Dwight Howard isn't walking through those doors, folks.
Despite popular belief in the greater Chicagoland area, Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic's life purpose is not to make the Chicago Bulls fanbase happy. As crazy as it seems, the Magic wouldn't accept an offer of Carlos Boozer, Omer Asik and a bag of crap for their five-time All-Star.
The problem with unemployed, stay-at-home GMs (I admit I can be one at times) is that they don't look at a deal from both sides. Sure Dwight Howard in exchange for Boozer, Asik and a couple of draft picks gets Bulls general manager Gar Forman a better bust than Scottie Pippen (maybe that's why he is taking shots at the Bulls), but it would also bring Orlando GM Otis Smith the Cleveland-LeBron treatment and don't nobody want that.
So if not Dwight, then who?
There will be no easy fixes this offseason as were the possibilities last year. No $30 million in salary cap space—no LeBron, Wade, Bosh, Johnson or Chicago's favorite, Carlos Boozer—to throw money at.
This offseason, the Bulls will have to get creative.
If it wasn't clear beforehand, it became crystal clear to even Stevie Wonder after the Heat series: The Bulls were in desperate need of more scoring. Miami isn't going anywhere anytime soon and in order to get past the NBA's version of wrestling's NWO the Bulls will need someone who can take some attention away from Derrick Rose.
With little money to spend and no one, great, expendable trading asset, Gar Forman will have his work cut out to add the final piece to a championship puzzle. We'll take our stab at it with five possible offeseason additions.
The return of Jamal Crawford to Chicago.
When Crawford was dealt almost eight years ago to the New York Knicks for Othella Harrington, Frank Williams, a 95-year-old Dikembe Mutombo and some guy named Trybanski, Bulls fans couldn't have been any happier. That's when you know things are bad.
Eight years ago, Jamal Crawford was a 23-year-old shoot-first, shoot-second and think-later point guard. Now Crawford is a 31-year-old shoot first, shoot-second, think-later shooting guard who has hit big shots in big games.
In one of the darker points in Bulls history, Bulls head coach Bill Cartwright—that's just scary typing—attempted to play Jamal Crawford as his starting point guard. Crawford never fit in the role and, rightfully so, had a rocky relationship with Bulls fans.
Moving on to competent coaching, Crawford has found a home as one of the game's best sixth men and "lightning in a bottle" players.
Offensively, Crawford would be a decent option next to Rose in the backcourt, with his ability to handle the ball, create for himself off the dribble and his three-point shooting. Defensively, it could get shaky, unless Rose improves as a defender. I've learned fairly quickly to never doubt anything Rose can do and wouldn't be surprised to seem him improve and emerge as an excellent perimeter defender.
Assuming the new salary cap figure remains somewhat similar to its current form, $58 million, and the Bulls do not re-sign any of their own upcoming free agents, the Bulls would be slightly over the cap. Using the mid-level exception, the Bulls could offer Crawford a deal worth about $5.2 million. For one to two years, Crawford would be a nice piece.
Crawford would have to take a substantial pay cut, but with the chance to play for a title in Chicago he might bite.
Hey, I'm trying.
While the name Nick Young will probably draw some moans and groans from the peanut gallery, the bottom line is Young can put the round orange thing in the sphere from distance (a skill asset that a lot of players on the Bulls couldn't do last year).
Young has good size—6'7", 210 pounds—ball-handling ability, can create his own shot and most importantly, is a near 40 percent shooter from the behind the arc. The worst player to have is a "shooter who can't shoot." Young is more of a scorer, but when he gets hot, he can definitely stroke it.
While Young has been labeled a reckless player in the past, I actually give him a pass on that. When you spend your NBA infancy being tutored by Gilbert Arenas, who can blame you? It's like blaming Britney Spears' kids if they turn out a little different. All these kids need is a little dose of mommy Reese Witherspoon and Nick Young just needs a good hug and some coaching from Tom Thibodeau.
As with Crawford—and for that matter, any player the Bulls sign this offseason—they will need to use the mid-level exemption. Young earned $2.6 million last year and stands to bring in $3.6 million this year if he exercises his player option. As a young player—I sadly feel the need to say no pun intended—Young will most likely opt in and set himself up for a big contract come 2012.
But there's always the chance an athlete can go for long-term security over the possibility of a future big payday. I doubt it though.
Marcus Thornton is a very intriguing options for the Bulls.
Thornton was the 43rd overall pick by the Hornets in 2009 and had a very solid rookie season averaging 14.5 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists in 26.0 minutes per game over 73 games and 17 starts. He struggled out of the gates this season, but after a deadline move to Sacramento, Thornton was given more playing time and averaged just over 21 points on 45 percent from the field and 37 percent from three.
There's a bit of Ben Gordon in Thornton, so while you know the good parts, the defense isn't pretty. But Thornton can score and that's what the Bulls need most. Thornton isn't a good defender, but he isn't Kyle Korver-bad. Has all the athletic tools to be a solid defender.
Signing Thornton could be difficult as the Sacramento Kings have already expressed interest in re-signing the 24-year-old guard. As an unrestricted free agent, the Kings can match any offer given to Thornton and with only the mid-level exception to spend, the Bulls cannot and wouldn't get into a bidding war for Thornton. The Kings have been in financial trouble lately and maybe won't be as willing to match an offer sheet to Thornton, as they say they will.
The Bulls could luck into a very good option through the buy-out of Richard Hamilton.
According to Chris Broussard of ESPN, the guy who's never been wrong, the Cleveland Cavaliers are working on a three-team deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Detroit Pistons that would bring them the top two picks in the draft. As part of the deal, Cleveland would receive Richard Hamilton and ultimately buy him out.
Well there you have it folks, we can all go home now.
O.K., this isn't the same Richard Hamilton who was once the mid-range version of Reggie Miller, but Hamilton is still a very good, solid, starting 2-guard, who would be a major offensive upgrade from Ronnie Brewer and Keith Bogans. Hamilton can defend 2s and 3s and wouldn't be a liability defensively.
Coming off a down year and some injuries, I could see Hamilton happily accepting a mid-level exception offer from the Bulls in hopes of another championship.
If you want to go big, you've got to give up bigs—literally.
If the Chicago Bulls want a premier, big-time scorer, that player is out there.
Averaging 24 points per game, Monta Ellis is a scorer most likely available as Jerry West, brought in as an advisor, has talked about the Warriors' small backcourt and need for impact frontcourt players.
Joakim Noah could fit the bill perfectly.
What? Trade Noah? You can't do that! NOOO!!
Well if you are serious about obtaining a backcourt player who can take pressure off Derrick Rose, there is no better available option. Ellis has been a big-time scorer for the Warriors and has shot the ball at a surprisingly high rate of 47 percent from the field. Ellis is more of a scorer than three-point marksmen, but he is serviceable at a 36 percent clip last season.
While Ellis and Rose would form a diminutive backcourt, they would be one of the fastest and most talented pound-for-pound backcourts in the league. With Ellis on the floor, the Bulls would not have to deal with Rose being trapped by the opposing team's guard. In many ways, Ellis is a better pure scorer than Rose and would give the Bulls a second crunch-time scorer.
For the Warriors, they would get that much-needed frontcourt impact player Jerry West spoke about. Noah runs the floor extremely well, is an excellent passer and if he can stay healthy and improve his finishing touch around the basket, could turn into an an All-Star center for the Warriors.
Noah would seem to fit nicely with Steph Curry, David Lee and Dorrell Wright. Finally, a defensive presence to the Warriors.
Salary-wise, Noah and Ellis make almost identical money, while Noah has two extra years to his deal.
It would be a risky move to break apart the core that led the Bulls to 62 wins in the regular season and an Eastern Conference finals berth and personally, I wouldn't be so quick to break them up, but the Bulls need scoring.
Whether it's a big move for Monta Ellis or a move on a smaller scale, the Bulls need scoring in a big way.