With the trade deadline fast approaching in little more than a week, teams all around the NBA are burning up the phone lines trying to make that one last-minute move to increase this year's championship hopes or to move an expiring contract and obtain some value in return.
Bulls get O.J. Mayo ($5.6M) from Memphis and Royal Ivey ($1.2M) from Oklahoma City.
Thunder get Ronnie Brewer ($4.7M) and John Lucas ($900K) from Chicago.
Memphis gets Cole Aldrich ($2.3M) from Oklahoma City and Chicago's 2012 first-round draft pick.
The consensus among Bulls fans is that Chicago should not make any trade deadline moves and risk disrupting the team chemistry that has Chicago sporting the best record in the NBA.
However, I do not agree with most Bulls fans. While the belief that Chicago currently has a complete enough team to win a championship is not crazy, it seems less compelling every day.
Why is that you ask? Three reasons.
First, the Miami Heat are playing at a very high level on both the offensive and defensive ends and have been all year. The Bulls are still in need of another scorer capable of creating his own shot to have a chance at beating the Heat in a seven-game series.
Derrick Rose cannot beat the Heat on his own without a true second scorer. At this point in the year, the Bulls hoped to be showcasing a more potent offense, but have been winning on defense and have not shown the ability to beat teams when Rose is shut down offensively.
Second, the Bulls' addition of Rip Hamilton does not appear like it will pay off the way Bulls nation hoped for in the autumn. Rip was added to fill the hole at shooting guard and add another scorer to space the floor for Rose. He was supposed to be the x-factor, but has not stayed healthy enough to make a difference.
He has showed flashes of the player he used to be in his limited appearances, but his most recent injury has forced Bulls management to come to terms with one of their biggest fears... that Hamilton may never be healthy enough to be the difference-maker against the Heat in the playoffs.
Third, athletic teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and the Miami Heat have given the Bulls problems all season and even going back to last year. There is a strong likelihood that Chicago could see either or probably even both teams in this year's Eastern Conference playoffs
The Bulls need to have at least one more dynamic go-to scorer available on the roster to take pressure off of Rose and to pick up the slack on those nights when Rose just is not clicking on all cylinders. The Bulls defensively match up with the athletic teams, but they do not match up well on the offensive side against long, athletic defenses.
Therefore, the Bulls need to trade for an athletic, offensively dynamic shooting guard who can create his own shot.
Solution: O.J. Mayo
The injury to Thabo Sefolosha has left a void in the Oklahoma City roster at the starting shooting guard position. Sure, the Thunder already possess the odds-on favorite to win sixth man of the year in James Harden. However, sixth man off the bench is the exact role they want and need Harden to keep filling to remain the championship favorite in the West.
If Sefolosha's injury does not improve significantly before March 15, then the Thunder will have to make a move to bring in a defensive-minded shooting guard to start beside the electrifying Russell Westbrook and all-world Kevin Durant.
However, for any trade to be palatable to Oklahoma City, they will need to keep their core intact, keep Harden coming off the bench as the sixth man and be able bring in a defensive-minded shooting guard who will not cause a locker room problem.
Therefore, the Thunder will only make a trade if they are able to move a player who does not negatively impact the team's championship hopes this year. The one player on the Oklahoma City roster who has trade value and who would not take away from the team's current success is Cole Aldrich.
He is young, big and only plays a couple minutes a night. Aldrich is only in his second season and still has potential to be a very solid center in the league for years to come. He is the Thunder's biggest (pun intended) available trade asset.
Therefore, the Thunder need to trade for a defensive-minded shooting guard who does not have an unpalatable contract.
Solution: Ronnie Brewer
The Memphis Grizzlies are going to lose O.J. Mayo at the end of the year since the team does not possess the cap space to re-sign him, considering the large contacts given to Zach Randolph, Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley.
Therefore, the smart move is for Memphis to trade him before next season and receive something as compensation for his departure. Management will look to add an impact player or a young big, but only if it can be done for O.J. Mayo or less.
Memphis currently only has three bigs under contract beyond this season in Randolph, Gasol and Dante Cunningham. Its other bigs, Marreese Speights, Darrell Arthur and Hamed Haddadi, are all in the final year of their contracts and may not be back with the team next year.
Though Randolph and Gasol are power post players, Randolph really is not that big when compared to the likes of the Lakers starting front court. Moreover, Memphis' third big, Cunningham, is also undersized and more of a wing-type player, which means that size is something the Grizzlies will need to address this summer.
Therefore, the Grizzlies need to trade for a quality young big man to maximize its return for Mayo.
Solution: Cole Aldrich
Why it Works:
In the wake of Rip Hamilton's inability to stay healthy, Chicago needs to do something to address the lack of a true No. 2 scorer and the inability of anyone else on the roster other than Rose to create his own shot. O.J. Mayo fits that role perfectly and could be had from Memphis for the right offer, which the Bulls could create with the help of OKC.
If the Thabo Sefolosha injury does not look much better soon, then Oklahoma City will need an above-average defender to fill that hole in their starting lineup until Sefolosha is back healthy. OKC does not want to spend a lot of money or bring in a player with a long contract.
Ronnie Brewer is currently playing well on both sides of the ball, fills the Thunder's immediate need, only has one year left on his deal after this season and would be available via trade if the Bulls are able to acquire a more offensively talented shooting guard such as Mayo.
O.J. Mayo is a free agent at the end of the year, and Memphis does not possess the cap space to re-sign the talented shooting guard. Management knows he could walk for nothing, which means they would be open to trading him for a young quality front court player (remember the failed Josh McRoberts trade with Indiana last year at the trade deadline).
Cole Aldrich is an underused and talented big who is still in his rookie contract and is receiving rookie pay. He has a couple years left on his current deal and could learn behind Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Receiving a package of Aldrich and Chicago's first-round pick for Mayo would the kind of deal to finally send Mayo packing.