The Bulls were a taxpaying team for the first time in 2012/13, and appear set to pay an even bigger bill in '13/14. However, that doesn't mean the club isn't still trying to cut costs where it can. Like the Lakers with Metta World Peace and the Heat with Mike Miller, the Bulls released a rotation player this summer to reduce team salary, parting ways with Richard Hamilton.
Unlike World Peace and Miller, Hamilton wasn't amnestied, but was on a partially guaranteed contract, so Chicago will only have to pay him $1MM of his $5MM salary. That salary may also be stretched over three years, with Hamilton receiving about $333K in each of the next three seasons. The reduction in his 2013/14 salary likely means the veteran guard will be a little more motivated to secure a new contract — in fact, we heard back in July that Hamilton isn't considering retirement, and is hoping for a bounce-back season in the right situation.
Hamilton, who signed a three-year, $15MM deal with Chicago after the 2011 lockout ended, had a disappointing stint with the Bulls, struggling with injuries and seeing his production slide when he was on the court. In 78 contests over two seasons with the club, the 35-year-old averaged 10.5 PPG and had a shooting line of .438/.337/.833, all down from his career rates.
Still, while those may have been underwhelming numbers for a player earning mid-level money, they're still solid enough to earn him a spot on an NBA bench. The former seventh overall pick was expected to be a starter in Chicago, coming off the bench just five times in his 78 games with the team. But virtually every NBA team has an idea of what its starting lineup will be at this point in the offseason, so if Hamilton catches on with a club now, he'd almost certainly be looking at a role as an eighth or ninth man, at best.
In that role, and at a discount price – perhaps the veteran minimum – Hamilton should still be an effective roster piece, providing a scoring punch for a team's second unit. Even in his last two years in Chicago, Hamilton averaged about 23 minutes in the games he played, so a reduction in his playing time to 15-20 MPG could help him stay fresher and healthier, warding off potential injuries.
We heard earlier this week that the Rockets and Knicks may have some interest in Hamilton, and it's not hard to imagine him fitting in on a few other contenders as well. The Thunder, for instance, appear likely to cut DeAndre Liggins, and could view Hamilton as a poor man's Kevin Martin. If OKC were to sign him to a one-year minimum-salary deal, the team would only be on the hook for about $884K of his $1.4MM salary.
Hamilton says he isn't ready to retire, and his numbers with the Bulls, while not quite as solid as the team may have hoped, suggest he's still got something in the tank. We're only about a month away from the start of the NBA preseason, so there's no guarantee the UConn product will be in camp with a club by then, but I'd be pretty shocked if he doesn't play NBA minutes at some point during the 2013/14 season.