UNDER CONTRACT: G Derrick Rose, F Carlos Boozer, F Luol Deng, C Joakim Noah, G Richard Hamilton, G Kirk Hinrich, F Taj Gibson, G Jimmy Butler, F Vladimir Radmanovic, C Nazr Mohammed, G Marco Belinelli, G Nate Robinson, C Kyrylo Fesenko
DRAFT PICKS: G Marquis Teague
FREE AGENTS: G Mike James, F Brian Scalabrine
MOVES: For the first time in franchise history, the Bulls are going to have to pay the luxury tax – and really don’t have much to show for it. GM Gar Forman refused to match the three-year, $25 million offer sheet Houston gave Omer Asik, who will receive $14.1 million in the final season of the deal. That’s 2014-15, when the Bulls already will have roughly $50 million committed to Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer. But Asik isn’t the only member of the “Bench Mob” that won’t be back. Kyle Korver was dealt to Atlanta for cash and a $5 million trade exception. Ronnie Brewer’s option of $4.37 million was not picked up, and he signed with New York. C.J. Watson also was waived and signed with Brooklyn. And Chicago showed no interest in bringing back John Lucas (who signed with Toronto) or Mike James (still a free agent), which means all of the point guards who filled in admirably when Rose was hurt last season are gone. Rose’s torn ACL will keep him out until late January at the earliest, and his new caddies are Kirk Hinrich, the former Bull who was re-signed for $8 million over two years, and rookie Marquis Teague. Forman did try to rebuild his bench on the cheap, nabbing Nazr Mohammed on a veterans’ minimum deal to replace Asik and adding range shooting by signing Vladimir Radmanovic to a one-year veteran deal and Marco Belinelli for $1.9 million through the bi-annual exception. He also got somewhat of a steal in signing Nate Robinson to a one-year, $1.2 million deal – if Robinson displays the maturity he has in recent years. If he doesn’t, he’s gone, because the contract isn’t fully guaranteed. But Radmanovic and Belinelli are not stalwart defenders; on offense, they are only effective playing off double-teams or dribble penetration. Without Rose, the Bulls don’t really have anyone who commands a double-team or can easily get inside a defense. Before camp began, Kyrylo Fesenko was signed to fortify the frontcourt. And coach Tom Thibodeau – inexplicably allowed to enter the final year of his deal – received a four-year, $17.5 million extension through 2016-17.
TO-DO LIST: Not matching on Asik was somewhat of a surprise but allowed Forman to keep in place a long-term plan. Reserve forward Taj Gibson – who often plays ahead of Boozer in crunch time – is due for an extension next summer, when Richard Hamilton’s contract comes off the books. Discussions are under way and the deal likely will get done before the Oct. 31 deadline. Forman can then reload in the summer of 2014, when Luol Deng’s contract expires. At that time, he can also use the amnesty clause on Boozer and have enough room to sign a free agent to a maximum contract to play alongside Rose, Gibson, Noah and perhaps a re-signed Deng. Chicago native Patrick Beverley, considered as a camp invite, signed a three-year deal to play in Russia.
PROJECTION: The Bulls will look different next season, and not just because Hinrich is running the offense until Rose returns around the All-Star break. Asik, Watson, Brewer, Korver and Lucas all were rotation players last season. That is a huge turnover for a team that has had the NBA’s best record in each of the last two years. Chicago will fall from the 60-win stratosphere. The Bulls are still a playoff team, but they are going to take a step back – at least in the regular season – and it could be far enough to fall behind Indiana in the Central Division.
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