How do you solve a problem like Taj Gibson? A follow-up.
February 9th, 2014

Despite it running in the initial instance with a rather significant error in it – I spent a lot of time breaking down how the Bulls had arrived at, and would extricate themselves from, a luxury tax position that they weren’t actually at – the previous post entitled How Do You Solve A Problem Like Taj Gibson? received a remarkably hearty welcome. So, thank you for that.

However, as is always the way with pieces that deal with salary minutiae and machinations, and appraisals of team’s proximities to the salary cap and luxury tax thresholds, there has been some misunderstanding of what was said and meant. This considerably briefer follow-up will hopefully clarify these issues.

1) The fact that Taj Gibson has these unlikely bonuses that the Bulls may find necessary to alleviate via a trade does NOT mean that Taj will be the one traded. This seems to be a conclusion that a lot of readers have drawn, and it is one with which I couldn’t disagree more. Taj is neither the problem nor the solution here – indeed, there isn’t really a problem, and even if there was, it is one much more easily solved via trades of others. Mike Dunleavy Jr, say, or Kirk Hinrich. Or even Tornike Shengelia again. This is not to say that Taj cannot or will not be traded – he might. He is coveted and sought after, and competitively priced. However, if he is traded, this isn’t why.

2) I agree that the bonuses are not all that likely to be met, and particularly the all-defensive first team one. The Bulls presumably know that too. But they have to operate on the basis that it might, on the basis that it might.

3) The fact that the Bulls can pay the luxury tax does not mean that they should. Firstly, what is it about this season that merits paying the luxury tax? And second, which available player is suitably luxurious to measure paying a luxury tax for them? What is cheap about not paying a fairly exhorbitant cost for a thirteenth man?

4) The concern here is not really the repeater tax. With genuine cap space plans for the upcoming summer, the Bulls are under no threat of the repeater tax, and even if they were, it’s not too impactful at the lower tax levels anyway. The repeater tax is a problem to competitive teams with stacked payrolls who can continue to pay over the odds to retain and reinforce their team, not for teams with limited windows of competitiveness who need to make a push for the title in said window. The Bulls haven’t got such a window available to them – this was supposed to be it, but it isn’t due to Derrick Rose’s repeated injuries, and thus they are reloading.

The issue of paying tax this year, then, is not to do with the repeater tax, but merely a general avoidance of tax. And it is entirely justified. Remember here that we are talking about paying luxury tax on mere roster filler.

Last year, the non-taxpaying teams received a $1,470,125 share of the luxury tax pool. That is not a large amount in the grand scheme of things, but it is a nice amount. Take that amount, add in the amount of salary it would cost to sign a player for the remainder of the season, and then add the amount paid in tax for that player. This would mean a roughly $2 million commitment to two months of a D-Leaguer.

Which D-Leaguer is worth paying that for today, rather than waiting a couple of weeks and paying almost nothing for them?

And so that is why the Bulls are scrimping with twelve players for as long as they can, just in case Gibson’s bonuses are met. It is not cheap. It is sensible. It’s just awkward.

Posted by at 1:47 PM

4 Comments about How do you solve a problem like Taj Gibson? A follow-up.

  1. Knosh9 February, 2014, 7:19 pm

    On the repeater tax: Correct me if I am wrong, but I thought that the Bulls have to pay the repeater tax if they are taxpayers in two out of the next three seasons (13/14 being the first).

    So with not paying the tax this year they essentially free themselves up to be (heavy) taxpayers in 15/16 without having to pay the repeater tax for that year. Jimmy Butler expires after 14/15, so it is very much possible that the Bulls could be deep into the tax again by then and the savings of not paying it this year could be much bigger than $2M.

    • Mark Deeks10 February, 2014, 6:02 pm

      The first year of the repeater tax is next year, and for a team to pay the repeater rate next year, they will have to paid tax in all three of 2011/12, 2012/13 and 2013/14 as well as next year.

  2. B. Smith12 February, 2014, 6:07 pm

    What about a deal where you send out Mike Dunleavy for 2 cheaper players, thus getting to 13 players while saving money in case Taj were to insanely reach those lofty goals? I'm thinking Dunleavy for Donatas Motiejunas and Ronnie Brewer. Saves the Bulls 573K this year, saves them $1.8M next year, adds a wing player with knowledge of their defensive scheme, and a player for the Scalabrine/Radmonovic/Murphy role with actual talent.

    • Mark Deeks12 February, 2014, 6:09 pm

      That's exactly the kind of deal I want to see happen. Although I would want Greg Smith more than Motiejunas.