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Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer are the pivot points in Bulls’ pursuit of Carmelo Anthony

Jul 2, 2014, 10:55 AM EDT

Derrick Rose, whose play varies from MVP-caliber to non-existent due to injury, is the Bulls’ most important player and biggest X-factor.

Carmelo Anthony knows this, which is why he wanted to see Rose in action. Assuming Melo is satisfied – if he’s not, likely none of this matters – Taj Gibson and Carlos Boozer become essential to any negotiations between Melo, the Bulls and Knicks.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

Sources said both the Bulls and Anthony, should he choose Chicago, want to keep Gibson for a core that would significantly improve their chances for an Eastern Conference championship.

Chris Broussard of ESPN:

But the Knicks, according to sources, will not cooperate with any plan that involves them taking back Boozer.

It’s no wonder the Bulls and Melo, if he signs there, want to keep Gibson in Chicago. He’s a very good player – a top-shelf defender and rebounder and, at times, aggressive scorer. He makes his team better.

He also makes $8 million next season, a roadblock to Chicago creating enough cap room to sign Melo.

If they amnesty Boozer, waive the fully unguaranteed contracts of Ronnie Brewer, Mike James andLouis Amundson, renounce all their free agents and trade Mike Dunleavy, Anthony Randolph, Tony Snell and Greg Smith without receiving any salary in return – the Bulls could offer Melo a contract that starts at $16,284,762 and is worth $69,535,934 over four years based on the projected salary cap.

That’s far short of the max salary – $22,458,402 starting, $95,897,375 over four years – Melo could get signing outside New York, and it might be difficult to move some of those contracts (Randolph and maybe even Dunleavy) without offering a sweetener.

The bigger challenge would be convincing Melo to leave more than $26 million on the table – and that’s not even considering how much more the Knicks could offer him.

The Bulls could bump the offer to a max deal by also dealing Gibson without returning salary, but Melo might not want to play in a Gibson-less Chicago. If Melo is going to the Bulls to win now, he knows Gibson is a big part of that.

Chicago could bypass this issue by arranging a sign-and-trade with the Knicks. Of course, that requires convincing New York to agree.

If Phil Jackson wants to take a hardline stance against sign-and-trading Melo, I could understand that. As you can see, the Bulls would have a difficult time keeping their core together while making space for Melo. Another prominent Melo suitor, the Rockets, could strip their roster to just Dwight Howard and James Harden, and they still wouldn’t have enough room below the projected cap to offer Melo his full max starting salary. By refusing to entertain sign-and-trades, Jackson might significantly diminish the odds Melo leaves the Knicks.

But if Jackson is willing to conduct a sign-and-trade, refusing to take Boozer is asinine.

Neither the Knicks nor Bulls need to enter negotiations under any illusions about what Boozer is. He’s a player with negative value whose expiring contract would be used only to make the deal’s finances work.

A simple trade of Boozer and one of Brewer, James or Amundson for Melo would allow Melo to receive his max starting salary. New York would have no obligation to Brewer/James/Amundson beyond the trade and none to Boozer beyond next season. Considering the Knicks don’t project to have cap space until 2015 anyway, Boozer wouldn’t interfere much, if at all.

Of course, New York would never go for that.

Brewer/James/Amundson is a worthless piece, and like I said before, Boozer has negative value. It’s up to the Bulls to tweak the deal to include other positive assets – future draft picks, Nikola Mirotic, Jimmy Butler, Tony Snell, Doug McDermott – that compensate the Knicks for both parting with Melo and accepting Boozer. Armed with all its own first rounders, a Kings’ first rounder if it falls outside the top 10 in the next three years and the right to swap picks with the Cavaliers outside the lottery next season, Chicago has the tools to create a tempting offer.

But to make the finances work – unless they include Gibson, whom Melo wants left on the team – the Bulls need to include Boozer in the trade.

Boozer is nothing more than a contract to make the deal work. Sure, he might give the Knicks a little interior and scoring and rebounding in the final year of his contract, but neither New York nor Chicago needs to value that when determining a fair trade. Boozer is a contract.

He’s also a contract who could be useful in another trade for the Bulls sometime before the trade deadline for the same reason he’s useful here. Expiring contracts grease the wheels of larger deals.

Why is Phil Jackson so opposed to this? Maybe he understands the situation and is just posturing. If so, it’s a little annoying, because it’s not necessary. The Bulls, who might just amnesty Boozer, understand his value.

If there’s more to this, and Jackson thinks Boozer’s mere presence would harm the Knicks, he could always tell Boozer not to report. That would still allow New York to trade Boozer later without risking him infecting the team with whatever Jackson believes Boozer carries. (That Boozer has fit in Chicago’s strong organizational culture suggests these fears are unwarranted.)

If Jackson is willing to discuss a sign-and-trade, he should listen to offers that include Boozer. The Bulls will surely add valuable assets in exchange.

But if Jackson flatly refuses and Melo still wants to sign in Chicago, he faces a dilemma – playing with with Gibson or making $26 million extra dollars over the next four years.

 

  1. reesesteel23 - Jul 2, 2014 at 11:00 AM

    Aww….Poor Booz!

  2. cnyphinfan - Jul 2, 2014 at 11:06 AM

    Jax is taking the right stance here. The days of NY being fleeced and not having the power are over.
    Melo is stuck if Chicago is really where he wants to go………we are better off letting him walk for way less money if that is what he wants to do. We can use the cap space that we have if/when he walks to sign some decent players to run this year………why would we want to waste that on Boozer? Would rather sign some of the mid level free agents this year to short-term deals than have Boozer…………..

    • malek773 - Jul 2, 2014 at 11:30 AM

      Jackson doesn’t want mid level our mariginal players. He wants a superstar. So If Melo walks don’t think he is going to blow that cap space on Lance Stephenson or Luol Deng. He’s going to hold on to it and wait for KD to hit the market. Look at adding a star via trade etc. So the keeping the cap space for this summer is pointless. This article is spot on. If Melo decides he wants Chicago Jackson and the Knicks would be dumb to let Melo just walk away. Smart move is you take Boozers expiring deal, get a couple of first round picks and a few prospects to use for trades or build with. If Jackson tries to take this stance of not doing a sign and trade you think Melo is going to run back to the Knicks? He’ll probably sign a contract with the Bulls with an early out (after 1 or 2 years) so he can re-up for max money later. Phil knows this. All he’s doing know is playing hardball so if Melo does choose the bulls he can try to get as much value back.

    • lmoneyfresh - Jul 2, 2014 at 11:34 AM

      If Melo leaves, they have nothing on offense. Boozer would immediately be the team’s 1st or 2nd scorer. Overpaid yes, but still can be productive for a year. The Knicks aren’t landing any big free agents this offseason so might as well punt to next year instead of signing mediocre talent to longer contracts.

  3. fnc111 - Jul 2, 2014 at 11:30 AM

    He’s not going to Chicago.

    • cruzan80 - Jul 2, 2014 at 2:25 PM

      20 thumbs down for speaking the truth….

  4. rcp29 - Jul 2, 2014 at 11:37 AM

    Why is it asinine for Phil to refuse to take back Boozer’s contract? Also, the caveat here is, refuse to take it back without sweeteners. I bet Phil would happily take back Boozer’s expiring if it meant they also got Taj Gibson, a first round pick, and maybe Tony Snell. Even better would be something like this:

    Bulls get: Carmelo (~$22 million) and JR Smith ($6 million)

    Knicks get: Boozer ($17 million), Taj Gibson ($8 million), Tony Snell ($1.5 million), 1st round pick

    I’m not a cap expert, but it seems like it would work. The Knicks clear $6 million more in cap space by getting rid of JR, meaning next summer they will essentially start with Calderon, Gibson, Shumpert and room for two max players. For the Bulls, you have Rose, Butler, Melo and Noah – probably the best roster in the east if healthy. As a Knicks fan, I’d rather keep Melo, but you at least have to get some value back.

    • lmoneyfresh - Jul 2, 2014 at 12:09 PM

      The Bulls aren’t trading Gibson though. The Bulls would give up Snell, Butler, Mirotic (maybe), and picks but I don’t see much more. I really don’t see the Bulls taking back Smith’s contract though, especially when Taj is making the same amount. The salaries don’t have to match with a sign and trade too so I just don’t see any way they would take Smith. If the Knicks think Melo is gone they’re better of getting some picks and a few players.

      • Mr. Wright 212 - Jul 2, 2014 at 12:18 PM

        They HAVE to move Gibson if they expect to offer this ridiculous 2/3 of max salary to Melo to begin with.

        And as you surely realize, the Bulls have to gut their bench just to be able to offer THAT, and have nothing but exceptions to fill out a then-barren bench.

        GET OVER IT ALREADY. He ain’t leaving NY. As of right now, the Knicks have better role players than the Bulls would have if they found suckers willing to bail them out just to make this move.

      • malek773 - Jul 2, 2014 at 12:26 PM

        No they don’t have to move Gibson. In a sign and trade the Bulls could get Melo at max and go over the cap. They couldn’t go over the Cap signing him flat out. Thats why teams do a sign and trade. And for you to even compare the Knicks team to the Bulls team is insane. The Bulls finished 4th in the east without Rose for most of last season. The knicks couldn’t even get the 8th seed WITH Carmelo. As to gutting the bench, the Bulls don’t really have a bench right now. All of the guys minus Kirk are on non guranteed contracts, and aren’t that good anyway. The whole Bench is going to look different next year whether we get Melo or not.

      • rcp29 - Jul 2, 2014 at 1:39 PM

        Bulls fans, your owner will not pay the luxury tax. That’s why they haven’t used the amnesty clause on Boozer and that’s why they aren’t doing what needs to be done to get Melo. The only way they sign him is if they don’t end up paying more overall.

    • Mr. Wright 212 - Jul 2, 2014 at 12:17 PM

      Why is it asinine?

      WHERE IS BOOZER IN THE 4TH QUARTER OF GAMES?

      Thank you.

    • malek773 - Jul 2, 2014 at 12:19 PM

      Melo wants to play with Taj. He knows without Taj the Bulls aren’t as strong. If the Bulls were going to trade Taj he wouldn’t of been at the pitch meeting. I agree the Knicks will want sweetners but it will more likely be Snell and Mirotic and/or Butler. Also for a team like the Knicks Boozer and 3 first round picks (Sacramento’s/Clevelands/one of Chicagos) would probably mean more than any of the Bulls players they’d throw in. This is a team with no first round picks. Those alone maybe sweet enough for Phil.

  5. willkill4caffeine - Jul 2, 2014 at 12:33 PM

    Dough McDermott? Is that a dig at McBucketts or just a typo? Either way, its hilarious

  6. rajbais - Jul 2, 2014 at 12:43 PM

    Amnestying Boozer will be the only way to get Melo.

    In fact, Boozer should be amnestied or traded for anyone that wants an expiring salary and has disgruntled talent to throw over.

    Minnesota for Kevin love. Saunders needs cap space.

    Philly?? Like they’re going anywhere with that clown GM.

  7. pudgalvin - Jul 2, 2014 at 1:57 PM

    Some of you guys are really godamned dense.

  8. saint1997 - Jul 2, 2014 at 6:41 PM

    Rose-Butler-Anthony-Gibson-Noah. This lineup is really strong defensively and has some good shot creators there, but the question remains is there really enough 3PT shooting to space the floor?

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