Tag Archives: Luol Deng

With Thibodeau Axed, Who Will Be The Second Domino?

After weeks of waiting for the inevitable, the Bulls have parted ways with coach Tom Thibodeau, releasing an official statement like some jackass from high school posting on Facebook about a summer internship.

In Thibodeau’s five years in Chicago, the team made the playoffs each season, often outperforming expectations as the team was constantly plagued with cruel and unusual injury luck. But success in the NBA is not defined by just making the playoffs, a feat more than half the league achieves each season. Rather, the true marker of success is rising to the challenge of the postseason and emerging with a new banner to hang, something that the Bulls under Thibs never came that close to achieving.

Thibodeau, perhaps the greatest defensive mind in the NBA, had a myriad of shortcomings that have been well documented on this fine website and others across the interwebs. I am not going to delve into some of the maddening habits and decisions of Tom Thibodeau because by now I’m sure you’re well aware of them.

What I am curious about is, with Thibs now out the door, what other moves will the Bulls make this summer to improve upon a roster that  will able to compete for the Eastern Conference crown immediately. This is not a situation that calls for complete detonation and a multi-year rebuild. But at the same time, swapping out the coach and bringing the whole gang back together is not the answer either. A second domino is going to fall, and is likely going to fall soon.

Jimmy Butler, the man who wisely scoffed at the extension offer he received last summer, is unlikely to leave town. The Bulls, hopefully, will learn from their mistake during the Omer Asik RFA fiasco and aggressively look to sign Butler before he has a chance to sign an offer sheet that could put the Bulls in an uncomfortable cap situation. Butler, who took massive strides on the offensive end this season after struggling to find any rhythm in 2014, is worth every bit of a maximum contract extension and not even the penny pinching Bulls will be dumb enough to question it.

Mike Dunleavy, the other starter set to hit the market, is an interesting wild card. He reportedly took a smaller contract to come play for a winner in Chicago after spending his entire career on teams that failed to crack .500. I wouldn’t be surprised if Dunleavy, a Midwest native, looks to come back to a situation where he clearly feels comfortable.

So what exactly is the next domino to fall in this summer of change? In my opinion, it will be a member of the extremely talented and slightly overcrowded frontcourt who will leave town before the season begins.

That frontcourt, comprised of Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Pau Gasol, and Nikola Mirotic, should have been a matchup nightmare for the other 29 teams in the NBA. The ability to always pair players who can cover each others weaknesses should have been a resource no other NBA team could match. And Mirotic, who I was cautiously optimistic about coming into the 2015 campaign, blew away everyone’s expectations on his way to a second place finish in the Rookie of the Year race.

But Tom Thibodeau was never able to fully harness the power that he had at his fingertips. His determination to make a two center lineup work the entire season was maddening, and relegated Gibson and Mirotic to roles that were both too small and improper.

Gar Forman and John Paxson will now need to decide whether the shortcomings of the Bulls big men was due to poor decision-making from the coach, or if there simply is not enough court time to go around to get the best out of these four players. Like all difficult questions, the answer falls somewhere in the middle, which is why I believe a trade will be made in addition to the release of Thibs.

Lets quickly throw aside the possibility of Mirotic getting traded. Niko signed a three year deal before the start of last season that averages $5 million a year. In the industry, they call this a bargain.

I would also like to place Gasol in the “very unlikely to be moved” category. Pau, who had a renaissance last year that caught the attention of the ghost of Michelangelo, is the post-oriented big man the Bulls have desperately been after since the Jordan years. While it’s unlikely Gasol will repeat the success he had this season going forward, he too is on a very team-friendly contract over the next two seasons and Forman and Paxson are probably still high-fiving each other over the move.

thibs and gar

That leaves Noah and Gibson as second domino candidates heading into NBA hot stove season. Both defense first players, Taj and Jo have enough overlap in skill set that the front office, looking to bring in an offensive minded head coach, will likely feel comfortable making a trade.

Noah, the 2013-14 Defensive Player of the Year, had a pretty miserable 2014-15. After undergoing a mysterious knee operation last offseason, Noah never seemed to find his form on offense. He posted career lows in field goal percentage and free throw percentage. His scoring dipped to its lowest since the Vinny Del Negro era, and his defense was nowhere near as good as the previous year. Noah has one more year left on his contract and is owed about $13 million.

Gibson dealt with an onslaught of injuries throughout the season that robbed him of his incredible above the rim athleticism. His back to the basket game became a black hole of turnovers and missed passing opportunities. In Zach Lowe’s excellent piece on the state of the post game, he touched on certain guys who defenses attack in the post because they know they won’t make the right pass. Taj Gibson is the poster child of this type of player.  Taj has two more years on his deal, averaging about $8.5 million a season.

taj and jo

Of the two, Taj is certainly more likely to fetch a larger return on the trade market. Coming off the bench his entire career, Gibson has largely been spared the grueling workload of  guys like Noah, Luol Deng and Jimmy Butler. Teams across the league have for many years wondered what type of impact Gibson could have in a starting lineup where he could see more minutes alongside more talented players. And with the salary cap set to explode and Gibson under contract for an additional season, his current price tag is extremely team friendly, no matter which team you look at.

But if it were up to me, it would be Noah who I send packing this summer. While Noah’s value on the trade market is potentially at an all-time low, there are definitely still teams who will be willing to take a one year flyer on a guy who was forced to play out of position the entire season. Noah’s ability to be the eyes and ears of an entire defense is wasted when he’s being asked to chase stretch forwards along the perimeter, which is exactly what happened this past season with Gasol at center. A smarter team that does not have an entrenched starting center could and should be able to understand that Noah’s ability to change the game on defense did not suddenly disappear over the course of a year.

Another reason to trade Noah is that I find it very unlikely that the Bulls sign him to his next contract. Much like they did with Luol Deng, the Bulls know exactly what the state of Noah’s body is and are probably smart enough to know that he will not hold up well into his mid-thirties. Better to get something for him now, even if it’s not much, than let him walk away for nothing next summer.

Finally, this is a team that is looking to shake up the culture. It doesn’t take a college English professor to read between the lines of Jerry Reinsdorf’s statement on the firing of Tom Thibodeau. Noah has always been a staunch supporter of Thibs, buying in 100% to his message and his philosophy. Forman and Paxson may not want to roll the dice with an unhappy Joakim next season and could look to ditch him before he makes any stink about a new coach.

The Eastern Conference today is in complete disarray. The Cavaliers are going to the Finals despite losing their third best player to injury and having their second best player limping through the playoffs. The Bulls are flush with talent, and with the right tweaks this offseason, this team should be able to compete for a championship in 2016.

The Case Against Tom Thibodeau

Let me start this out by making it clear that I’m a Tom Thibodeau fan. If I ran the Bulls, Thibs wouldn’t be halfway out the door right now. However, given the loud and clear signals that only a Finals appearance would save (read: not sever) this relationship, it’s time for Bulls fans to wrap their heads around a divorce.

As great as Thibodeau has coached the Bulls, he undoubtedly has shown major flaws within his coaching philosophy. The area where Thibs is criticized the most loudly is ironically the one where I would argue he’s improved the most: minutes management.

Thibs is still woefully behind the times, routinely making Pau Gasol play entire quarters and running Jimmy Butler up for 40 minutes a night whenever he has the chance. Still, he’s shown a better willingness to manage the playing time of injured players. Much has been made about Joakim Noah’s minutes restriction, but I haven’t had a huge problem with Thibodeau’s handling of it. First of all, 32 minutes is a kind of arbitrary number. While it’s clear Noah can’t handle a 36+ minutes per night workload, establishing a baseline of around 32 seems perfectly reasonable for a stubborn coach like Thibodeau. Noah’s played 30.8 minutes per game on the season and about the same in March. The limit has again become a talking point because the front office is more likely than not just running a smear campaign on the embattled coach.

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Not my fault!

Thibs did an admirable job with Rose’s minutes as well. Derrick averaged under 33 minutes in every month of the season besides January, when he felt great and scored over 20 points per game in 16 matchups. For the season, he sits at 31 minutes per game. Given the Bulls other options at point guard, it’s understandable why Rose wouldn’t be averaging 25 minutes a night, especially because everyone thought he had successfully rehabbed his meniscus injury.

Again, Thibs is not good at managing his players’ minutes. Luol Deng’s body was wrecked by Thibodeau and he’s traveling down the same path with Jimmy Butler if he doesn’t reduce his minutes. But to argue that Thibs should be fired now because of this is playing into exactly what the Bulls’ immature front office desires. This is the same organization that routinely pushed its players to return too quickly from injury until it became a national embarrassment. Twice in Luol Deng’s career, he received medical treatment that was shockingly below standards.

Given the team’s injury issues, you would hope that Gar Forman and John Paxson are ready to turn over a new leaf with minutes management. Additionally, there are other areas where Thibodeau has failed to meet expectations. The most glaring this season has been his rotations.

Kirk Hinrich is probably the least productive rotation player in the entire NBA. He’s dropped to career lows of 36.9% overall and 34% from deep. He’s only averaging 3.4 assists per 36 minutes. Yet Thibodeau insists that the team plays better when Kirk is in and that Hinrich excels at “running the offense”. This is just not true. And while Hinrich can occasionally succeed defensively, considering him a plus player on that end is questionable. Yet Thibodeau has played Hinrich for more than 25 minutes per game this season. Aaron Brooks is at 21.8, Tony Snell 19.8, and E’Twaun Moore just 9.3 minutes a game. Hinrich has only played 39% of his minutes at point guard, destroying any semblance of floor-spacing. This is entirely indefensible.

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I don’t get it either, Jo

As the greater NBA community is coming to realize, Nikola Mirotic is a future All-Star. In fact, he’s been the Bulls’ best player this season by net rating. Per NBA.com/stats, the Bulls are +2.6 points per 100 possessions overall. When Niko plays, they’re +5.4, highest on the team. When he sits, they’re +0.7, lowest on the team. Even though Joakim Noah is on the highly publicized minutes limit, Pau Gasol is playing his highest minutes in a half decade, and Taj Gibson has been injured all year, Thibodeau waited until Gibson’s fourth ankle sprain to unleash Mirotic.

Niko is a dynamic power forward and Joakim Noah is an equally unique center. Together they’ve been ridiculously good, yet Thibodeau doesn’t prioritize this combination. He remains staunchly committed to Pau Gasol playing center, even though it’s Thibodeau’s famous defense that Gasol’s inability to force turnovers is derailing. Pau’s net rating is +1.8 and when he’s off the floor the Bulls jump to +4.1. Niko is the only Bull with a defensive rating under 100, at 99.6 points per 100 possessions.

While I’ve never been high on Doug McDermott, most would agree Thibodeau just hasn’t given him a chance. What’s odder than that is Thibodeau’s general aversion to playing Mike Dunleavy in the fourth quarter. Thibs routinely prioritizes having two ball-handlers in the game, whether it’s Derrick Rose and Kirk Hinrich or Aaron Brooks and E’Twaun Moore. It just doesn’t make a sense for a team with one quality point guard that can’t even stay on the floor. Even last night against Detroit, Hinrich stayed in for most of the fourth quarter alongside Aaron Brooks (Dunleavy did get some minutes though).

Tom Thibodeau is an undoubtedly great NBA coach, but his relationship with a hard-to-work-with front office is beyond repair. Furthermore, Thibodeau’s shortcomings can’t be ignored much longer and the Bulls might be best served to part ways with his hard-driving attitude and bizarre rotations.

When this basketball marriage (lord knows Thibs doesn’t have a traditional one) does come to an end, you can expect the Bulls to go hard after Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State’s coach. Marc Stein reports:

It is widely — and I mean widely — believed throughout the league that Fred Hoiberg, whose Iowa State Cyclones were bounced in the first round of the tournament Thursday by UAB, is the top choice of the Chicago Bulls to replace Tom Thibodeau in the event that the Bulls and Thibs indeed part company at season’s end.

Hoiberg’s first interview didn’t go so well when his touted Iowa State team was shocked in the first round of the tournament, ruining many brackets. Let’s hope he finds more success when he inevitably winds up in the Windy City.

Quick Bulls Thought: Recent Transactions

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If you’ve been paying close attention over the last couple of days you will have noticed that the Bulls have made some late season roster moves. It’s ok if you didn’t realize this, as neither of the two personnel decisions do much to move the needle for the Bulls in 2014.

The first move came three days ago when the team decided to waive their 2013 second round pick, Erik Murphy. Murphy, the rookie out of Florida, barely saw any action during the season, making it onto the floor in just 24 games and averaging 2.6 minutes of absolute garbage time in those brief appearances. The 6’10” power forward demonstrated a sweet stroke throughout his collegiate career but just wasn’t ready to make an impact for this Bulls team. I admittedly was pretty high on Murphy going into the season, as a player with size, shooting ability and an incredibly low price tag seemed like exactly what the Bulls needed for now and the future.

The Bulls did not cut ties with Murphy because of his work ethic, but rather for financial and depth reasons. The depth explanation is a pretty simple one. With Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah and Nazr Mohammed on the team, the Bulls simply don’t need another backup big man twiddling his thumbs on the bench. By releasing Murphy, the Bulls cleared up a roster spot that could be used to address other team needs. And why keep Murphy around when the stretch-4 of the future is waiting in the wings!

The other motivation for this move had to do with avoiding the luxury tax. After paying the tax for the first time ever last year, the Bulls were certain to duck below the line this season. Trading Luol Deng for the right to tell Andrew Bynum to GTFO made that cost cutting initiative pretty clear back in January. Before the recent flurry of activity, the Bulls sat about a half million dollars below the luxury tax threshold. But with a potential $500 grand bonus for Noah if he makes First Team All-NBA and a $250 grand bonus for Taj Gibson if he makes Second Team All-Defense, the Bulls were a little too close to the line for comfort.

Murphy did not remain unsigned for long as the Utah Jazz claimed the Chicago castoff a day later. This claim was hugely important to the Bulls front office, as his entire salary now comes off of their books and is transferred to Salt Lake City, creating an extra $400K in breathing room for the Bulls. For the Jazz, a team well below the salary cap, this move was a low risk-high reward bet that at worst costs them $400 thousand and at best nets them a rotation peace under team control for the next three years at less than a million per year.

As soon as Murphy was off the roster, rumors began to swirl as to who would fill the the vacant spot in Chicago. Monday it was announced that the team was bringing back shooting guard Ronnie Brewer for the remainder of the season. Brewer, who was last on the Bulls in 2012, has spent parts of the last two seasons on the Knicks, Thunder and Rockets. After averaging 25 minutes a game over the course of 60 games as a member the Bench Mob in 2012, Brewer has only averaged 7 minutes a game in just 23 games played.

Brewer, who was waived from Houston February 21, has seen his shooting percentages steadily decline over the last three years. After sporting a 51.8 true shooting percentage (TS%) in 2011, Brewer was sporting a cover-your-eyes 22% TS% in his brief stint as a Rocket. Brewer, who was never exactly known for his offensive abilities, has also seen some of his defensive statistics slip this season. A career two steal per 36 minute player, Brewer is averaging just over a steal per 36 this year. Brewer has also seen his on court defensive efficiency numbers steeply decline since leaving a lineup that featured Taj Gibson and Omer Asik.

Despite the recent struggles of the 28 year old shooting guard, the Bulls are interested in Brewer’s services for a couple of reasons. Brewer, who’s pro-rated league minimum contract pays him around $60 thousand for the remainder of the year, fits nicely into the Bulls’ plan to stay beneath the cap. But the financial benefits of the deal are not what make Brewer a unique candidate for the Bulls. Brewer has been deemed worthy of the trust of coach Thibs, having spent two productive years learning and mastering the aggressive defensive principles characteristic of all Thibodeau teams.

The Bulls are badly in need of a veteran like Brewer for the playoffs. Having traded away Deng for nothing, the Bulls have left themselves paper thin on the wing. Jimmy Butler hasn’t been averaging 38 minutes a game because he’s been hitting his shots. It’s because there’s pretty much no one else on the Bulls capable of playing the two. The other pick from this past draft, Tony Snell, has seen his playing time dwindle as the season has gone along. Snell’s shooting percentages have been pretty terrible all year, shooting just 37% from the field and 32% from three.

While Brewer doesn’t alleviate any of the Bulls’ offensive woes, there is something to be said about having veteran leadership on a playoff contender, something the Bulls absolutely are in wake of Indiana’s epic collapse. The jury is still out on Snell, but there is little doubt that he is not ready for the bright lights of the playoffs. Brewer, a guy who was a key cog in the rotation when the Bulls made their last Eastern Conference Finals run, has the benefit of having been there before.

So to sum everything up, the Bulls got rid of a guy who wasn’t going to play at all in the playoffs. In doing so, they were able to save money and clear a roster spot for a guy who maybe will play meaningful minutes in the playoffs.

Quick Bulls Thought: Bulls Need to Run the Table

joakim-noah-chicago-bulls

Hey guys, nothing big today, just checking in on the Bulls as they hurtle toward the start of the long playoffs. Chicago’s finest have won five straight games to climb to 45-32 on the year. That’s somewhat remarkable, considering that they went 45-37 last year with Nate Robinson, Marco Belinelli, Luol Deng, and the knowledge that Derrick Rose likely wouldn’t be joining them on the court all season. Even more remarkable is that this is the same team that went 12-18 in 2013. A few days into 2014, Luol Deng was moved to Cleveland while the Bulls have compiled a stunning 33-14 record on the year. Just think about those numbers for a second. I won’t push it too hard, but Tom Thibodeau undoubtedly deserves a great deal of consideration for Coach of the Year.

Anyway, as nice as the Bulls have been, they still need to win out very badly. The Bulls are currently deadlocked with the surprisingly good Toronto Raptors (also 45-32). Even though they split the season series, Toronto holds the tiebreaker because they are winners of their (putrid) division. Thus, if Toronto doesn’t lose again, the Bulls have no chance of getting the third seed in the conference. The Bulls need to win every remaining game and hope that Toronto drops just one at the least. If they can’t move up to third, the Bulls will have to battle it out with Brooklyn in round one (winners of 15 straight home games) and Miami in round two.

Indiana got blown out again last night by Atlanta and the entire starting unit was relegated to bench duty after halftime, making it even more clear that Miami will most likely get the top overall seed. So, to recap: root for the Bulls to win out, root for the Raptors to lose at least once or twice, and root for Miami to keep winning so the Bulls get a crack at Indiana in the playoffs.

Trade Deadline: The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

trade machine

Mid-February is universally beloved as it houses the holiday of love. Valentine’s Day, a day of flowers, chocolate and smooches is great for those who have someone to celebrate with and a great excuse to hide in your room with the shades drawn shut if you don’t. But whether or not you have a V-Day partner, Valentine’s Day marks the one week deadline of what is thought of by many people in and around basketball to be the most exciting time of the year: the trade deadline.

The beauty of the trade deadline is it forces all 30 NBA teams to take a hard look in the mirror and decide if they are buyers or sellers, if they think they are a move away from a championship push or a playoff birth, or if they should begin to focus on the future.

The tricky part of the deadline is that, as detailed beautifully in Zach Lowe’s column this week, teams are less willing to make huge deals under the current collective bargaining agreement. First round picks, long used as sweeteners to move deals along, are now the most coveted resources teams have. Expiring contracts, long seen as the key piece to moving big money talent around, are no longer the trade chips they once were with contract lengths being cut down to four years maximum (for the most part) in the current CBA.

That being said, there are certainly going to be moves made in the next couple of days. Here, I will attempt to guess at what those moves may be.

deng cavs

Luol Deng to the Houston Rockets, Omer Asik and Ronnie Brewer to the Cleveland Cavaliers

If at first glance you are scratching your head wondering why the Cavs would ship out a player they just acquired via trade from Chicago, I’ve got some things to tell you. Since being shipped out to Cleveland, Deng’s numbers are down across the board. Most notably, Lu’s shooting percentage is at a cover-your-eyes 41% from the field. With Deng on the court, the Cavaliers are -7 points per possession, a startling number considering he was +2.3 with the struggling Bulls. Deng’s issues in Cleveland have a lot to do with Mike Brown’s “coaching” and not with some sudden skill depletion from the Sudanese veteran.

The trade to acquire Deng was supposed to propel Cleveland into the playoffs (where they would have been slaughtered in the first round anyway). The Cavs, riding a four game win streak, are still sitting at 11th place in the decrepit Eastern Conference. There is no chance that Deng, who will be a free agent this summer, is trying to stick around this disastrous Cavs squad, which is exactly why Cleveland should be looking to move the two time All-Star.

The Rockets are one of those teams that are without a doubt buyers this February. Currently sitting with the third best record in the West heading into the break. the Rockets know that this is a team capable of making a deep run in the postseason. Houston, who has been one of the most potent offensive teams in the league, has been so-so on the defensive end, despite having former DPOY Dwight Howard patrolling the paint. Houston’s defensive rating of 102 points/100 possessions is just not going to cut it against the top competition in the league.

With a proven rim protector in Howard, the Rockets are badly missing a player who can match up with the other teams’ top wing attacker. The Heat have Lebron, the Pacers have Paul George, the Warriors have Iggy, the Spurs have Kawhi, and the Thunder have Thabo. Throwing Deng on the Rockets gives Houston the type of wing defender they are badly in need of.

evan turner

Evan Turner to the Charlotte Bobcats, Ben Gordon to the 76ers

This isn’t exactly the sexy deal that gets casual fans excited, but it’s one that many plugged in NBA guys believe will happen. The Bobcats, playing spectacular defense under first year coach Steve Clifford, are trying to hang on to a playoff spot in the East. While squeaking into the 8th seed for the right to be destroyed by the Pacers or Heat doesn’t seem like a great achievement, to the pathetic Bobcats a playoff birth would mark the start of something.

While Turner’s 17.5 points a game may seem appealing on the surface, it’s important to take his stats with a grain of salt. The Sixers are playing at the fastest pace in the NBA and Turner is being encouraged to shoot whenever he pleases. His inflated scoring numbers don’t reflect an improvement in his game (although he has been a bit more reliable in shooting from the corners this season), but rather just how awful and goofy this Philly team is.

But the Bobcats will take anything to improve their roster. Charlotte has almost nothing on the team in terms of outside shooting (sorry McBob but you don’t count) and would gladly take a flier on the former number two pick in the draft.

Meanwhile, Philly would LOVE to snag Ben Gordon’s expiring contract. This deal would move the 76ers closer to the salary floor (which they are currently below) AND would let them become even WORSE which, uh, is better (man I hope the wheel is a real thing).

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Mike Dunleavy to the Thunder, Hasheem Thabeet and Derick Fisher and Dallas Mavericks future first round pick

The Thunder, according to Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski, are looking around for some extra shooting to bolster their squad. Enter Mike Dunleavy, who is pretty good at shooting basketballs.

I love this trade on so many different levels, first and foremost being that the trade rewards Dunleavy for trying to win. When Mike Dunleavy joined the Bulls this summer as a free agent, he signed a 2 year/$6 million dollar deal that, according to some reports, was less than what other teams were offering the veteran shooter. Dunleavy has been around the NBA for over a decade and came to Chicago with the dream of playing for a championship contender. When Rose went down for the season, so did the Bulls’ title hopes. Dunleavy, who did what many guys in the league would never consider doing, seemingly was being punished for his good will.

The Thunder can afford to part with the ancient Derek Fisher and the rarely used Hasheem Thabeet. While Fisher has seen some extended run in Russell Westbrook’s absence this season, the hope in OKC is that health will be restored to the dynamic point guard and Fishers minutes will become Reggie Jackson’s minutes. Picking up Dunleavy gives the Thunder a much needed outside threat that can play in the OKC second unit.

The big prize for the Bulls is the future first round pick. While the pick is top twenty protected for the next couple of seasons, it becomes unprotected in 2018. And who knows what the Mavs, likely entering the post-Dirk era will look like. That pick could potentially become a valuable player for the future of the Bulls franchise.

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Taj Gibson to the Suns, Emeka Okafor to the Bulls

(I must admit that this is the only deal that does not work in the ESPN Trade Machine, but I think that with Okafor’s contract being paid by insurance and the Bulls having a trade exception from the Deng and Teague deals, that this should work out.)

This deal happens on one condition and one condition only: Chicago having insider knowledge that Carmelo is coming to the Bulls if they can offer him a max contract. The Bulls, as they stand today, are just a hair under the luxury tax line. But everyone and their grandma knows that the Bulls are going to Amnesty Boozer at the end of the season, a move that would give the Bulls enough space to make a run at a guy like Lance Stephenson.

But if the Bulls can move Taj for an expiring deal, then the doors are open for a maximum offer for Carmelo. Yesterday, Geo took a peak at a trade rumor involving Anthony and the Bulls. I personally don’t think Knicks owner James Dolan would ever sign off on such a deal, as he seems to firmly believe that the Knicks need a “superstar” and in the hypothetical package addressed in Geo’s article, no such big ticket player is returned to New York.

But as everyone knows, Melo plans to opt out of the final year of his contract this summer to test the waters of free agency. The Knicks know that, and they also know that they can offer an extra year and about $30 million more than any other team can offer. They may not have much of a roster, or a first round pick until my unborn child’s bar mitzvah, but they’ve got that extra thirty mill that they can dangle over Melo’s head.

Tough decisions lye ahead for the former NCAA champion, as he must choose between the Big Apple (the city where his wife reportedly prefers to live in) and competitive basketball. A foundation of Rose, Melo, Noah and Butler isn’t exactly going to have Miami and Indy quaking in their boots, but its a far better core than what the Knicks have surrounded Anthony with.

Such backroom talk is well outside of the rules of the league, but there’s no doubt that free agent tampering is something that many teams practice in the NBA today. Obviously, if the Bulls don’t think Carmelo is serious about joining the Bulls then they would never give away their prized power forward for nothing.

But if Melo can be had, moves must be made.