Around this time of the NBA season with the Finals approaching the majority of teams are in full scouting mode, looking for ways to improve their team for the both the long-term and immediate future.
One team that should be active this summer is the Chicago Bulls, who were ousted in the first round of the playoffs after posting the best record in the NBA and losing 2010-2011 MVP Derrick Rose to an injury. The remaining healthy Bulls made a valiant effort to compete but the team clearly needs to upgrade in some key areas to be able to remain an elite team in the Eastern Conference, especially with Rose expected to miss a large portion of the 2011-2012 season.
Let's take a look at five potential trade scenarios that would improve the Chicago Bulls for next season and beyond (besides Dwight Howard, of course)....
Luol Deng has been a hot name in trade rumors for months, and this summer may be time for the Bulls to seriously consider moving Deng and the remaining $27.6 mil of his contract.
Shawn Marion may be 34 years old, but he's a decent defender who can still run the floor and finish at the rim. Trading Deng would also free up rotation minutes for young wing player Jimmy Butler, who the Bulls are said to love. Not to mention Marion's price tag is about $10 million less than Deng's over the next two seasons and Dallas will have the cap space to afford Deng, who would give them a younger wing who could be a great fit for the Mavs.
Also, adding combo guard Roddy Beaubois would be an upgrade over C.J. Watson and John Lucas. Watson has a $3.7 mil team option for next season, while Beaubois provides instant offensive potential and would be cheaper at $2.2 mil.
If the Bulls can throw in their late first round pick (#29), this deal may be something both teams should seriously consider.
While this trade may be a long shot, it would make sense for the Bulls and Lakers, both financially and on the court. The Bulls would get rid of Boozer, who hasn't quite meshed well in Chicago and can replace him with a more skilled player in Pau Gasol, who hasn't always played up to the Lakers' standards.
Boozer would give the Lakers a power forward that could potentially be a better fit alongside Andrew Bynum. Boozer has had his moments but he's comfortable shooting the 15-20 foot jumper, leaving Bynum with space to work in the post, an area where Gasol struggled at times in Mike Brown's offense.
The Lakers would also get a quality young backup big man in Taj Gibson who played collegiate ball at local USC, and a pure shooter in Kyle Korver, a luxury that the Lakers have been missing for years.
The Lakers don't have much to offer the Bulls as far as draft picks, but they do still have the trade exception from the Lamar Odom trade, an asset that can be attractive for a number of teams.
Rarely do you see one-for-one trades in the NBA but this scenario benefits both the Bulls and Hawks.
Josh Smith has been said to want out of Atlanta and will be a potential free agent after the 2012-2013 season, making him a prime candidate to be dealt. Deng has been on the block for years, and both players will make around $12.5 mil next season with Deng also being under contract for 2013-2014, where the Hawks currently have a ton of open cap space.
The one area where Josh Smith really struggles is with outside shooting, but without Derrick Rose the Bulls may be running a lot more early next season, so Smith's defensive versatility, finishing ability and athleticism would be a welcomed addition. Deng would give the Hawks an intelligent, more versatile wing player to compliment Joe Johnson.
The chances of this trade happening are slim, but it definitely makes a lot of sense for both sides.
Rudy Gay has already been a hot name in trade rumors this spring.If Memphis is seriously considering dealing Gay a season after giving him a 5-year, $81 million deal, the Bulls should get them on the phone ASAP.
Gay is a versatile scorer that can create his own shot at will and would be a great addition to the Bulls without Rose and even better as a compliment to Rose. Deng would give the Grizzlies an unselfish small forward that can score without needing plays ran for him, and Ronnie Brewer would add another versatile defender to go with Tony Allen and co. He would potentially give Memphis the deepest corps of lock-down wing players.
Financially the deal works. Gay makes $3 mil more than Deng next season ($16.4 mil to Deng's $13.3 mil) but Chicago sending Brewer's $4.3 mil would free up the cap space. If Chicago can swing a deal for Rudy Gay they should jump the opportunity.
This scenario would be ideal for Bulls and may be more of a possibility than most would believe. Dwyane Wade is from Chicago and flirted with the idea of signing with the Bulls before LeBron James and Chris Bosh came to Miami. If the "Heatle" experiment doesn't result in a title this season, expect Wade to be the biggest Miami name on the block, not Bosh.
Joakim Noah may be the emotional leader of the Bulls but if they would need to part with him to bring star quality such as Wade's to Chicago he becomes expendable. Noah would give the Heat an immediate upgrade at the center position, both offensively and defensively.
Noah would also be affordable and is under contract long term; he has 4 years left on his contract at $50.5 million, which is a bargain in today's market for quality big men. Brewer would bring defense to Miami and cap relief for the Bulls to absorb Wade's hefty remaining contract (4 years at $77.1 mil with a player option for 2014-2016). The first round picks from Chicago to Miami would sweeten the deal for Miami to part with their franchise player over the past decade.
Wade may suffer nagging injuries here and there, but can still put up around 20-25 points per game a season and would give the Bulls a go to player until Rose returns. Once Rose does return, the Bulls could potentially have the best back-court combination in the NBA.