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updated: 3/6/2014 10:11 PM

Will Bulls be willing to recruit free agents?

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  • The Knicks' Carmelo Anthony, driving around the Timberwolves' Dante Cunningham on Wednesday, finished with 33 points in New York's 118-106 victory.

      The Knicks' Carmelo Anthony, driving around the Timberwolves' Dante Cunningham on Wednesday, finished with 33 points in New York's 118-106 victory.
    Associated Press

 
 

The Bulls definitely came out on the short end of the NBA's great recruiting war of 2010.

Miami landed the game's best player, LeBron James, that summer and team success has followed.

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The Bulls might have been the favorite to snare James when the summer began. After losing to Tom Thibodeau's Boston Celtics in the second round of the playoffs, James called Derrick Rose to discuss the possibility of playing together.

As we all know, Rose didn't try to influence James' decision and Dwyane Wade did. That's one reason why Miami is now a two-time champ and the Bulls are scrappy underdogs. A couple of Rose knee injuries also contributed to that outcome.

Perhaps the current Bulls won't be content to sit back and watch high-scoring New York forward Carmelo Anthony decide his future this year.

According to an espn.com story, Joakim Noah discussed Anthony joining the Bulls during all-star weekend in New Orleans. Anthony reportedly asked Noah what it's like to play for Thibodeau, and Noah responded by suggesting Anthony should establish a winning legacy by joining him in Chicago.

Noah shared some related thoughts after beating Anthony and the Knicks on Sunday at the United Center.

"I want a ring," Noah said. "I want a ring so bad and I know that one day our time will come."

So maybe a good recruiting pitch will push the Bulls closer to that goal. There will be plenty of competition for Anthony's services.

The Knicks can pay him the most, but teams such as Dallas, the L.A. Lakers and Phoenix will have cap room, while there has been talk that Miami might try to find a way to add Anthony to the mix.

Here's how the Heat might have a chance. Miami's three stars can all opt out of their contracts this summer, while Norris Cole and Chris Andersen are the only other players signed for next season.

Collective-bargaining agreement expert Larry Coon says the projected salary cap for 2014-15 is $62.1 million. If that turns out to be accurate, the Heat could give James, Wade, Chris Bosh and Anthony $13.3 million each.

That's quite a pay cut, since James, Wade and Bosh are all set to make around $20.5 million if they don't opt out. Another possibility is Bosh leaves, perhaps for his hometown of Dallas, and the new big three get $17.7 million each.

Dallas could try to sell Anthony on helping Dirk Nowitzki make one last title push. The Lakers have a history of luring established stars, but they'll basically be starting from scratch beyond the aging Kobe Bryant.

New York's advantage is they could open the checkbook and give Anthony a five-year deal worth $127 million. The Knicks also will have cap room in 2015 after Amare Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani come off the books.

The obvious risk in joining the Bulls is Rose's two knee injuries. How healthy will he be in the next few seasons? Anthony turns 30 on May 29, so a sense of urgency is starting to creep in.

We've already talked about the only chance for the Bulls to compete salary-wise with the Knicks is to trade Taj Gibson and create more cap room. Then they could offer close to $20 million in starting salary.

But this is where effective recruiting could enter the picture. The Bulls could try to sell Anthony on the idea that a lineup of him, Rose, Noah, Gibson, Jimmy Butler with Thibodeau is championship-caliber.

If the Bulls cleared everything else off the books -- traded Mike Dunleavy, Tony Snell and next year's two first-round picks -- they could give Anthony a starting salary of around $16 million. They'd also have to find a supporting cast of minimum-salary guys, so more recruiting would be necessary.

Kirk Hinrich, Jimmer Fredette and Nazr Mohammed are three who might sign up.

One other way this scenario would work for the Bulls is they could keep the rights to Nikola Mirotic and hope they can sign him for the midlevel exception in 2015. Maybe that will work, maybe not.

Some Bulls fans are dreaming of using Carlos Boozer's $16.8 million salary in a trade for Anthony. The only way New York would agree to that is if the Bulls tossed in plenty of incentives.

It would almost certainly require the rights to Mirotic, plus Dunleavy and several future first-round picks going to New York.

When Anthony was being shopped by Denver during the 2010-11 season, Rose's camp pushed the Bulls to add Anthony as a second scoring option. Obviously, New York won that bidding war, but Rose might be ready to help the Bulls recruit this time.

mmcgraw@dailyherald.com

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