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updated: 1/5/2012 9:33 PM

No reason to complain about any Bulls player

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  • Bulls center Joakim Noah's numbers have been down so far, mostly because he has been in foul trouble.

      Bulls center Joakim Noah's numbers have been down so far, mostly because he has been in foul trouble.
    Associated Press

 
 

Through seven games of the new season, it's tough to find any complaints about the Bulls' roster.

Derrick Rose (20.9 points, 8.6 assists) is making another bid for MVP, while depth continues to be the team's second-best weapon.

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When the Bulls fell behind against Atlanta on Tuesday, a lineup featuring three reserves erased a 19-point deficit. The Bulls also have not lost with Richard Hamilton (groin) and backup point guard C.J. Watson (elbow sprain) sidelined by injuries.

Power forward Carlos Boozer continues to take some heat. He and Joakim Noah sat out the entire fourth quarter against the Hawks, except for a four-second appearance by Noah, enough time to deliver the game-winning assist.

The overall numbers don't show much cause for concern, though. Boozer is the Bulls' top rebounder at 8.1 per game and is second on the team in field-goal percentage (.524). His scoring average of 13.4 is lower than usual, but his minutes also are down (29.4).

Noah's statistics (9.1 points, 7.6 assists) are low mostly because he has been in too much foul trouble. Fortunately for the Bulls, backups Omer Asik and Taj Gibson have been extremely reliable.

So everything looks good for now. There will be some issues down the road, though, based on the payroll.

It's great to have a roster full of interchangeable parts, but Boozer and Noah are being paid like stars. Boozer's deal ends in 2014-15 with a $16.8-million salary and Noah's contract wraps up a year later at $14.2 million.

The dilemma for the Bulls will come when it's time to renew Asik and Gibson.

Asik will be a restricted free agent next summer, while Gibson has two more years left on his rookie-scale deal. He will become a restricted free agent in 2013.

Once those players hit the open market, by league rule, the Bulls will have the ability to match offers from other teams. But they would most likely have to cross the luxury-tax threshold to do so.

Another option is the amnesty clause, which can be used once per team during the course of the seven-year collective-bargaining agreement. The amnesty clause allows teams to remove a player's salary from the luxury tax and salary cap, although the salary itself is still paid and the player is released.

A challenge awaits the front office in 2013. At that point the Bulls will owe Boozer $32 million for two years and Noah roughly $39 million over three years.

They'll have to decide whether to use the amnesty clause on one of those two players, with the idea of keeping Gibson and/or Asik. Or possibly letting the two reserves go and risk robbing the team of one of its best assets: depth.

The Bulls already were thinking ahead by trading up in the draft to land 6-foot-10 Nikola Mirotic last June.

Mirotic, 20, is playing very well for Real Madrid and was named Euroleague MVP for the month of December. He's averaging 12.6 points overall this season and shooting 44 percent from 3-point range.

Another asset is a future first-round draft pick from Charlotte, which the Bulls received for Tyrus Thomas. That pick comes with diminishing lottery protection, so the longer the Bulls have to wait for it, the higher it figures to be.

mmcgraw@dailyherald.com

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