The Chicago Bulls could perhaps find themselves looking different in just a few months, and that's because a minor trade or two could be made that alters the look of their rotation.
What's more, they also hope for Derrick Rose to return to the lineup come the season's second half, which will give them quite a jolt of life for the season's climax.
Many fans and analysts wonder, even with a healthy Rose, if the Bulls are true contenders. Do they possess a true secondary weapon to pair alongside D-Rose? Are hardworking players such as Luol Deng and Joakim Noah enough to give this squad championship-caliber firepower?
The answers to those questions are debatable. Some believe the Bulls still need to make some tweaks before they're truly in the contender category.
Further, the Bulls are also in a tricky spot in terms of finances. They want to avoid going into the luxury tax, and because of this, they could make a trade or two in the coming weeks that is strictly financially driven.
Therefore, the Bulls may be active in terms of trades in the coming weeks, and it could come from either a personnel or financial standpoint. However, don't expect them to be overly active, as most of the chatter below should be sold at this time.
The main figures who are considered on Chicago's trading block are veterans Carlos Boozer and Richard Hamilton. While some fans may hope that casting away these players lands them a significant piece in return, this is unrealistic.
Boozer, in particular, is not enticing for any teams. His production does not live up to his contract, and Bulls fans should thus be selling any rumors about him being traded. Crazier things have happened, and the Bulls will surely bite if a team comes knocking, but the truth is that Boozer figures to remain in Chicago through the 2012-13 season.
Richard Hamilton is a different story, and there's reason to buy chatter about his departure. His contract expires at the end of this season, and some teams will likely be interested in adding a veteran shooter with championship experience. Plus, because newcomer Marco Belinelli has been playing at a high level as of late, Hamilton is growing somewhat expendable.
Another issue for the Bulls to discern in the coming weeks is how to handle the point guard position, which will feature a logjam once Rose returns. Kirk Hinrich, Nate Robinson and Marquis Teague have all made contributions this season, but carrying four point guards is illogical.
There has already been talk that Robinson may be released to save on finances, because he has a non-guaranteed contract. Therefore, while trading either Hinrich or Robinson would make sense, they might choose to release Robinson. As a result, Bulls fans should be selling rumors about trading one of their point guards, unless a deal is presented that's financially reasonable (i.e. such as if they could merely receive a draft pick in return for either Hinrich or Robinson rather than absorbing a different player's contract).
Thus far, it's apparent that no potential trades in the coming months will garner much in return for Chicago. Whether the chatter should be bought or sold, none of these players are going to raise distinct interest from opponents.
The only way for the Bulls to inherit a quality player in return is to dangle some critical assets for their future. Those assets include Spaniard Nikola Mirotic (for more on him, see Kelly Scaletta's recent article) and a future Charlotte Bobcats first-round pick that the Bulls possess.
Or, the Bulls could potentially dangle some critical assets to their present and future, including Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson.
The reality is that fans should be selling any blockbuster-type chatter. It's highly unlikely that the Bulls would trade one of these key pieces for a player such as Tyreke Evans or O.J. Mayo. The likelihood is that the only way the Bulls would consider bidding farewell to a crucial element to their future is if they could land an undisputed elite weapon, such as Kevin Love.
I previously wrote on how the Bulls should pursue Love, but this would feature the Bulls giving up a handful of quality pieces and that still might not be enough for Minnesota to ponder the offer. This ultimately illustrates how difficult it will be for the Bulls to entertain a blockbuster deal in the coming weeks and months, because there aren't many truly elite players available and the Bulls aren't going to play around with offers that don't net them a bona fide superstar in return.
As a result, it's likely that the Bulls are rather quiet on the trade front, perhaps only making a deal, such as casting off Hamilton, that's reflective of finances. There's always the possibility that a curve ball is thrown at us, but that appears unlikely, especially considering how Chicago management tends to stay away from alarming trades.
The Bulls' best hope is for Rose to return to his usual form upon his return and then hope their core has enough to make a splash in the playoffs. But there's certainly reason to wonder if this team has enough to compete with teams like the Miami Heat.
One thing is for certain: Their defense is active and their effort is there on a consistent basis. However, can that carry them come playoff time? They have built a solid defensive foundation and it makes them a formidable threat in the Eastern Conference, but they're likely still lacking that one final piece to the championship puzzle. Unfortunately for Bulls fans, that final piece likely isn't going to arrive by trade anytime soon.