Chicago’s Pursuit Of ‘Melo Hinges On Mirotic

The Bulls are planning an aggressive pursuit of a major addition this summer and they won’t fear paying the luxury tax if it comes to that, as Chris Broussard of reports in an Insider-only piece. Carmelo Anthony and Nikola Mirotic are the two primary candidates, Broussard writes, adding that it’s an either-or proposition. Chicago will go after the Knicks star if it decides to wait until 2015 to bring on Mirotic, who’d require a hefty salary plus a sizable buyout from Real Madrid of Spain, which has the forward under contract until 2016.

Joakim Noah made a recruiting pitch to Anthony at the All-Star Game, telling him that his best chance to win a ring is in Chicago, and Derrick Rose would also love to see the Knicks star jump to the Bulls, Broussard reported this morning. A report from January indicated that Anthony would prefer Chicago to Los Angeles, though Anthony told reporters at the All-Star break that his priority is to re-sign with the Knicks. Broussard is “beginning to think” that Anthony will leave New York, but that appears to be mere speculation.

The Bulls would have to use the amnesty clause on Carlos Boozer to sign either Anthony or Mirotic for more than the mid-level exception, which would be well beneath market value for either of them. Chicago would likely have to make additional salary-clearing moves to open up enough room for Anthony, depending on how much less than his maximum starting salary of more than $22.458MM he’d be willing to take. The Bulls hold the NBA rights to the 23-year-old Mirotic, widely seen as the best player outside the NBA. Mirotic was the 23rd overall pick in the 2011 draft, but since three years have passed, he and the Bulls are no longer required to come to terms on a rookie scale contract.

Chicago paid the tax last season for the first time in franchise history, and the Bulls are in danger of paying it again this year if Taj Gibson or Joakim Noah trigger incentive clauses in their contracts. There’s a reasonable chance that either Gibson or Noah will do so, and if the Bulls pay the tax this season, another taxpaying year in 2014/15 or 2015/16 would make the team subject to the league’s repeat-offender tax penalties the following season. Those repeater rates begin at $2.50 for every dollar spent beyond the tax threshold.

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