Walk onto any Chicago basketball court these days and you're bound to see a group of pickup ballers engaging in some seriously impassioned debate.
Old school purists strongly reject all trade prospects involving Joakim Noah, arguing that his defensive intensity is just too inspirational to give away. Countering that is a contingent clamoring for Carmelo as the Bulls' only hope for answering the Miami Heat's LeBron James.
At the end of the day, the Joakim-for-Carmelo question comes down to an issue of replaceability. If there are effective, defensive minded bigs waiting in the wings, the Bulls would be insane to pass up one of the elite small forwards in the game. But if Joakim truly is irreplaceable, then keeping him would clearly be the right decision, especially since Luol Deng is a pretty decent fallback either way.
The merits of any potential Melo-Noah trade hinges almost entirely on who the Bulls can sign to take Noah's place.
The list of remaining free agent centers available on the market is enough to make any Bulls fan shudder in fright. As of now, Earl Barron, Josh Boone, Francisco Elson, Primoz Brezec, Jarron Collins, D.J. Mbenga, Steven Hunter, Randolph Morris, and Patrick O'Bryant would be the possible replacement candidates.
These pickings aren't just slim; they are anorexically thin.
Barring a highly improbable breakout season from rookie Omer Asik or an equally unlikely resurrection of the ancient Kurt Thomas, the Bulls would inevitably have to make another trade to plug the gaping hole at center left in Joakim's wake.
If the Carmelo trade had been broached earlier in the summer, then I would have been completely on board. In July, the Bulls would have had a good chance of landing Jermaine O'Neal, Jamaal Magloire, Theo Ratliff, or even Erick Dampier, who are all good enough to justify acquiring Carmelo Anthony at the expense of Joakim. But at this late stage in the game, the Bulls would be taking on huge risk in hopes of finding another serviceable center that are currently in short supply.
At this hour, the Nets seem to be gaining the inside track on Joakim. Any minute now, I'm expecting to see ESPN's red box of breaking news. But regardless of the outcome, Bulls fans likely won't find closure for some time. Some will lament this as yet another key trade that got away. Others will nod in support of John Paxson's inflexibility in this case.
My hope is that the disappointed fans find some level of comfort in this post. After all, a frontcourt of Boozer and Primoz Brezec would never have stood a chance anyway.
- Ken is a regular contributor to 3 Got Game's NBA Analytiks at www.nba-analytiks.com.