While there have been denials from the Chicago Bulls regarding the prospect of them using the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer heading into the 2013-2014 NBA season, it’s hard not to think that might be a sensible course of action for them.
Because Boozer is owed $32.2 million for the next two years, and puts the Bulls (among three more +$11 million a season contracts) above the luxury tax, due to pay $77 million next season. It means that there’s no real room for improvement and adjustment with anything but a minimum salary deal to free agents, and obviously paying the luxury tax.
While paying the luxury tax isn’t such an issue for the Bulls and other Big-Market teams, especially when it’s not above it by a whole lot, the Bulls seem to be a tad stuck in their ability to maneuver. That’s why they’re considering trading Luol Deng, knowing they have a very similar option in Jimmy Butler for the position, while they’re still thinking whether or not Boozer is the player that gives them the best shot at competing for the NBA title.
Reaching the conference semifinals this past season seems to be mostly attributed to defensive preaching of Tom Thibodeau. The Bulls were without Derrick Rose for the entire season, while Luol Deng had his injury problems in the regular season and the playoffs, while Kirk Hinrich was also shut down at a certain point. The offense was ugly and painful to watch many a night, and the Bulls want next season to be about more than fighting and hustle.
A lot of that is on the shoulders of Derrick Rose, who’ll finally be available to see playing a basketball game. He’s been involved in full practices for a couple of months, but he was holding back on returning, probably because even with him, the Bulls were huge underdogs against the Miami Heat. Next season, there is no room for excuses, as Rose might be rusty, very rusty, but he’ll be 100% healthy, hopefully as good as he was before the injury.
And Boozer? While the Bulls would love to see him become for of a post up presence, not to mention better defender, there’s a good chance he’ll continue to be a big man who prefers to take jumpers from 16-18 feet from the basket. There’s nothing wrong with having a “stretch” 4 kind of player, but the Bulls should expect more from the team’s second highest paid player. More than the 16.2 points per game he’s been giving them, when they know he is still capable of so much more on a nightly basis if he’d be a bit more aggressive in his approach.
The return of Rose also means faster basketball, and not squeezing the most out of the clock on each possession, sometimes not on purpose. It means Boozer will have to be in better physical shape than he has been for the last couple of years. If the Bulls finally conclude that their expectations for a man who not too long ago was one of the best power forwards in the NBA are great for him to deal with, maybe the amnesty clause will be the best choice sitting in front of them.