Will Chicago Bulls Trade For A Scorer?
Think of the two weeks before the trade deadline as the twenty minutes or so before dinner’s ready; everybody’s hungry for something and the closer it gets to go-time, the less they care what they’re served.
In the case of Chicago Bulls fans, who got their first taste of success in over a decade last season, the hunger is ravaging. All season long there have been calls to make a move for Dwight Howard or, perhaps more often, a starting two guard that can give the team a legitimate chance in a seven-game series against the Miami HEAT.
The truth is this: Chicago is much more likely to stand pat at the March 15 trade deadline than they are to make a move. The Bulls’ front office is notoriously conservative, and considering how well they’ve played this season despite so much missed time by Derrick Rose, Luol Deng, and especially Richard Hamilton, they’ve actually got some reason to be. Why blow up something that’s working so well, even when it’s incomplete?
Until Hamilton is given the opportunity to prove his worth in a postseason, the Bulls won’t look for another two guard. Love him or hate him, if he’s healthy Rip is the starter. Should he come back and play a full series against Miami this spring and Chicago loses anyway, perhaps the team will look into other options over the summer. Right now, though? The Bulls aren’t panicking, and for that reason, they probably aren’t going to make any moves.
So there’s the reality, but anybody who’s watched enough Bulls basketball this year—even when Hamilton was in the game—knows that the roster still feels a little thin. They still rely too much on Rose, and it still really feels like the HEAT would beat them if they met up again in the Eastern Conference Finals.
That being what it is, it would be nice to see Chicago make a big trade for a more marquee two guard in the next week and a half. The following trades are complete speculation. However, each of these would perhaps give the Bulls a better shot at a championship than they’ve currently got. Maybe they won’t happen, but for those of us that are starving, consider the following a tasty plate of trade deadline hors d’oeuvres:
Why the Bulls do it: Had the Bulls been able to sign Ray Allen as a free agent in the summer of 2010, there’s a real possibility that Derrick Rose’s MVP season would’ve been even more incredible than it already was. Allen, even at his age, is still a fully capable starting NBA two guard, certainly an upgrade over Hamilton, and he gives the Bulls an opportunity to win a championship this year. As much as we’ve loved to see Brewer come along, and as good as Hamilton might still be, Allen is better than either one. Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau is very familiar with him, too, which means he could very well give Chicago a shot at a ring immediately. Plus, worst-case scenario is that his contract expires and the Bulls bank the cap space. There’s not a lot to lose here for Chicago.
Why the Celtics do it: The jig is up for the Celtics, and that means they’ve got very little incentive to keep the band together through the end of the year. It wouldn’t be an awful idea to cash out Allen before he either retires or heads somewhere else in free agency this offseason, and when healthy Richard Hamilton can be nearly as good as Allen. Throw in a young breakout rotation guy like Brewer, and it’s possible they’d consider it. Granted, this deal isn’t as sweet for Boston as it is for Chicago, but returning a couple of certain assets for one not-so-certain asset isn’t a horrible deal.
Could it happen? Probably not. Even if Boston does look to move Allen, the chances are pretty high that they could find a better offer than this package from Chicago. And anyway, since Hamilton gets Chicago 80 percent of the way to Ray Allen, it’s unlikely they toss in someone they value very highly in Brewer to bring Allen aboard.
Trade #2: Monta Ellis for Joakim Noah
Why the Bulls do it: Omer Asik, Chicago’s back-up center, could probably start for half of the teams in the league so if Chicago really were to offer up Noah in exchange for one of the NBA’s most prolific scorers, they’d still have a guy to man the middle. As for Ellis, there’s no questioning how dynamic he and Derrick Rose could be in the backcourt. The only question would be whether Ellis’s personality would fit well with the rest of the guys in the Chicago locker room, as well as with Thibodeau’s defense- and effort-heavy system.
Why the Warriors do it: Golden State is hungry for a real big man, and Joakim Noah is precisely that. He’s talented enough offensively to thrive in an offense like that of the Warriors, and there’s simply no denying that Noah would absolutely love California. Ellis is a high price to pay, but if they’re looking at moving him anyway and he can’t be part of a Dwight Howard package, maybe this wouldn’t be a bad plan B.
Could it happen? Golden State seems likely to view Ellis as a far superior talent than the guy they’d be returning, but the opportunity to snatch a big guy Noah that would at least make them consider it. Chicago loves Joakim, and the likelihood they’d trade that important a chemistry guy for someone who could very well be an awful chemistry match for the current makeup of the Bulls makes me think they wouldn’t be particularly interested in the suggestion. Still, Rose and Ellis together? The best defensive team in the league would get pretty good at offense rather quickly, too.
Why the Bulls do it: There are some that believe Crawford is the guy Chicago should’ve signed in the offseason rather than Hamilton, anyway. Their salaries are identical (though Hamilton’s is for longer), and as far offensive firepower and veteran leadership is concerned, it’d be hard to find a better available two than this. Plus, Crawford is still very much loved by the Chicago organization and media, and he’s a good enough dude to fit right in with the rest of the team. Defense would obviously be a concern for him, but the points would pour in. He and Rose could do beautiful things together in that backcourt.
Why the Blazers do it: It looks like Crawford is going to opt out of his contract at the end of the year, so if they can return a rotation sharp-shooter like Korver plus a potential starting center in Asik for a guy they were just renting for a season anyway, why not?
Could it happen? Portland is shopping Crawford, though probably not to Chicago. It doesn’t seem likely that the Bulls would have much interest in employing both Crawford and Hamilton, but too much of a good thing at the two spot would be a nice change for them, particularly if Hamilton’s going to continue having injury issues. At the end of the day, though, John Paxson and Gar Forman aren’t likely to sacrifice their frontcourt depth to shore up a position they think they’ve already got taken care of with Rip.
The theme here, of course, is that Chicago probably doesn’t have the pieces to make a move for a top-flight shooting guard this trade deadline and, even if they did, they most likely wouldn’t have much interest in shaking things up anyway. The fact that they’ve posted the best record in the league at this point despite all those injuries means, in theory, they should be even better when everybody is 100 percent healthy and playing together consistently.
But are they good enough to beat the HEAT? That will have to be decided in May and/or June. The trade deadline is in March, though, so the timeline just isn’t right to get something done. We’ve got to see how the postseason goes before we talk about wholesale change.
What about you? Do you have any other radical ideas for Chicago to upgrade their situation at shooting guard? If so, hit up the comments section or tweet me @joelbrigham.