Santa Claus has been checking his list and checking it twice. He is trying to figure out if the Chicago Bulls are playing naughty or nice. While Santa goes over his notes, Bulls fans have time to put together their very own wish list for their team. The big question is what should Bulls fans ask for?
Should they ask for a healthy Derrick Rose or a shiny new shooting guard? Or how about a Carlos Boozer trade?
Despite being in first place of the NBA Central, there are several things that the Bulls need. This is the holiday season, what better time to focus on what they need? Afterwards, isolating what they should wish for will become easy.
For starters, another frontcourt player who has scoring ability would be an awesome addition to a team that struggles to score. Watching the Bulls play, beyond Boozer, they do not have a proven low-post threat. If their games continue to be defensive slugfests, a player who can put up points easily would solve their scoring burdens.
Looking at the NBA landscape, the top teams, such as the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder, do not have a viable low-post player. They do have guys that can score whenever they please in LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Both LeBron and Durant are slashers and perimeter-oriented scorers. They can be neutralized in a slow-down game.
Look at the teams who are standing in LeBron and Durant’s way, the Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio Spurs and New York Knicks. Each team can run up the floor with the best of them, but they can also pound the basketball into the post when it is necessary.
How does this relate to the Bulls?
The Bulls’ strength the last two seasons was their size. Would the Bulls have defeated the Heat in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals if they had another frontcourt player that scored around the basket? A player in the mold of Zach Randolph would have made a huge difference in the closely contested playoff series.
Athletic Scorer on the Wing:
I keep reading about how much the Bulls need a shooting guard. We cannot place any limitations on where the scoring must come from. Besides, LeBron is not a shooting guard. He is a small forward. Durant is a small forward. So are Carmelo Anthony and Rudy Gay.
Did you know that there are five small forwards currently in the top-20 in scoring for the NBA?
That equals the total of shooting guards in the top-20. Surprisingly, there are six point guards on the list.
This should debunk the notion that having a high-scoring shooting guard guarantees success in the NBA standings. If not, consider this, of the teams that are lead in scoring by a shooting guard, only one, the Houston Rockets, has a winning record at 14-12. The Rockets are led by James Harden’s 25.6 PPG.
What the Bulls need is a wing player who has the athleticism to get to the basket and get to the free throw line.
Shooting free throws helps a player boost his scoring numbers. How much of a difference does shooting free throws make? Durant averages 9.2 attempts from the charity stripe, which he has capitalized with 8.3 makes. The Bulls’ leading scorer is Luol Deng. He goes to the free throw line 4.4 times per game and makes 3.6. If Deng doubled his free throw attempts, his scoring average would increase by nearly four points a game, rising from 17.8 to 21.4 PPG.
Deng is not the Bulls’ problem, but neither is the shooting guard position. What the Bulls need is an athletic scorer on the wing, regardless of the position he can play.
Make a Blockbuster Move, Well, Sort of:
I am not alone in saying that the Bulls, as currently constituted, can win an NBA title this season or the next. They are what the Atlanta Hawks have been these last few seasons; a good team that can win a bunch of games, but will lose to a superior team.
The only way for the Bulls to change their fate is to get creative and swing a jaw-dropping trade.
Before we continue, no, the Bulls are not players for the Minnesota Timberwolves’ Kevin Love. Love is not on the trade market now, nor will he be later in the season. It would be foolish for the Timberwolves to give away their star player in a trade now, especially since they have all of the leverage.
Unless the Bulls take back a bad contract, they will not find a taker for Boozer either. What the Bulls must do is dangle the Richard “Rip” Hamilton, their $5.1 million trade exception from the Hawks and draft picks.
It is too bad that the Bulls signed Taj Gibson to an extension this season. In doing so, the Bulls eliminated an additional trade-chip.
Perhaps the Bulls could come up with a package for the talented, but troubled DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings. The Bulls would have to be willing to give up several draft picks and perhaps one of their young players, such as Jimmy Butler or Marquis Teague.
With Cousins’ latest suspension, his value has taken a huge hit. Could a deal consisting of Butler and two first-round draft picks work? What would the Bulls do with the pick they received from the Charlotte Bobcats anyway? They can offer the Bobcats pick and their top pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.
In the end, the Bulls need a lot of things. Of what was mentioned here, I would put all of the above on the Bulls’ Christmas wish list.
Enjoy your eggnog and Happy Holidays!
All stats via ESPN.com and are accurate as of 12-23-12.
Follow Ernest Shepard on Twitter @ernestshepard.