Report: Bulls dealing Salmons to Milwaukee for expiring deals

ESPN's Chad Ford (and pretty much everyone else) is reporting that the Bulls are shipping John Salmons up I-94.  Salmons (owed $6.429 million this year) was left at the team hotel tonight while the Bulls were in New York, sparking a flurry of speculation about where he'd end up. Houston?  Memphis?  San Antonio?

In the end it appears the Bucks' offer of expiring deals was the best the Bulls could do, though there's a bit of disagreement over who the Bucks are sending to Chicago.  Pretty much everyone concurs it will be two players, with Kurt Thomas ($3.8 million) and Francisco Elson ($1.7 million) pegged by Ford to offer some big man depth while Joakim Noah is out.   However, Hakim Warrick ($3 million) could also be included instead of Elson, which would likely be preferable from a Bulls' perspective.  Joe Alexander would be another option, though I don't think he's been mentioned by anyone thus far.  There's also been some rumors the deal could be expanded tomorrow, so perhaps the Bucks are still pursuing Bulls' PF Tyrus Thomas as well. 

[Update 1: K.C. Johnson in Chicago writes that it'll be either Thomas/Elson or Warrick/Alexander]

[Update 2: Charles Gardner writes Alexander and Warrick are headed to Chicago.  Not too surprising given Alexander has been rotting in Fort Wayne while Warrick's minutes have been only scattered of late]

The Bulls have been desperate to move Salmons in order to clear more cap space for a run at a max contract free agent (read: Dwyane Wade) this summer, while the Bucks have been looking to add talent for a playoff push.  So on the surface this deal seems to make sense for both teams.  Salmons is owed a tolerable $5.81 million next year but has an early-termination option this summer, meaning he could become a free agent and seek a multi-year deal in advance of the CBA's expiration in 2011.  But while the Bulls didn't want to risk Salmons sticking around and messing up their cap space, the Bucks are in cap no man's land next year.  Above the cap but below the luxury tax, they've been a popular team to talk to if you're a GM looking to clear 2010 cap space. 

Aside from the cap motivations, Salmons' play has also fallen off a bit from his solid performances of the past couple seasons, making him expendable just a year after his acquisition from Sacramento helped key the Bulls' playoff run.  After averaging 19.5 pts/40 minutes on 58.0% true shooting in 08/09, he's down to 15.3 pts/40 and 53.0% true shooting this year, as complaints about his ball-stopping offensive style have become louder.  That said, he looks like an obvious upgrade over Charlie Bell in the starting lineup, and alongside Carlos Delfino and Luc Mbah a Moute gives the Bucks even more flexibility on both ends.  Salmons is shooting 38% from deep this year after hitting at a 42% clip a year ago, so he can help spread the floor in addition to creating his own shot.  He also gives the Bucks someone who can finish around the cup--though he's down to 56% this year, he shot exactly 64% each of the last two years.

Doing a two-for-one deal also opens an additional roster spot for the Bucks, and there's been some speculation that the Bucks would pursue Drew Gooden (who's now a Clipper...long story) if he's bought out by LA.  Rick Bucher blogged tonight that Gooden would be open to signing with the Bucks or Bobs rather than returning to Dallas, where his minutes have been limited.  However, David Aldridge tweeted that the Clips might not be buying out Gooden after all, especially if there's a team willing to give up something of value for him.

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