLE, they are now under this 'hard' apron all season. This is something we've discussed in this space before, but Mark puts it succinctly accurate:

To avoid having to pay him $500,000 in guaranteed compensation, the Bulls traded Kyle Korver to Atlanta in exchange for a nominal amount of cash. This is the same team from which they signed Hinrich. Had the Hawks signed-and-traded Hinrich for Korver, the Bulls wouldn't need to have used the MLE to sign Hinrich. The only negative difference in this outcome would have been the Bulls didn't create a TPE of $5 million, which they did in the real one. Yet it now matters not. The S&T was discussed, but it wasn't done.

Had the S&T been done, Belinelli could then have signed for his BAE amount using the non-taxpayer MLE to do so. If a team signs a player using the non-taxpayer MLE for an amount smaller than the taxpayer MLE, it is treated as though the taxpayer MLE was used instead, for the purposes of establishing whether or not the apron can be exceeded. (Put in practice, if you sign someone using the NTPMLE, but pay them less than $3.09 million in the first year, which is what the TPMLE is this year, you can still go over the apron.) Therefore, had Hinrich not taken the MLE, Belinelli could have done, and the whole thing would have been treated as though only the TPMLE was used, Chicago could sign as many minimum salaries as they have roster space, and give Teague 120% without any repercussions apart from the luxury tax incurred. But this is not what happened.

There's a lot more at the post including an updated Bulls cap situation (basically the numbers I copy here). The current hard apron means the Bulls can't even sign another player to the minimum after (if?) they sign Teague. These are the least-important roster spots, granted, but as Deeks points out the Bulls front-court contains players prone to injury, and Rose (and possibly Deng) out for months to start the season. They'll need more bodies.

Deeks adds that one minor caveat is that the Bulls have the TPE which can be used after next summer's moratorium. But that's a long way off, and the Bulls taking on $5m seems far-fetched. And a possibility that isn't really worth the headaches it's causing now.

So this is another reminder that you can do all sorts of rationalizations that the Bulls still make good 'basketball decisions' (as in, even if you're a big Kirk Hinrich fan, the point is HOW they got him), and it's smart to not spend now, but in reality they've shown to not even be good at being cheap.