The NBA chose to release this year’s salary cap and luxury-tax threshold at 9:30 p.m. Central time on Tuesday. For the second time since the cap was instituted in 1984, the number dropped.
The new cap is $57.7 million, about a million less than last year. The luxury-tax threshold is $69.92 million. The mid-level exception, which is supposed to represent the average salary, is $5.85 million.
Considering the economy, the drop isn’t all that surprising, since it represents a decrease in revenue. The last time the salary cap dropped was before the 2002-03 season.
The Bulls are over the cap this year, even with the departure of Ben Gordon. They’ll pay more attention to the luxury-tax number, because they want to avoid it.
Including the two draft picks, the Bulls have 11 players under contract for next season. They’ve also given Aaron Gray a qualifying offer to keep him a restricted free agent. That can always be withdrawn, but let’s assume Gray sticks around this season. The Bulls are still required to sign a 13th player and may go to 14. Here’s the salary rundown:
Bulls 2009-10 payroll
Brad Miller $12.25 million
Luol Deng $10.37 million
Kirk Hinrich $9.5 million
Jerome James $6.6 million
Tim Thomas $6.47 million
John Salmons $6.35 million
Derrick Rose $5.18 million
Tyrus Thomas $4.74 million
Joakim Noah $2.46 million
Aaron Gray $1.0 million
James Johnson $1.59 million
Taj Gibson $1.04 million
Total, including Gray: $67.544
Luxury tax threshold: $69.92 million
So according to this calculation, the Bulls have about $2.4 million to sign another player or two for next season. They’ve spoken to Chicago native Jannero Pargo and may be interested in bringing back Lindsey Hunter, Anthony Roberson or Demarcus Nelson from last year’s team. There have been reports the Bulls have shown interest in Knicks restricted free agent Nate Robinson. Even if that’s true, and I’m skeptical, Robinson would be an extreme long shot for the Bulls.
Expect the Bulls to take their time as they browse the free-agent market and monitor trade possibilities such as Carlos Boozer from Utah.
Roberson, Nelson, Linton Johnson and the draft picks are expected to be at practice on Thursday evening to prepare for a five-game stint at the Las Vegas Summer League.
Among the others on the Bulls’ summer league roster are former Illinois forward James Augustine, ex-UCLA guard Josh Shipp, former Florida guard and Joakim Noah teammate Taurean Green and swingman Julius Hodge, a first-round pick of Denver in 2005.
JAMES’ INJURY NO SURE THING
I’ve seen plenty of speculation about the Bulls getting a financial break if Jerome James’ injury is ruled to be career-ending. In reality, that’s a long shot. The 7-foot center, acquired from New York for Larry Hughes last February, has a torn Achilles tendon, which is an injury that many NBA players have overcome. So it doesn’t seem all that likely the Bulls will be able to prove it’s a career-ender.
It’s conceivable James could show up at training camp ready to play. When I suggested that possibility to someone who knows James well (not connected to the Bulls), it was met with laughter.
So maybe no one expects James to ever play for the Bulls, but they’ll most likely have to pay his salary for another year.