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What do you do if you're a team that feels you're paying way too much to an underperforming power forward and you no longer want him to be a part of your team? If you're the Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors, then maybe you try to swap those power forwards and hope for better results with new surroundings.
The Chicago Bulls and Toronto Raptors have engaged in exploratory trade discussions on a deal that would swap the Bulls' Carlos Boozer for the Raptors' Andrea Bargnani, according to sources familiar with the discussions.
Other players with smaller contracts would have to be added to the deal to make the salary-cap math work should talks indeed progress to a more serious level. But sources told ESPN.com on Thursday that both teams have considered the move.
From Chicago's perspective, sources said, Bargnani's arrival could help address its glaring lack of 3-point shooting and brighten the overall look of its payroll, given the Italian forward makes $5 million less than Boozer this season.
This deal can't be completed by doing a one-for-one swap with the two players because there is too much of a gap in the salaries, so the Bulls would be unlikely to save the estimated $5 million difference in their salaries this season. To make a deal work, the Raptors would have to add at least $2.4 million in salary, but no more than $4.9 million if the Bulls are intent on saving money with this potential trade.
The only players who fit into that range are Terrence Ross ($2.5 million), Jonas Valanciunas ($3.3 million), Aaron Gray ($2.5 million), and Linas Kleiza ($4.6 million). Ross and Valanciunas aren't going to be involved in that deal so the Bulls could either save $2.5 million or just $400,000 in this potential deal.
From a basketball standpoint, the theory behind a deal like this would be the Raptors get a rebounding power forward with more of a back-to-the-basket game than the power forward they have right now. Boozer hasn't exactly played the best basketball of his career since signing a five-year deal with the Bulls in 2010. For the Bulls, Bargnani would help add a much-needed outside shooter to the mix, and they'd be able to most likely hide his defensive and rebounding issues next to either Joakim Noah or Taj Gibson at any time. Also, coach Tom Thibodeau would have the best chance in the NBA at teaching Bargnani how to be a solid defensive player within his system.
However, the financial aspect of this deal would be the most important thing involved. The Raptors and Bulls are in danger of being luxury tax teams moving forward. The Bulls would get under the luxury tax with a trade like this and the Raptors would get dangerously close to the luxury tax threshold. But the best option for both teams to get rid of the "unwanted" players while maintaining maximum cap flexibility with the current roster and salary commitments would be to amnesty these players in the offseason.
The Bulls would have save $32.1 million against their salary cap over the next two seasons and would definitely avoid luxury tax territory, something owner Jerry Reinsdorf is adamant against paying. They could move Richard Hamilton around the trade deadline for a lesser contract to get under the luxury tax. For an owner like Reinsdorf though, if you don't want pay the luxury tax then it's unlikely you'll want to pay a player $16 million in each of the next two seasons to not play for you.
For the Raptors, they could amnesty Bargnani and rid themselves of $22.5 million they owe him over the next two seasons. But does Brian Colangelo feel the need or pressure to get something for him instead of just outright waiving him by using the amnesty clause? For an executive who could theoretically be on the hot seat, that pressure would be understandable.
Again, these are just "exploratory" discussions that occurred but it brings up very real salary situations existing with these two teams.