Lest anyone forgot, it took less than 24 hours for NBA free agency to remind the world that the lockout that interrupted last season has done little to curb excessive spending from league owners. Roy Hibbert, who has never averaged better than 12.8 points and 8.8 rebounds per game, signed a max-level offer sheet with the Portland Trail Blazers on Sunday. Declining-but-productive Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Joe Johnson was said have the league's most untradable contract, but he was dealt to the Brooklyn Nets on Monday for what amounts to little more than payroll relief. The Bulls are dealing with their own "poison pill", a $25 million offer to backup center Omer Asik that is set to pay the reserve over $14million -- aka, a max contract -- in the final season of the deal in 2014-2015.
All of this leaves me wondering how much Taj Gibson could get when power forward becomes a restricted free agent next offseason. If Asik is drawing an annual salary of $8 million, what is Taj going to sign for?
Gibson is seen as the future heir to the power forward throne in Chicago, with fans patiently biding their time until Carlos Boozer is amnestied. The earliest it would happen is after the upcoming season, and even that may be pushing it with two years left on Boozer's deal. It would be a lot of money for owner Jerry Reinsdorf to eat, and he doesn't exactly infuse the Bulls with as much cash as some of the NBA's other major market teams.
If the Bulls want to retain Gibson, though, it's hard to see how Boozer can still be around after 2012-2013. The Bulls have a lot of money tied up to Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah and Luol Deng, and the team is already pushing against the same luxury tax that Reinsdorf has never paid. Did we mention the tax becomes far more punitive after this season?
Gibson is about to get a major pay day. I had the power forward pegged as an $8 million a year player last week, but it's looking like that won't nearly be enough. If Asik is getting $8 million per season and Hibbert is getting a max deal, Taj could be looking at $10 or $11 million per season. It seems insane, I know, but this is the harsh reality of current NBA finances. The Bulls will be able to match any offer for Gibson, but it's up to Reinsdorf to open up the purse strings.