The Chicago Bulls don't need to be super active as the trade deadline nears, but a move (or two) could potentially bolster their chances at a deep playoff run.
This is the primary roster maneuver that will occur for Chicago in the coming weeks.
But they do still have at least one need on their trade deadline shopping list, which is another backup big man. This is something they've lacked since Omer Asik departed in the offseason.
The Bulls signed veteran Nazr Mohammed to replace Asik, but he's not nearly the contributor. Mohammed is now a tender 35 years old, and while his effort is present, his production isn't.
The Bulls unquestionably need to have a more reliable backup center, especially come playoff time. If Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer or Taj Gibson suffer an injury in the latter stages of the season, the Bulls lack the frontcourt depth to sustain themselves.
Therefore, they should consider pursuing a veteran big man who is a definite upgrade over Mohammed. This player doesn't need to be one of the more formidable big men in the league, but he at least needs to be competent in the case of an injury (or when Noah gets in foul trouble).
Below are a couple minor trade scenarios for the Bulls to ponder.
Trade One (See it on Trade Machine):
Bulls get: C Zaza Pachulia
Hawks get: G Richard Hamilton, C Nazr Mohammed, 2013 second-round pick
Pachulia is an able center who produces in the marginal minutes he's given with Atlanta. He averages 6.3 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game in just 22.9 minutes per outing. He's the type of serviceable frontcourt player whom the Bulls could trust on a consistent basis.
But, is he worth bidding farewell to Richard Hamilton? There's certainly room for debate here. Hamilton does provide the Bulls with a veteran presence, but he is steadily growing expendable with the emergence of Marco Belinelli and Jimmy Butler.
If Chicago decides that Hamilton is expendable, then this is the type of deal they should explore. Honestly, Hamilton isn't going to generate much interest due to his age and recent history with injuries, so this deal for Pachulia would actually be a steal for the Bulls.
From Atlanta's perspective, Hamilton gives them a shooting guard to replace Lou Williams, who recently tore his ACL.
Trade Two (See it on Trade Machine):
Bulls get: C Timofey Mozgov, F Corey Brewer
Nuggets get: G Richard Hamilton, C Nazr Mohammed, G Nate Robinson, 2013 first-round pick
Timofey Mozgov has been lost in the shuffle for the Denver Nuggets and is thus expendable. While he's nothing special, he could serve much more adequately than Mohammed.
The Bulls also land swingman Corey Brewer, a former college teammate of Noah, who is averaging 11.3 points per game on the year.
The question here, once again, is if such a deal is worth giving up not only Hamilton but also Robinson and a first-round pick. There's no need for the Bulls to jump the gun on this. They are certainly in need of a backup big man and one of the aforementioned deals could be a wise decision. However, exercising patience is not a bad idea in all of this.
The truth is that the Bulls' best bet may be to wait and see if any big men clear waivers (or pursue the unsigned Kenyon Martin). This could be their best opportunity to acquire somebody serviceable while not breaking up their current chemistry.
Other than a backup center to Noah, the Bulls don't have any other specific needs that must be addressed prior to the trade deadline. Their depth and production at each position is stellar, and they should thus be patient and discerning when considering any moves.
Now, in the event that a blockbuster trade presents itself, how should the Bulls handle such an opportunity?
Once again, they must be patient and discriminating. Yes, Derrick Rose still could use a legitimate No. 2 scoring weapon at his side, but giving up Luol Deng and/or Noah to get that player is foolish.
Let's say, though, that a desperate team like the Los Angeles Lakers approach the Bulls with an enticing proposal. Perhaps they'll grow desperate in their desire to make changes to their struggling squad and thus be willing to cast off Pau Gasol.
Trade 3 (See it on Trade Machine):
Bulls get: F-C Pau Gasol
Lakers get: F Carlos Boozer, G Kirk Hinrich, 2013 first-round pick
This trade would have been laughed at a year ago, because Gasol's stock was higher than it is now. Furthermore, Boozer's stock in the trade market has climbed upward due to his recent dominant play.
But the Bulls must be careful in contemplating such a potential move. It would be downright foolish for them to give up multiple core pieces to acquire Gasol (i.e. Boozer and Luol Deng, or even Boozer and Jimmy Butler).
Gasol is an upgrade over Boozer (particularly on the defensive end), but he is 32 years old and is no longer playing at an elite level. He could be worth acquiring if he can be had at a price like this, but the Lakers would likely ask for more.
Based on all of this analysis, it's clear that Chicago should utilize discretion as the trade deadline approaches. Rose is set to return, and the Bulls already have a quality core in place. They do still need a backup big man and a trade could help them land this piece, but their best bet could be to hope that they're able to scoop up a suitable player via waivers.
Furthermore, there's no need for them to force a blockbuster deal. If a "can't-miss" deal falls into their lap, that's one thing. But that's unlikely, and as a result, the Bulls shouldn't tinker with any deals that will end up stunting their trajectory (e.g., a swap of Luol Deng for Josh Smith, which shouldn't be convincing enough for the Bulls to pull the trigger).
The Bulls have much to be optimistic about, and their trade-deadline shopping list is very limited, unlike most teams. Therefore, they should approach deals with caution while they prepare to integrate D-Rose back into the fold.