It is not a far-fetched idea that the Chicago Bulls can make a run in the NBA Playoffs. In order for that to become a reality, the Bulls still have one deal they must make before the NBA trade deadline.
Recently, the Bulls have been razor-thin in the frontcourt due to a sudden rash of injuries. It is bad enough that Derrick Rose has missed the entire season thus far while rehabbing his knee. Now the Bulls are without center Joakim Noah (plantar fasciitis), Carlos Boozer (hamstring) and Kirk Hinrich (elbow).
Here is Bulls' head coach Tom Thibodeau's take on the injuries to both Noah and Hinrich (courtesy of a recent CSNChicago.com report.)
"That’s [Noah’s day-to-day status] going to be it. He’s got to get treatment, see where he is each and every day, so hopefully he improves each day. You want him to be healthy. That’s the important thing, so he has to work on the rehab and getting back. That’s where his focus is. The guys that are here, they’ve got to be ready to step up."
"It’s probably going to be about a week or so. They cleaned it up. He needs a little bit of time for it to heal up,” he explained about Hinrich, whose bursa sac popped in his right elbow during a Jan. 7 home win over Cleveland and experienced “discomfort” following Wednesday’s road victory in Milwaukee. “I say around a week; I don’t know if it’s longer than that. But that’s we’re hoping. I just want him to be healthy. He’s such an important part of this team and for all our players, we’ve just got to get healthy.
[Hinrich’s elbow is] just swollen. It was in a tough place, so he kept breaking it open. He’s on the floor all the time, so they just had to go in there and clean it up a little bit."
Who is next in line to be saddled with an ailment, one of the Luvabulls? Could it be Benny the Bull?
Should the Bulls make a minor move, or a blockbuster trade?
The current mash unit of the Bulls exposes a huge hole in their lineup. The Bulls, despite the Rose injury, are strong in the backcourt. Their weakness is the lack of frontcourt depth. All it will take is a wee bit of tweaking to their lineup.
That tweak has to come in the form of a trade.
A trade will be difficult for the Bulls to make because they are right at the hard-cap threshold with what is believed to be $200,000 of wiggle room.
Who can the Bulls look to trade?
If you are a Bulls fan, are you comfortable with the thought of losing a player such as Marquis Teague or Marco Belinelli? A more realistic possibility would be for the Bulls to try to trade Richard Hamilton, along with a future draft pick for a frontcourt player.
That idea is not foolproof. In fact, the trade market for Hamilton may be lukewarm at best. What he does have is a team option for next season, an attractive piece for a team that is looking at some future cap relief. He also would be a solid veteran for a team that is looking to add one final part of the puzzle to their playoff push. If that is the case, the question becomes: Are the Bulls willing to help their competition in order to improve their chances?
Unless Hamilton is part of a trade package that brings in a player along the lines of Pau Gasol, it is inconceivable that the Bulls would look to deal.
Here is one three-way deal the Bulls could do using Hamilton.
The Bulls send Hamilton, Nazr Mohammed and a future first-round pick to the Houston Rockets and Vladimir Radmanovic to the Orlando Magic. The Magic also receives Royce White, while the Bulls take back Al Harrington.
Why would the Rockets do it?
This helps the Rockets because they get a veteran in Hamilton who has won an NBA Championship. He could become the player who would solidify their playoff status as they attempt to fend off the Portland Trailblazers, Utah Jazz and the Los Angeles Lakers.
Beyond James Harden and Chandler Parsons, the Rockets do not get consistent scoring. Adding Hamilton changes that. The Rockets getting a draft pick is icing on the cake. In addition, they get to rid themselves of the Royce White experiment.
Why would the Magic do it?
The Magic are looking to rebuild with younger players, in hopes to have a similar dynasty to the San Antonio Spurs. Rob Hennigan is from the Spurs' organization. Therefore, he knows what it takes to build a winning team. Adding a player with White’s potential goes a long way in the Magic’s rebuilding plan.
White essentially is the same player Harrington is, but younger.
Like Harrington, Royce White can handle the ball and is a solid rebounder. If he can improve the range on his jump shot and can continue to find help for the well-documented anxiety disorder he suffers from, he can develop into a force. He would team up with Nikola Vucevic to create a solid, young tandem.
Why would the Bulls do it?
Harrington is not a spring chicken at the age of 32, but he still can play at high level. He is not much of a defender, but in the Bulls’ defensive scheme, he may not have to be. All he would have to do is stay in front of the player he is guarding. His 6’9”, 249-pound frame takes up enough space in the lane. This would allow the Bulls’ best frontcourt defenders, Noah and Taj Gibson, shot-blocking and rebounding opportunities.
Adding Harrington solves another problem the Bulls have faced this season.
Harrington can score. He can get shots in the post, as well as shoot from beyond the three-point line.
Imagine the Bulls are in the midst of a cold-streak. They are facing the Miami Heat and just frittered away a 10-point lead. The Bulls require an easy basket to end the Heat’s run. Who can get their shot off? Harrington’s skills are a perfect fit in this situation considering the price.
Another trade that could be made by the Bulls is a simple one.
The Bulls send Radmanovic and a second-round pick to the Phoenix Suns for Jermaine O’Neal.
This deal is a just a swap of players in the last legs of their careers. The only difference between Radmanovic and O’Neal is that the latter fits a need for the Bulls.
Let’s face it, Radmanovic was not signed to contribute. He is not anything but an end-of-bench player who will cheer his teammates along. Exchanging him for O’Neal gives the Bulls a solid defender with size who can still make a shot or two.
O’Neal is a player who would be energized by being part of a playoff team. The Bulls get to reap all of the benefits of a frontcourt player with a little left in the tank.
For the Bulls, bringing in Harrington or O’Neal would not have fans run out to the box office to purchase a maximum amount of playoff tickets. Neither of them brings an exciting name like Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett or the aforementioned Pau Gasol.
The Bulls are not in the position to make a blockbuster trade. Such a trade would destroy their chemistry, but they are in the position to improve their basketball team in a subtle way. A middling trade for Al Harrington or a minor deal for Jermaine O’Neal could be the elixir that fixes their frontcourt problems.
Sometimes moves like these can swing the balance of power in favor of the team that takes the risk.
The Bulls must make a deal at the trade deadline. They must go after Al Harrington or Jermaine O’Neal.
Both trade ideas were validated financially with the ESPN Trade Machine.