The top teams in today’s NBA vary in a lot of different ways.
- Miami, Oklahoma City, and now the Lakers all are centered around the concept of a “big three.”
- The Spurs are built around a deep and veteran-powered roster.
- The Clippers are building around their core of two stars.
However, they all have one thing in common: they aren’t afraid to pay the luxury tax.
That’s where the Chicago Bulls differ.
Jerry Reinsdorf’s aversion to paying the luxury tax is handcuffing Bulls GM Gar Forman.
All signs indicate that one of their biggest concerns is staying out of the luxury tax range.
Since he’s owned the Bulls, Jerry Reinsdorf has never spent the luxury tax. He’s gone on record a few times in the past year or two saying he’d now bite the bullet in order to put this team over the top, but actions speak louder than words.
Letting go of literally everyone on arguably the NBA’s best bench doesn’t exactly paint a picture of tax fearlessness.
He was able to win six championships without making his team a taxpayer in the 90s, but this is a different era of NBA basketball. Like any professional sports league, trends happen in the NBA.
Since the new CBA hasn’t done its job of hindering teams from spending (the new, escalated luxury tax doesn’t kick in until 2013-2014), the trend for now is to not be afraid to spend big.
Obviously, there are rules that set limitations on this. The Bulls couldn’t have just gone out there and given Ray Allen $10 million dollars a year, as teams can’t go over the soft salary cap to sign other players.
However, they could have retained Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver, and CJ Watson. And they perhaps could have even matched the offer sheet for Omer Asik (though all signs point towards that being a no, as the Bulls have been rumored to have interest in Darko Milicic). Teams are allowed to retain their own players under pretty much any circumstance.
Doing this would have allowed two things: the Bulls to have a more successful 2012-2013 season and have more trade assets to make a potential deal for another star to pair with Derrick Rose.
Since the Bulls won’t pay the tax though, they have to operate in a different way.
They realize that even if they brought everyone back, no Derrick Rose and maybe no Loul Deng for a while doesn’t exactly make this season as promising as the last few. In seeing that, they are trying to clear cap space now in hopes of making a bigger splash next year or the year after that, when they won’t be anywhere near the luxury tax threshold.
That’s why you are seeing cheap alternatives like Vladimir Radmonovic being brought in. It’s not because the Bulls think he’s a long-term solution; it’s because they need to actually put some sort of alternative on the floor to what they lost.
That’s all fine and dandy. And if you are going to be afraid to pay the luxury tax, this is the right way to approach it. This is why I’m not upset with Gar Forman; he can only spend within the means of the budget he’s given.
Obviously, the current budget is to be below the luxury tax threshold, so Gar is being asked to try to build the best team he can within that. Since that’s the case, basically tanking the 2012-2013 season is probably the best option.
However, this is Chicago, one of the three largest cities and markets in this country. It was once viewed, and still is by many, as a basketball mecca. The Bulls shouldn’t have to go about things the way the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres do in baseball, especially when they have a once-in-an-era talent like Derrick Rose.
Instead, the Bulls and Reinsdorf appear to be dead set on doing just that.
Good luck Gar and John Paxson. You have an almost impossible task ahead of you: beating the winning trend with a losing strategy.