Warning: Between now and the Feb. 18th trade deadline (also my Mom’s birthday!), you will hear the names Kirk Hinrich and John Salmons mentioned in connection with lots of teams, including Boston.
The Celtics have long been mentioned as a possible destination for Hinrich, which gives them something in common with 28 other teams in the NBA. I’ve long thought Salmons makes more sense for Boston, because of his ability to play both shooting guard and small forward and because his contract expires after next season.
The rumors will only intensify now that the Bulls have acquired shooting guard Devin Brown from the Hornets in exchange for Aaron “The White Flag” Gray. (Yes I coined that nickname for Aaron Gray last season. It is perfect. I challenge you to come up with a better nickname. You can’t, and I’m furious this hasn’t taken off as Gray’s nickname. Please begin referring to him as The White Flag immediately).
Brown is a shooting guard. Aaron Gray is a center. The Bulls now have one more perimeter player than they had before this deal. This has led journalists—yes, real journalists!—to speculate the Bulls bolstered their back court by acquiring Gray Brown so they could turn around and deal either Hinrich or Salmons.
Why would the Bulls want to deal these players? And do the Celtics have the means to get them?
The simple answers to those questions (which Brian Robb plans to address in-depth soon) are: 1) To get even further under the projected salary cap for 2010-2011; 2) Yes, but, like the relationship between George Clooney and Vera Farmiga in “Up in the Air,” it’s complicated.
Right now, the Bulls have about $37 million in player salary on the books for next season, which puts them about $15 million under the projected salary cap. That’s enough to make them a player for one of the big prizes on the market but nobody beyond that.
Eliminate Kirk Hinrich and his $9 million salary for next season? Or Salmons and his player option (which he’ll surely exercise) for $5.8 million? Now you’re talking about a team with some serious cap room.
The Celtics can build an offer for Salmons using only the expiring deals of expendable players (Tony Allen + Brian Scalabrine is enough to match Salmons’ salary), and the Bulls can take on a couple of extra bodies, since they only have 13 guys on their roster. (The league max is 15). Building an offer for Hinrich is a bit trickier.
I don’t want to steal Brian’s thunder, so I’ll keep it short. Here are some factors you need to consider in thinking about any possible Hinrich/Salmons deal:
1) The Bulls have won three straight on the road, have upped their record to 21-22 and will almost certainly make the playoffs—and be a pesky out—as presently constructed. The recent decision to insert Hinrich into the starting line-up appears to have worked well. Salmons, who started the year missing just about everything, is suddenly hot from long-range.
Are the Bulls really willing to disrupt this good vibe in exchange for the (expiring) flotsam and jetsam of the C’s bench?
2) If they are, will they demand cash or a draft pick to sweeten the deal?
3) Are the Celtics, who are way over the tax line this year and will be again next year, willing to add another salary larger than the mid-level exception to next season’s payroll? Or, in Hinrich’s case, $9 million next season and $8 million in 2012, according to ShamSports?
4) Salmons is shooting 41 percent. Hinrich is shooting 39 percent. They both enjoy the challenge of a 20-foot jump shot. Would they fit here offensively?