Sources say the team is looking seriously at several trade options that could unleash enough 2010 cap space to sign not one but two marquee free agents. Here's how the math computes: If the Bulls didn't make any trades before the Feb. 18 deadline, kept their first-round pick and let their free agents walk, they'd have about $16.5 million in cap space -– assuming the cap is $52 million, roughly the midpoint of early projections. That's enough to sign one max free agent, and league execs believe Chicago native Dwyane Wade would be the Bulls' primary target, with Joe Johnson a close second.
But that figure doesn't include a $14.2 million cap hold for Tyrus Thomas, space that must be allocated to him that includes the $6.3 million qualifying offer he'll be due as a restricted free agent. That's why league sources believe the Bulls will try to package Thomas in a significant deal for expiring contracts -- such as a proposal under consideration that would also send Kirk Hinrich to Boston for Ray Allen's $19.7 million expiring deal -- or in a separate deal to one of several Western Conference contenders that have inquired about Thomas' availability.
If the Bulls could move Hinrich and Thomas -- who has long been attractive to the Celtics -- they'd be looking at more than $20 million of space. If they could find a taker for John Salmons, they'd be closing in on enough money to land two significant free agents. While everyone continues to focus on the Knicks and Nets as potential winners of the free-agent summer of 2010, this scenario would put the Bulls in a position to steal the show.
Given the cap flexibility it would yield, a deal including Hinrich and Thomas for Allen (with other pieces to satisfy salary requirements) would be a no-brainer. Even if they continued their post-Christmas resurgence, the Bulls still lack the offensive co-pilot Derrick Rose needs to be at his best. If they did nothing, they'd be looking at maybe earning the eighth seed and a first-round exit at the hands of the Cavs.