So I can't find it now, but in the fallout from the Bulls comically apathetic trade deadline I could've sworn Gar Forman said the ol' "basketball moves" line again. I do know he talked about making the playoffs as a goal they value as a franchise.
Verbatim quotes aside (update: here it is!), it's a lie. I think they do indeed want to make the playoffs, because they didn't deal Gasol, perhaps not finding a way to do so while still being competitive like the Grizzlies did with their outgoing veterans. We're finding out some things that happened in the days leading up to the deadline. They tried to swap out Tony Snell for another rookie-scale dude in CJ Wilcox, but the Clippers didn't bite (maybe got greedy in asking for a 2nd-rounder too). I still haven't seen anywhere credible that the proposed Aaron Brooks for Shabazz Napier deal was scuttled by Brooks's no-trade rights, but if that's the case it stinks because it would've been a good deal. Hey, maybe that's another reason not to re-sign Aaron Brooks last summer, since doing so guaranteed him such rights.
But while the Bulls didn't sell, they didn't 'go for it' either, in even doing marginal moves to help any playoff push in the face of their injury woes. Kirk Hinrich was dealt away to save a couple million in luxury tax payments, leaving the Bulls precariously thin at point guard and further exposing Derrick Rose to frustrated bloggers when he needs to sit out games. No matter how much I personally am OK with seeing Hinrich in another uniform, it wasn't a good 2016 basketball move.
This is all to say there are ways for the Bulls to improve their chances through the waiver/buyout market, but you likely won't hear of it. This is because the Bulls goal isn't to make the playoffs and give their team the best chance to advance, it's, as always:
1) Don't pay more tax than you have to.
2) We. Like. Our. Guys.
Because, really: there's no reason for Cameron Bairstow to be on the roster. Christiano Felicio actually looks like a guy worth hanging on and developing, but won't be of present-day help either. Justin Holiday was brought in because Gar couldn't negotiate a way to take in zero salary, and Holiday is actually guaranteed money through next season.
The following is less to suggest this is something the Bulls will do, but more to point out it's possible and worth noting it'll be ignored. There are a couple mechanisms the Bulls can use in this post-deadline time to acquire players. They can claim waived players making the minimum, or making up to the $2.8m trade exception they generated at the deadline. Other teams can do this too if they have a roster spot and exceptions (or cap room), so if the Bulls did waive Bairstow (who's at the minimum) and called in a favor (like with Erik Murphy in 2014) his whole salary would be assumed on the claiming team's cap/tax sheet. If you're feeling evil, you'd have to wonder if Holiday or Tony Snell would be claimed outright saving them next year's money.
They could also wait until a player clears waivers (which they usually do if their cap number is substantial) and sign them as a free agent. The Bulls do have some of their taxpayer MLE available, but they (again, pretty hilariously) used most of it bringing back Brooks to the point where it's around the minimum salary anyway, which any team can offer.
Players can be bought out until March 1st and still be eligible for the playoffs. Now onto the names! Thanks to HoopsRumors and my own demented memory:
Guys already taken:
- David Lee - waived by Celtics, cleared waivers, signed by Mavericks
- John Jenkins - waived by Mavericks, claimed by Suns
- Anderson Varejao - waived by Blazers, cleared waivers, signed by Warriors
- Steve Novak - waived by Nuggets, cleared waivers, signed by Bucks
- JaKarr Sampson - waived by Sixers, cleared waivers, signed by Nuggets
- JJ Hickson - waived by Nuggets, cleared waivers, signed by Wizards
- Kevin Martin - rumored to be waived by TWolves soon
- Joe Johnson - waived by Nets
- Andre Miler - waived by TWolves
- Chris Copeland - waived by Bucks, claimed by Magic, released by Magic (to get to the salary floor. They would've claimed Bairstow!)
- DeJuan Blair - waived by Suns, cleared waivers
- Jason Thompson - waived by Warriors, cleared waivers
- Jared Cunningham - waived by Magic, cleared waivers
- Jarnell Stokes - waived by Heat, cleared waivers