The Chicago Bulls salary cap situation

Oct 3, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Denzel Valentine (45) reacts after hurting his ankle against the Milwaukee Bucks during the second half at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 3, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bulls guard Denzel Valentine (45) reacts after hurting his ankle against the Milwaukee Bucks during the second half at the United Center. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s going to be a huge offseason for several teams that have already been eliminated from the playoffs. There’s going to be a significant amount of rumors on trades and free agents, but does that matter for the Chicago Bulls? Let’s look at their cap situation.

Mostly, I’d just suggest that Bulls fans look away. It doesn’t set up all that well if Chicago plans to stay the course on their roster and vision of continuing the efforts to compete in the playoffs while also rebuilding their team on picks in 14-25 range. That’s not great, by the way.

At the end of season presser, it was made pretty clear that John Paxson and Gar Forman are pretty hyped on what they have going on with the Bulls for next season. They did this thing where they employed classic front office doublespeak where they blamed being unable to make any moves this summer on an upcoming season of frustration equal to what was endured this past season. The return was that they also said they are going to have lots of cap space in the future. Sure, sounds really good.

More from Pippen Ain't Easy

Chicago currently has the fourth-highest amount of cap room, pre-options and restricted free agents. It’s a whopping $52.8 million of space. Unfortunately, all of that space is tied in team options, player options and restricted free agents.

If the Bulls want to make any moves this summer, they’re going to need a fire sale first.

Jimmy Butler isn’t making very much, but he’s the fulcrum. Why is that? Dwyane Wade loves making money only a little less than he loves not being on a very bad team. This is just one man’s moderately informed opinion, it’s a mortal lock that Wade exercises his option of Butler isn’t traded this summer. The only real chance Paxson has to get out from under the crushing $23.8 million player option Wade holds, is to move Butler’s contract. Even then, Wade really has no incentive to not make approximately $500,000 per game he actually plays next season. Yes, I’m guessing that Wade plays about 47 games.

Of that original $52.8 million of space, Wade’s opt-in takes away $23.8 million. That’s a significant chunk of change. They’re now down to $29 million. And then there’s the perplexing Rajon Rondo decision.

At that same end of season presser, Paxson and Forman crowed about the virtues Rondo doth possess. Startlingly, they seemed straightforward about exercising the team option on Rondo. I mean, sure, he finished the season considerably better than Jerian Grant, Michael Carter-Williams, or Isaiah Canaan. Those are all very bad starting point guard options, so they’re using their own terrible decision making to justify re-upping on it for another season of battling for the playoffs and a .500 record.

Rondo’s option is $13.4 million, if they bring him back. That $52.8 million dwindled to $29 million, and after Rajon it’s down to just $15.6 million.

We haven’t even cracked into the restricted free agents. Here’s the quick rundown. Nikola Mirotic, Carter-Williams, Joffrey Lauvergne, and Cristiano Felicio are all RFAs. MCW and King Joffrey are probably as good as gone. That still leaves the issue of what to do with Mirotic and Felicio. They should totally match on Felicio, regardless of direction the franchise moves. I believe they need to let Niko walk, but I get why they might not do that. If they match on Mirotic, that alone is probably close enough to putting them over the cap and they’ll certainly be beyond it by the time they re-sign both Niko and Felicio.

They are now out of cap space and are, in fact, over the cap.

The other route to cap room for players like Chris Paul, Blake Griffin or George Hill is to get away from the Rondo contract, like Mirotic, Lauvergne, and Carter-Williams walk. But, they still need to do something awful enough that Wade would rather get the hell out of Chicago than continue cashing the biggest checks of his career.

There’s sure to be plenty of movement and a few surprises around the league, the Bulls will need to be on the move and surprising if they want to do anything other than run back last year’s squad that’s a year older and a year closer the Butler’s deal expiring.