It has been more than a week now since the Chicago Bulls were eliminated from the NBA Playoffs by their nemesis from South Beach, the Miami Heat. Now, the trade rumors that started for the 26 teams not in the conference finals have finally caught up to the Bulls.
Naturally, the majority of the deals involve shooting guards to help take the scoring burden off of 22-year-old MVP Derrick Rose. The latest such speculation (from sources such as CBS Sports) is in regards to Golden State's Monta Ellis.
At first glance, adding Ellis seems perfect. After all, he has averaged about 25 points per game over the last two seasons, meaning he and Rose could potentially score 50 between themselves on a typical night.
Simply looking at the scoring column is misleading though. Let's not forget what this Bulls team is all about—defense.
Ellis and Rose are both 6-foot-3, which would make guarding some of the top shooting guards in the NBA (looking at you, Dwyane Wade) extraordinarily difficult, especially considering both these guys are more known for their offense than their defense.
It would be even harder to stop Wade and the rest of the Miami Heat if the Bulls had to trade Luol Deng or Joakim Noah to get Ellis. And it's precisely those two players (Deng in particular) who have been named in various trade speculation.
The two things that kept Chicago within striking range of Miami were its offensive rebounding ability and its strong perimeter defense against Wade and LeBron James. With Noah gone, dominating the glass becomes much more challenging. Without Deng, the Bulls would have to switch Ronnie Brewer onto LeBron, which leaves a mismatch for Wade.
In other words, while Chicago receives another offensive playmaker, it loses at least one advantage it formerly had over Miami.
Deng will never be a primary scorer or a great playmaker, but as Tom Thibodeau has said all season, he's the glue to this team. Every night, Deng is capable of scoring 20 points and will definitely make scoring difficult for the opponent's best wing player. He's far from untouchable, especially with his large contract, but he's more valuable to Chicago than ever before thanks to Thibodeau's system.
Noah on the other hand could be traded for the right player. His offensive game has not developed as nicely as the Bulls probably would have hoped, and Chicago has a great young center in Omer Asik waiting in reserve. I know I'd rather insert Asik into the starting lineup than have to replace Deng with Brewer.
Ultimately, Ellis would be a nice addition, but even a Deng-for-Ellis swap is too costly for the Bulls. Fans seem to quickly forget this squad won more regular-season games than any other team in the NBA this season and was a few fourth-quarter stops away from a trip to the NBA Finals.
Rose does need help in the backcourt, but trading away the players that got this team to the conference finals is not the solution. Unlike the Lakers or Mavericks, the Bulls' window to win is not rapidly closing.
The answer, as I have outlined in two articles about potential free agents and potential draft picks, is to add new pieces without getting rid of the team's core. If a team comes calling about the likes of O.J. Mayo, Kevin Martin or Ellis, of course the Bulls will listen, but the front office is in the envious position of being an organization that veteran free agents are going to call first when looking for a place to win a title.
When it comes down to it, is Ellis really that much better than someone like J.R. Smith, Jamal Crawford or Jason Richardson? Is he good enough to trade away Deng or Noah? Obviously not.
The Bulls already have the defensive ability to hang with the Heat. All they need is another offensive weapon. Giving up one of their elite defenders for Ellis would not get them any closer to the Heat.
And if that's the case, no deal.