The Melo Plan: How the Bulls will sign Carmelo Anthony

The Melo Plan: How the Bulls will sign Carmelo Anthony
June 20, 2014, 9:45 am
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Kevin Anderson

Love may be all the Beatles need, and Love may be all the Warriors want, and with Thursday's news that Golden State is willing to include Klay Thompson in a deal for the Wolves All-Star, Love is not what the Bulls are getting.

The reality is that the Bulls don’t want to include the assets that it would take to outbid the Warriors. And they shouldn’t. Any trade that would involve Noah or Rose doesn’t improve the team. Seeing the price skyrocket for Love, is actually a blessing for the Bulls. The front office can now focus all of its attention on creating cap space to land Carmelo Anthony.

The Bulls are expected to use the amnesty provision on Carlos Boozer, and doing that (and that alone) will give them about $13 million in cap space to use on Anthony this summer [1]. Carmelo may want to play for a contender, but he’s not going to sign here for $13 million. The Bulls front office will need to free up at least $17 million, and likely $18 million, to lure Melo.

The Bulls can give themselves an additional $800k in space by drafting a European player like Clint Capela with the 19th overall pick and then entering an agreement with Capela that he won’t play in the NBA next season [2]. By agreeing, a drafted player won’t come over that season, NBA teams gain immediate cap space equal to that draft slot’s rookie salary. It’s a near guarantee that this is happening and every mock draft you see that has the Bulls taking two American players at No. 16 and No. 19 is wrong. $800k may seem like nothing, but it could be the difference in landing Anthony [3].

Here’s where it gets tricky for Gar/Pax. They need to create more space and the top expendable player under contract is Mike Dunleavy Jr. If the Bulls trade him to a contender for a 2nd round pick, they will free up an additional $2.83 million for Anthony [4]. This subtotal gives us $16.18 million for Melo. Good, but not great. Could they sign him for that amount? Absolutely. And the Bulls will do their very best to convince Anthony that any more roster changes will significantly weaken the team.

Let’s be conservative though and assume $16.18 million is not enough for Melo. The next player likely to be moved is Jimmy Butler. Like Dunleavy, the Bulls would also have to unload Butler for a future 2nd round pick. Moving Butler frees up another $1.51 million for Melo, giving the seven-time All-Star a first year salary of $17.7 million with the Bulls.  If Anthony insists on getting a near-max, or max deal then the Bulls would have to unload Taj Gibson. That’s something I believe they are willing to consider, but very reluctant to do.

Anthony can potentially make up to $22.46 million next season with any team he signs with. He will have to decide if $17.7 million is enough and if the Bulls are worth a $20 million dollar discount over a four year contract [5]. Bulls fans would certainly love it if he did.

[1]   This assumes a salary cap of $63.2 million. The exact cap number won’t be announced until just before players can officially sign on July 10th.

[2]   The Bulls have done this with Nikola Mirotic every season since he was drafted with the 23rd pick in the 2011 draft.

[3]   It’s $800k and not $1.27 million because a cap hit of $500k is applied to every empty roster spot under 12 players

[4]   Same reason as above, $500k empty roster charge is applied, so Dunleavy’s $3.33 million salary next season only creates $2.83 million in cap space

[5]   Freeing up this amount also means that Mirotic stays in Europe another year and the Bulls renounce all of their exceptions including the mid-level.

Kevin Anderson is a coordinating producer for Comcast SportsNet. Follow Kevin on Twitter @CSNKevin.