Based on recent reports indicating that the Bulls have signed Kirk Hinrich for $8MM over two years, and are close to a deal with Marco Belinelli worth the bi-annual exception, the outlook for the Bulls' 2012/13 cap has changed. Because they've decided to use the BAE and exceed the $3.09MM mid-level allotted to taxpaying teams, the Bulls will now have a hard cap for the coming season. At no point before next July will the club be permitted to exceed about $74.3MM in team salary.
For a better idea of what this means for Chicago, let's check out the team's known salary commitments to date:
Already, the total cost of those seven players brings the Bulls' payroll to $63,334,363, leaving about another $11MM to spend. The team will need to fit in contracts for Hinrich, Belinelli, Vladimir Radmanovic, Nazr Mohammed, and Marquis Teague, so let's take our best shot at calculating the total cap hit for those figures:
We can't be sure these numbers are 100% correct -- Hinrich's first-year salary is an estimate based on his reported total, and in the case of Belinelli and Teague, I'm assuming they receive, respectively, the full bi-annual exception and 120% of the rookie scale amount. The league will cover a portion of Radmanovic's and Mohammed's veteran-minimum deals, reducing their cap hit slightly, but these figures still amount to $8,594,178. Add that to the aforementioned total and we're up to $71,928,541 overall. That would leave just $2,378,459 for the Bulls to spend before next July, which will make it challenging to bring aboard replacement players if the team has any injury problems.
Again, we don't know with absolute certainty what the Bulls' books look like, and the reported figures for free agent signings could be slightly off -- not only that, but the Belinelli and Mohammed deals haven't even been finalized yet. Based on the numbers we know so far though, it appears Chicago isn't giving itself much wiggle room or roster flexibility for the coming season.
A hard cap would mean that the team absolutely can't match the Rockets' offer sheet for Omer Asik, though that was looking extremely doubtful anyway. It would also mean that the Bulls likely wouldn't be in a position to use their $5MM trade exception (acquired from the Hawks for Kyle Korver) until next July, when the hard cap is lifted.
Perhaps the cap restrictions facing the Bulls won't ultimately matter a whole lot, in a season in which expectations have been lowered due to Derrick Rose's health. While the Bulls' decisions could make it difficult to add salary in 2012/13, it won't affect cap flexibility in future seasons, when the club could be in better position to make a title run.
Storytellers Contracts was used in the creation of this post.