Bulls Trade a Precursor for Amar'e?

Joel Brigham

The trade Monday that sent starting New Orleans Hornets guard Devin
Brown to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for seldom-used center Aaron
Gray doesn’t seem like much on the surface because neither guy is
somebody most smart NBA fans would call a "game-changer." While it’s
obvious that the Hornets made this move to shed salary, Chicago’s
motivations require a little more digging and imagination.

It’s possible that this trade could be an attempt to shore up the Bulls’ backcourt should they be able to find a taker for either Kirk Hinrich or John Salmons before the trade deadline. Chicago would like to head into this offseason with enough money to pursue a big name free agent and possibly have the option of extending Tyrus Thomas. As it stands, they’ll have to choose one of those options or the other.

Hinrich is scheduled to make $17 million for the next two full seasons, and Salmons is on the books for just under $6 million next year should he exercise his player option this offseason. Brown, on the other hand, can play out the rest of this season for right around $500,000 and do a lot of the same things Hinrich and Salmon can do for a heck of a lot less money.

So, even if Chicago only manages to return non-rotation role players with expiring contracts for a player like Hinrich or Salmons, the Bulls have an answer for the holes left in the lineup. In a lot of ways, just shedding the salary would be considered a big move for the Bulls going forward. But looking at this thing on a grander scale, it seems remotely possible that this could allow Chicago to put together a pretty impressive package in a trade offer for a really big name.

Amar’e Stoudemire is one such big name, as has been reported by multiple news outlets in the last couple of days. Chicago could package Kirk Hinrich or Luol Deng with Tyrus Thomas as the key pieces to a deal for Stoudemire. Either offer would get close to matching the necessary salaries to get a move done; it would just be a question as to whether or not that were enough to get Phoenix to bite. Chicago does have a couple of expiring contracts worth $6-12 million apiece that they could use to sweeten the pot as well.


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