The Carmelo Anthony era in Chicago is officially already over.
The Bulls waived Anthony to make room for the acquisition of Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Just like prior trades with the Houston Rockets involving Anthony and Michael Carter-Williams, Chicago helped out Oklahoma City financially while getting a little cash of its own:
Chicago is responsible for $594K of the remaining contract of TLC. They will lose (along with the other 21 teams below) $166K in tax reimbursement that will be made up in the cash they receive from OKC. The max Chicago could receive in a trade was $2.6M. https://t.co/RXFvEoXcEJ
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) February 1, 2019
Unlike those other trades, the Bulls actually plan on keeping Luwawu-Cabarrot, so this deal isn’t purely financially motivated.
Waiving Anthony was always the expected outcome after Chicago took on his contract to help the Rockets save luxury tax money. There were reports that the Bulls may wait until after the Feb. 7 trade deadline to cut Anthony loose in hopes of flipping him elsewhere, but that was always a long shot given Houston spent months failing to get something of value for him.
Anthony is now free to survey the landscape and sign with a new team. It would not be a surprise if this happens after the deadline dust settles and teams have a better idea of what they still need for the rest of the season. The Los Angeles Lakers are still rumored as a potential destination, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, but they’re focused on swinging a big deal for New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis. The Lakers currently have a full roster, but a Davis trade would likely open up a spot for Anthony.
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As for the Bulls, they get to take a look at a 23-year-old wing in Luwawu-Cabarrot as they finish off an ugly 2018-19 campaign. The contending Thunder had no use for him and wanted to save that luxury tax money, so Chicago took advantage of the situation and absorbed his $1.54 million 2018-19 salary into the $2.73 million trade exception created by the Justin Holiday trade.
Luwawu-Cabarrot hasn’t been able to find his footing in the NBA after the Philadelphia 76ers made him the 24th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. The Frenchman showed flashes in his 69 appearances as a rookie, including 19 starts, but his playing time dipped in his second season before he was dealt to the Thunder last summer. He played only 123 minutes in Oklahoma City this season, shooting 30.2% from the field and 22.7% on 3-pointers. He holds career averages of 5.5 points and 1.7 rebounds while shooting 38.5% overall and 31.7% from 3-land.
While these numbers are ugly, it makes sense for the Bulls to take this chance. Chicago recently lost rookie forward Chandler Hutchison for at least a few weeks due to a foot injury, so there may be playing time available for Luwawu-Cabarrot. 24-year-old Wayne Selden has been making the most of his opportunity after coming over from the Memphis Grizzlies in the Holiday deal, even scoring a season-high 20 points in a rare victory over the Miami Heat last time out. Perhaps Luwawu-Cabarrot follows in Selden’s footsteps and proves he belongs in the league.
Even if Luwawu-Cabarrot does nothing, the Bulls can say goodbye at the end of the season because he’s set to be an unrestricted free agent. But if he shows anything, Chicago could look to bring him back on a cheap contract for depth on the wing. There’s virtually no downside to this trade, but expectations for the 6-foot-6 guard should be low.