It's been a wild past two days for the NBA.
For Bulls fans, it started late Friday night when the always-plugged-in Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports tweeted that the Bulls were close to a deal with Pau Gasol. This seemed to indicate the team was moving past Carmelo Anthony, and that turned out to be the case Saturday afternoon.
The Bulls were reportedly trying to work on a sign-and-trade to acquire Gasol. A sign-and-trade would have allowed the Bulls to keep the mid-level exception ($5.3 million) and bi-annual exception ($2.07 million), but it appears that the Gasol deal will be done using cap space. This hurts the Bulls' flexibility with the rest of free agency, but it doesn't mean that they are done adding key pieces to the roster. Here's how the Gasol deal will impact the Bulls' plans moving forward.
Gasol is reportedly going to sign with the Bulls for a first-year salary of $6.5 million. They also made a deal to trade away forward Greg Smith to the Mavericks that saves the team about $440,000 in cap space. The Gasol and Smith deals give the Bulls just $6.1 million of cap space if, as is expected, they use the amnesty clause on (or trade) Carlos Boozer. To get this $6.1 million, they also lose both previously mentioned exceptions, have to renounce all free agents and trade exceptions and must waive the non-guaranteed deals of Ronnie Brewer, Mike James and Lou Amundson. This $6.1 million must be used to fill four roster spots (for cap purposes, second-round pick Cameron Bairstow does not factor into the roster until he has signed, as second-round pick contracts are not guaranteed and are not slotted like first-round picks), and a maximum of $4.6 million can be used on one player (the NBA has a roster charge of $507,000 per roster spot under 12 players).
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This is very important to keep in mind because the Bulls really want to bring over Nikola Mirotic, and he will have to accept that $4.6 million amount or the Bulls will have to create further space through a trade. Mike Dunleavy Jr. is a potential trade piece that could give the Bulls about $2.8 million more cap space if they trade him for a draft pick.
Let's assume the Bulls make no other trades and are able to sign Mirotic at $4.6 million. They still have one other decent option on adding a rotation-caliber wing player. The room mid-level exception (at $2.7 million) is only allowed to be used by teams who can't use the other exceptions because they had cap space to use. They can use all of that exception on one player or split it into multiple players.
The Bulls seem to have a big weakness when it comes to depth in the backcourt, and the Bulls would likely want to add a backup point guard and a rotation wing player that can create his own shot off the dribble. If they're going to fill both those needs, they'll need to do it with very little cap flexibility.