Commentary

A trade that makes cents

If the Bulls don't get two marquee free agents, it's not for lack of effort

Updated: June 25, 2010, 10:16 AM ET
By Melissa Isaacson | ESPNChicago.com

No worries about having to learn the French pronunciation of Kevin (apparently, it's Keveen).

Or about the NBA draft at all after ESPN's Ric Bucher reported Thursday that the Bulls are set to "trade" Kirk Hinrich and their 17th-round pick (so long, Kevin Seraphin, we hardly knew ya) to Washington in order to free up still more cap space.

Joe Johnson
Josh D. Weiss/US PresswireIf landing Joe Johnson is the worst-case scenario, the Bulls are in great shape.

At this rate, if all else fails, they can throw one heck of a Labor Day barbecue. iPads for everyone! Maybe buy a team yacht. For the starting five.

That is if they have a starting five. As they stand now, the Bulls could barely field a pickup team with only five players currently on their roster, which is better than Miami's two. But the only ones playing games in June are the guys in the suits and the Bulls' suits are looking very sharp right now.

Stories that focus on clearing cap space can now occupy their own Chicago sports section.

The Bulls will not be able to complete a trade until July 8. "With that said," said general manager Gar Forman in an official statement, "we are not at liberty to identify the team we are talking to or reveal any other specifics of potential trades."

Speculation Thursday night was that the Bulls might get a second-round pick in return from the Wizards or, according to the same ESPN report, possibly Sacramento. But that hardly matters as moving Hinrich and his $9 million contract, and dumping their draft pick, would fatten the Bulls' free-agent budget from $20 million to $30 million, nearly enough to pay two max-salary free agents.

In Chicago, this news is met with unabashed glee because now we get LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

Seriously, anything less and you sense poor Forman will have some significant explaining to do.

Too bad because it's a no-lose for the Bulls. And yes, that's even if, horrors, James stays in Cleveland or goes somewhere other than Chicago. Even if he takes Bosh with him.

After Bosh, and assuming Dwyane Wade stays put, Joe Johnson is reportedly frothing to come to the Bulls, so much so, according to the Tribune, that he would be willing to sign early. At off guard, Johnson would form a dream backcourt with Derrick Rose. Carlos Boozer would complete that picture nicely. The Bulls don't appear especially interested in Amare Stoudemire. But the next-tier David Lee, a restricted free agent and a 20-12 guy, is out there. Ray Allen is too, even at nearly 35.

There's also Carmelo Anthony and Tim Duncan in next year's free-agent class, though no one wants to think about that now.

Eight NBA teams can afford at least one max free agent and more, through trades, can potentially put themselves into position to at least make a phone call to James. But Forman and the Bulls have done everything they can do, beginning this process when they unloaded Tyrus Thomas and John Salmons before the 2009 trade deadline.

Now it's up to agents and egos. Maybe even, go figure, loyalty as James showered love on a hometown crowd earlier this week, saying, "Akron is my home, it's my life."

It is a weird time in the NBA right now and it was a strange night Thursday with the draft secondary to the financial maneuvering in anticipation of the best free-agent class ever. The waiting game for the Bulls will be agonizing.

But the payoff, even absent James, will be worth it.

Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com

Melissa Isaacson

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for espnW.com, ESPN Chicago and ESPN.com. The award-winning writer has covered Chicago sports for most of her 31-year career, including at the Chicago Tribune before joining ESPN in 2009. Isaacson has also covered tennis since 1986.