Let the blame game begin. Actually, by now the Bulls fans are in full throat with the reasons their Bulls lost in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The officials gave the Heat the game, which is a somewhat valid statement based on the foul disparity and the amount of touch fouls the Heat seemed to benefit from. Yet that doesn't change the fact that the Bulls had the ball with a chance to win at the buzzer in Game 4 and led by 12 with three minutes to go in the fourth quarter of Game 5.
Carlos Boozer is the problem he has to go. Again it's possible this is a valid problem, but it's not really fair. Boozer missed all of training camp with a broken hand then suffered a series of sprained ankles at the end of the season to go with that turf toe injury. Should he make sure he is in better shape? Absolutely, but that is why you hire and pay a coach.
Keep in mind, also, that he never really got to play with Joakim Noah all that much and their games don't seem to be very well suited to working together. Despite that, however, Boozer averaged 18 points per game and 10 rebounds per game this season so it isn't like the Bulls didn't get a return on their investment.
The Bulls don't have a true second scoring option on the perimeter. Now that one is true. Luol Deng is the Bulls best second scorer from the perimeter, and his game is much better suited to being a slasher and mid-range shooter. His rebounding ability makes him a better contributor the closer he is to the basket, and his shooting ability really isn't as reliable as a true scorer.
Throughout the playoffs it became evident that the Bulls lack of a consistent perimeter threat would be their undoing. Opposing teams constantly loaded up on Derrick Rose and forced the rest of the Bulls to make shots. With no one else able to create a shot, the Bulls offense struggled mightily. This would seem to be the real area of concern for the Bulls moving forward.
So how do they address it? Well it would seem that the Bulls are not financially able to sign a big name free agent with Deng's contract still having three years left, Noah's extension going into affect on July 1, Boozer still having four years left, and a max salary extension in the wings for Rose. That will give them four salaries over $10 million and no real ability to sign major free agents.
There's always the chance that Rose would be willing to take less money. If there's anyone in the NBA who would, it's Rose, but that seems highly unlikely based on his being 22 and the short lifespan previous guards of a similarly athletic nature have had. If he were in his late 20s it would be a different story.
That really just leaves trades, and generally having to give up good talent to get good talent. It becomes even more difficult when you consider that the Bulls would be trying to trade for a shooting guard, which is one of the more difficult positions to acquire via trade.
If you further consider that the Bulls believe their frontcourt depth is their strength over other teams, which they proved even during the Heat series, then you would want to get an impact player without having to move a big man. This makes the task even more difficult.
The Bulls do have a major asset in this, though, as they are in possession of Charlotte's first-round pick beginning next season. It is protected to various degrees until 2016, but the Bobcats don't look to be close to being in the top half of the East, let alone getting out of the top five any time soon. That could be a very large chip in trade talks.
The Bulls also have three guys who have team options after next season in Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson, giving them roughly $12 million in cap space to trade.
The easiest scenario to see is the Bulls acquiring Washington's Nick Young in a sign and trade. Young really fell out of favor in Washington towards the end of the year, but he is a deadly shooter and can consistently create his own shot. The downside is his general lack of concern for defense, or being a good teammate, or generally caring about anything.
That would seem to eliminate him as a possible future Bull, though his asking price would probably be around seven million dollars a year, so he would be easy to get, probably Brewer and Watson and a first-round pick and they should get him. I would imagine that is more of a last resort plan for the Bulls, though.
O.J. Mayo in Memphis would seem to be available with the team committing to Zach Randolph for the foreseeable future and the team already with Mike Conley and Rudy Gay locked in. They say they want to re-sign Marc Gasol too and being set at shooting guard with Xavier Henry and Tony Allen and Shane Battier needing to be re-signed and the writing is on the wall for Mayo being on his way out of town.
At the trade deadline the Bulls were willing to trade Asik to get him but Grizzlies owner, Michael Heisley, doesn't like doing business with the Bulls since he is from Chicago and as a result the Grizzlies took a lesser deal for Mayo that didn't get done in time. With the Grizzlies success in the post-season might pressure them to get the best deal they can, however, and that could pave the way for a deal involving Brewer, Asik, and the Bobcats pick for Mayo.
I think that is the deal that gets done, but I don't think it's the best deal out there.
I think Portland offers the best chance for a deal. Toward the end of the season Brandon Roy became less and less a part of the Blazers future as they transitioned to running the team through Lamarcus Aldridge with Wesley Matthews becoming the featured shooting guard.
With Matthews and Aldridge being locked in for the next four years, plus two years remaining on Gerald Wallace's contract and Nick Batum due an extension after next season, there seems to be a bit of a logjam in the backcourt. Wallace could easily get moved, but the energy and intensity he brought after the trade was the difference in that team, and he compliments Aldridge and Matthews so well.
Batum has been labelled untouchable by Blazers management and it would seem the intent is to keep him. Even Rudy Fernandez quieted down and stopped complaining about his lack of playing time. With Roy having three years left on his contract and his spotty injury history added to doubts about his ability to recover from those injuries it would seem he is available.
Enter the Bulls, who can offer a package including Korver, Brewer, Watson and Asik plus the Bobcats pick. The Bulls may not like to deal four guys away to get one, especially a guy with Roy's injury history, but they may not even need to include Asik in the deal. Maybe instead of Asik they offer a future first-rounder.
This allows them to add a shooting guard and point guard in the draft, maybe Marshon Brooks and Shelvin Mack, that will replace the depth they lost in dealing Brewer and Watson. It would be a shame to lose Korver's shooting, but the Bulls could easily add a guy like Anthony Parker or Eddie House for veteran deals to add shooting depth.
Roy is well worth the risk. When healthy he was one of the top three shooting guards in the league. His passing ability would allow Rose to play more without the ball which he excels at, and Roy has always been a capable shooter and is dangerous when forced to create his own shot.
The question is his health, but his health is what makes him available and it is a risk the Bulls have to take. Brewer and Watson are easily replaced, and Korver is a little pricey for a guy playing 15 minutes a night. Roy could be that highly sought after side kick to Derrick Rose, however, and the Bulls would be wise to pursue this deal.
In the past, the Bulls have been content to sit back and make the safe move or over value their own players. They need to let that go now. Rose can't be counted on to carry this team too much longer without getting him proper help. Whether that help is Mayo or Young or someone else you figure they can't sit back and wait for the Bobcats pick to be unprotected.
They need to go for it now while Rose is in his prime. That may mean giving up something they don't want to, or going out on a limb, but in the NBA the aggressive teams succeed.
Time to be aggressive.