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Tuesday, January 31

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Bulls Tue Jul 03 2012

Bulls' Offseason Hinges On Asik's Contract

Bulls_200.pngWhen asked what the Bulls would do in regards to free agency after last week's NBA Draft, Bulls GM Gar Forman said, "Our decisions this summer will be basketball decisions, not financial decisions."

He'll soon get a chance to put Jerry Reinsdorf's money where his mouth is.

The Houston Rockets made the first move on the NBA free agent chessboard by verbally agreeing to a three-year, $25.1 million offer sheet with Bulls restricted free agent Omer Asik on Sunday. The deal can't be officially signed until July 11, and the Bulls will then have three days to match.

Forman told anyone who would listen before the start of free agency that the team intended to match whatever offer the Turkish center accepted. But after seeing the details of the contract the Rockets negotiated, I think the Bulls should let him go and come up with a Plan B.

The first two years of Asik's deal are palatable, at $5 and $5.225 million each. The third year at roughly $14.898 million is what makes it disastrous for the Bulls.

If they chose to match, the team would already have $61 million committed to just four players (Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, and Asik) in the 2014-15 season, and that's before accounting for Luol Deng, whose contract runs through the previous season. Boozer could be amnestied by that point, but the Bulls would still owe him that money.

With Rose out for most of next season, and Deng likely to miss a chunk of time as well (though Tom Thibodeau doesn't think he'll need wrist surgery - but I'd like to hear that from a doctor), is it worth paying Asik when his contract gets worse in the seasons ahead when you may have a better chance at winning? I don't think so.

And if Asik is gone, does it make a sense to keep C.J. Watson, Kyle Korver, or Ronnie Brewer around at roughly $12.6 million? Without any of those players, the Bulls would stand at about $63.9 - which is already nearly $6 million above the projected salary cap of $58 million, but have just seven players on the roster (those numbers don't include Marquis Teague and his first-year salary). They could offer the mid-level exception (four year deal starting at $5 million) to someone, or split it among a few players, and fill out the rest of the roster with minimum players in an attempt to stay below the luxury tax line projected to stay at $70.3 million.

Asik simply isn't worth the kind of money and overall commitment his deal requires. Despite being a very good defender and rebounder, his abysmal offense and inability to play major minutes are something he'll never get much better at. Can you imagine doling out one-quarter of your salary cap to a guy that can barely play 20 minutes a night? I'd rather see a guy like Jason Collins or Nazr Mohammed at a fraction of the cost.

The prudent approach for the team is to write off next season because of the injuries and cap situation. That's not saying they should go out and lose games on purpose, but long term, large money commitments don't seem to make any sense right now. Especially knowing that Dwight Howard will be available a year from now after his preferred destination can no longer afford him.

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