Why did the Bulls waive Erik Murphy?

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At first glance, the Chicago Bulls waiving Erik Murphy yesterday made no sense.

Murphy, like all players after Jan. 10, has a fully guaranteed salary. The Bulls can’t simply choose to remove his contract from their team salary.

And with just 13 players under contract, Chicago didn’t need to clear room to sign a replacement – or even two replacements. The roster spots were open.

So why waive the little-used Murphy? Was he destructive to team chemistry? Did he want a head start on landing another job in a lesser league?

Maybe there was a different reason. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

By my calculations, using data from ShamSports.com, the Bulls are $387,299 below the luxury-tax threshold.

If another team claims Murphy off waivers, Chicago would be $877,479 below the tax threshold – a significant difference.

Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson both have incentives classified as unlikely to be achieved, meaning the bonuses, if they’re earned, would cut into the Bulls’ room below the tax line.

Joakim Noah would get $500,000 for making the All-NBA first team. Taj Gibson would get $250,000 for making the All-Defensive second team or $500,000 for making the All-Defensive first team.

So, I’d think, when possible, the Bulls will leave room to handle the bonuses without paying the tax.

If nobody claims Murphy, the Bulls are right where they started. They could sign two players for the rest of the season and still have room to absorb Gibson’s $250,000 bonus and not pay the tax. (Not signing anyone wouldn’t give Chicago room to absorb either $500,000 bonus.)

If someone claims Murphy, the Bulls could sign minimum-salary players for up to 24 days of service and still have a $750,000 buffer under the tax line. Chicago could sign one player today for the rest of the season and then another player Sunday for the season. Or Chicago could sign three players any time after Wednesday for the rest of the season. Or Chicago could dole out those 24 days in any combinations. The Bulls would have more options and more leeway to handle Noah and/or Gibson getting bonuses.

And whom might the Bulls target in free agency?

Aggrey Sam of CSN Chicago:

A familiar face, veteran swingman Ronnie Brewer, worked out Thursday at the Berto Center, according to a league source, and could be signed by the Bulls in the near future.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

The Bulls have held discussions about re-signing veterans Mike James and Ronnie Brewer, sources said.

Brewer played for the Bulls in 2010-11 and 2011-12. Since, the the 29-year-old wing has bounced between the Knicks, Thunder and Rockets.

James began the season with the Bulls, was waived and then returned on a 10-day contract.

These are both players Chicago familiar with and presumably like.

More importantly for the Bulls is another team liking Murphy and taking him off their hands.

Murphy, a 6-foot-10 stretch four from Florida, was the No. 49 pick in last year’s draft. He didn’t play much in Chicago, but as Wojnarowski says, there could be a few teams who like him.

Though Murphy isn’t eligible for the playoffs, a claiming team would get dibs on him for next season. His 2014-15 salary is partially guaranteed – becoming $100,000 guaranteed Aug. 2 and $200,000 guaranteed Nov. 2 – so it would be easy to waive him during the offseason if his new team ultimately decides to free cap room this summer.

Murphy would be a low-risk addition for a number of teams, and if any of them take that chance, it would be a high-reward play for the Bulls.

Magic Johnson: “The only player that we… would probably not move is Brandon Ingram”

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The Lakers’ Brandon Ingram had flashes, but he largely struggled through his rookie season. He averaged 9.4 points per game, shot 40 percent from the floor, he had a true shooting percentage of 47.4 and a PER of 8.5, and he finished with the fifth worst “value over replacement player” number in the NBA. Watch him play, and he looked better than those numbers — he did better with the “eye test” — showing some tenacity, and his offense improved toward the end of the season. Still, his rookie season tempered expectations somewhat.

Except amongst the Lakers’ front office.

They have been high on him all the way through, higher than D'Angelo Russell, and that’s what Lakers president Magic Johnson said on ESPN Radio in Los Angeles.

“I would say probably the only player that we would say, hey, we would probably not move is Brandon Ingram,” Johnson, the Lakers president of basketball operations said Thursday in a radio interview with ESPN Los Angeles. “I think that we’re excited about Brandon, his length, his size, his agility, his athleticism. And then when you think about, you know, he was a baby coming in, in his first year last season and we see that he really has a high ceiling and we’re excited about what he can possibly turn into.”

First off, no this doesn’t mean if the Lakers draft Lonzo Ball No. 2 (as expected) they will look to trade Russell. Expect them to see if those two can play together. It means the Lakers think just one of the guys on the roster is a potential key piece of a contender. Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and on down the line may fit into the rotation, but they are not seen as cornerstone pieces that can’t be moved.

Is Ingram really a cornerstone? The jury is still out, but does anyone feel as confident he will be a star as they did a season ago when he was drafted?

Ingram certainly needs to get stronger, something the team and he have worked on (and will focus on this summer). He also was young coming into the league, and with his style of game it was going to take him a little time to find how he fit in the NBA. He wasn’t going to come in and just overwhelm opponents with athleticism, it was going to be a process for him. Like nearly every rookie, his shooting needs to be more consistent.

The questions are how high is his ceiling, and can the Lakers develop him?

This summer and into next season those will come into focus more, but the early returns don’t have some of us as optimistic as Magic.

Josh McRoberts opting into final year of Heat contract

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Heat power forward Josh McRoberts has missed 165 games over the last three years due to injury.

So, the 30-year-old sure isn’t turning down a guaranteed $6,021,175 salary.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

Any long shot chance of Josh McRoberts voiding his Heat contract was eliminated Tuesday when agent Mike Conley told The Miami Herald that McRoberts will exercise his opt-in and return to the Heat for $6.021 million next season.

Miami will have major cap space this summer with Chris Bosh coming off the books. At this point, McRoberts’ salary is just an impediment to even more room to add an impact player.

The Heat could again try trading McRoberts, but they’ll likely have to attach a positive asset just to dump him. They could also waive and stretch him.

But if his salary doesn’t come between Miami and a big-time free agent this summer, perhaps McRoberts returns for one last chance at helping the Heat on the floor with his passing and outside shooting.

Mike Brown thinks it’s “cute” Tyronn Lue thinks Celtics’ sets harder to defend than Warriors

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Celtics’ coach Brad Steven is already one of the best in the NBA. His out of time out plays are brilliant, and his Boston team’s flow of ball and player movement is among the best in the league.

It’s those things that were giving the Cavaliers trouble in the first half of Game 4 Tuesday, and ultimately prompted this comment from Tyronn Lue.

“We’re just focused on Boston. The stuff they’re running, it’s harder to defend than Golden State’s [offense] for me.”

Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle asked Mike Brown about that.

You can certainly make the case that the Celtics have a wider variety in their offense, and that with Isaiah Thomas out the rather balanced, anyone can score nature of the Celtics is challenging to defend for a team with inconsistent help defense like the Cavaliers.

But Boston is running these sets with Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown and Kelly Olynyk. Golden State will use ball and player movement to create space for Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Which is to say, Golden State is tougher to defend because the space they need to make you pay is much smaller. And even if you do everything right the Warriors may just score anyway.

I get what Lue was trying to say, but don’t give the Warriors more motivation.

Magic sending Raptors draft pick as compensation for hiring Jeff Weltman

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The Raptors promoted Jeff Weltman, still working under Masai Ujiri, to general manager last year.

That paid off for Toronto when the Magic hired Weltman as their new president.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Magic have their own and the Lakers’ second-round picks next year. Even the lower of those two selections could be somewhat valuable.

In other words, Weltman’s already-difficult job is getting even harder simply by Orlando hiring him.