I'm starting to worry the Bulls take this July Moratorium thing more seriously than every other NBA team, what with zero activity being even speculated since day one.
Meanwhile, since we last looked at the free agent PG market, a lot of names are now gone. Rodney Stuckey (Indiana), Corey Joseph (Toronto), CJ Watson (Orlando), Gary Neal (Washington), Patrick Beverly (Rockets). Latest reports Monday morning are that both Jeremy Lin and JJ Barea are going to Dallas.
Nearly all signed for way more than the Bulls could offer potentially anyway, which is the Taxpayer MLE of $3.4m. There's reason to be worried that Chicago simply won't want to use this exception to add that much salary given their current tax situation. Yes, Gar Forman declared they'd be a tax team and needed to be to re-sign Mike Dunleavy (which they did, and that was good!), but this may be of the toe-dipping variety.
Eric Pincus at BasketballInsiders is my new go-to salary source. He is working off of estimates on the Butler and Dunleavy deals, but came up with the following so far: nearly $83m in guaranteed money to 10 players (plus Rip Hamilton's buyout), i.e. before counting the un-signed Bobby Portis, or non-guaranteed deals of E'Twaun Moore and Cameron Bairstow.
The Luxury Tax was originally estimated at going to be $81.6m, but at the outset of this free agency it was reported it could be 'significantly' higher, corresponding with a $2m jump in the cap. We'll know for sure on the 8th.
Now, with a raise in the cap also comes a raise in Butler's first-year salary, but still: any raise to the tax figure means the Bulls are more in position to stay...wait for it...flexible. They could save a couple hundred thousand in calculated team salary by any number of options: replacing Moore with a minimum-salary, signing Portis to below his draft slot, waiving Bairstow (and/or Moore) midseason and getting to the roster minimum of 13 by signing prorated 10-day deals.
They could also just dump Hinrich's expiring money before the traded deadline, as the tax isn't actually calculated until the season is over. That's the biggest reason why we're not to totally buy in to the Bulls 'going for it' mentality quite yet. They could be a smidge in the tax now but leaving themselves open to get under pretty easily.
That's their prerogative, but that stinks if their plan is to barely be into the tax (and below the apron - $4m over the tax - where the monetary penalties increase) and thus are done signing non-minimum players. Because with the Taxpayer MLE (as well as their non-Bird rights on Brooks, where they can pay him 120% of the minimum) they do have the chance to outbid other teams on a free agent guard.
The pickings are slim to this point: Leandro Barbosa, Andre Miller, Jason Terry, Norris Cole, Austin Rivers, Mo Williams, Nick Calathes...Brooks, Jameer Nelson, Will Bynum, Kendall Marshall.
I'd say none of these would accomplish what would be the main reason for an acquisition: to push Hinrich out of the rotation. The idea that Thibs was, and would be, the only coach to still value Kirk doesn't ring true to me, especially with this organization. Thus I'm assuming an alternative has to be demonstrably better (and similarly experienced) to get that done. Technically it'll probably be Snell or McDermott (whoever wins that job) as the first guard off the bench, but Hinrich as the backup PG is still pretty crud...and an injury risk at that.
Now, of course the roster doesn't have to be set in July. Moves can be made in training camp (after knowing Taj's status?) or midseason...it's true that there's this thing called a trade that most NBA teams not based in Chicago get creative with (beyond dumping salary). But this free agent exception can pretty much only be used now, as eventually the rest of these available free agents will be gone too. Though the Bulls may not see their current PG situation as an actual issue, it'd be nice to have the depth for future moves, if anything.