Derrick Rose needs a consistent scoring option at shooting guard.
After a surprising yet disappointing run in the 2010-2011 season, the Chicago Bulls are looking to create another dynasty that their fans have been seeking since the end of the Michael Jordan era. The Bulls came up just short of advancing to their first NBA finals since 1998 to the eventual runner-up Miami Heat.
The Bulls have an obvious need for a starting shooting guard. The combo of Keith Bogans, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver was highly scrutinized during the season. At the trade deadline, they failed to pull the trigger on players like Courtney Lee and OJ Mayo because they didn't want to give up their young, developing players Omer Asik and Taj Gibson.
So the Bulls kept their three-man rotation. Each player at shooting guard had their strengths, Korver with his streaky but highly clutch shooting (especially in the fourth quarter), Ronnie Brewer as the defensive specialist and Keith Bogans as the starter and possibly the most controversial starting two-guard for a contender in league history.
Although the Bulls finished with the league's best regular-season record, their shooting-guard trio was exploited by the Miami Heat's faster and quicker perimeter defense in the playoffs.
How can the Bulls upgrade their shooting guard position now that the option of drafting a shooting guard is closed?
After a disappointing year with the Magic, does J-Rich have enough left in the tank for the Bulls?
With Richardson making $14 million last season, signing him would take some maneuvering on the Bulls' part. However, he showed signs of age and produced at a lower level at the end of the 2010-2011 season, so he will likely sign for a much lower amount during free agency.
Richardson averaged 19.3 PPG and shot 42 percent from three-point range last season, but his points dropped to 13.9 per game after he was traded to Orlando.
As long as he stays healthy, the 30-year-old Richardson still has three to four more solid years in the NBA. With the Bulls, he could be the open guard draining threes when the defense inevitably collapses on Derrick Rose driving to the basket. The estimated cost of Jason Richardson would $5-8 million.
Chances of happening: The Bulls cannot afford to give Richardson more than $5-6 million. Derrick Rose will need a new max contract in a few years and the new CBA rules will probably lower the salary cap. If Richardson wants to win his first ring and play for a title-contending Bulls, he will have to accept less money.
Since Afflalo is a restricted free agent for the Nuggets, signing him would be a long shot because the Nuggets can match any offer from other teams. Afflalo is an up-and-coming shooting guard who will only be 26 at the start of the season. Nuggets coach George Karl loves his work ethic and ability to play both guard positions. If the Bulls forked out enough money to outbid the Nuggets, they would add a rising star to their already young and exciting starting lineup.
I think Afflalo would be a perfect fit in the Bulls system. He is a great shooter and also works hard on defense. He shot 50 percent from the field and over 42 percent from three-point range. Like Richardson, he is a legitimate threat from the perimeter and can drain open shots when defenses collapse on Rose in the key. As a young guy, he is still likely to accept a large, $8-10 million contract from the Nuggets before settling for a lower contract on a championship contender.
Chances of Happening: Pretty low. As much as I want this to happen, the Bulls would be spending way too much money that they will need in a few years to sign Derrick Rose to the max contract.
The Suns owe Vince Carter about $19 million this year. Considering he only averaged 13.5 PPG, they will most likely buy out his contract and let him go, leaving the Bulls open to sign the former superstar.
Carter was traded to the Suns after Jason Richardson left for Orlando. After 16 years in the NBA, Carter still does not have a ring. With his career winding down, he could be looking to take a hit on his salary for the chance to play for a deep-playoff team like the Bulls.
In spite of his age, Carter is still able to create his own shot and knock down the open three-pointer—two key offensive elements a player needs to complement Derrick Rose. If I were to pick between the two veterans from three-point range, I would go with Richardson.
Under Thib, I believe Carter could quickly adjust to the Bulls intense defensive pressure. He's still quick enough to battle on defense.
Carter is not my first choice for the Bulls, but there is no denying that he is an upgrade from Keith Bogans (nothing against Bogans I think he did a great job on defense last year).
Estimated Cost: $5-8 million
Chances of Happening: Medium-low.
The Nuggets are more likely to give away Smith than Afflalo, and they will most likely have to give up one of their guards.
Smith is one of the game's most exciting players and could become a fan favorite in Chicago—as long as he doesn't become a distraction.
If Smith truly wants to become a great player in the NBA and to get a ring, he better listen to Thib and Rose—two of the most championship hungry people in the league. JR Smith has the capability of being a good player in the NBA, but his ego controls his game. He shoots ridiculous shots that hurt Denver's offense and he gives up on defense. Neither can happen for him to be successful on the Bulls.
Under the control of Thib, Smith could become a two-way player in the NBA. He could learn to play team defense and to take the right shots during the game. Smith is an athletically gifted two-guard at 6' 6" and 220 Ibs. He is very capable of becoming a lock-down defender on defense and a very reliable second option on offense. As long as he is willing to learn and listen, there is no question in my mind that he could do great things in Chicago.
Estimated Cost: $5-8 million
Chance of Happening: It depends how well it goes in meetings with him. If he seems like a coachable player he could very well be suiting up to play here. If he shows any signs that he is unteachable to Thib there is no chance at all of him suiting up in a Bulls uniform.
Monta Ellis is a young and quick shooting guard who plays very similarly to Derrick Rose. He is capable of scoring 25 PPG,.
I have a few problems with Ellis. He is only 6’1”, making him much too short to guard efficiently against the likes of Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant. He also plays too much like Rose and the Bulls might have to give up Luol Deng to get him. Deng is Rose's Scottie Pippen and the team's best defensive player. Jimmy Butler, the Bulls' first-round draft pick, may be a good defensive player but he will not be able to fill the void left in Deng's wake if he's traded.
Estimated Cost: Luol Deng and a draft pick
Chance of Happening: Medium-Low
OJ Mayo was close to being traded at the deadline to the Indiana Pacers, and the Chicago Bulls were also in trade discussions with the Grizzlies. The Pacers had agreed to deal Josh McRoberts and their 2011 first round pick for Mayo, but the deal happened too late and the deadline had passed. However, the price to get OJ Mayo may have increased after his solid playoff performance.
Mayo is capable of shooting 40 percent from three and is still only 23 years old, so the Bulls could have a starting back court of a 22 and 23 year old.
There might not be a better fit for the Bulls in the backcourt. Under Thib, Mayo could become an excellent defender. He is still very young and capable of learning a new defensive scheme and maintaining that brutal constant pressure that the Bulls defense offers.
He has a bit of an attitude, but he's still a much better fit than Smith. The Bulls' great locker room atmosphere could influence him to constantly give his best effort on both sides of the floor.
Estimated Price: The Grizzlies could be looking for Asik if they can't afford to keep Marc Gasol and some draft picks (possibly the Charlotte first-round pick).
Chances of Happening: Time will tell how desperate the Bulls get before the season starts. Also, are they willing to give up their developing center in Asik? It might be perfect timing to give him up as Mirotic could be here in a couple years as a developed center. This is not the Bulls first choice, but it is definitely possible.
Don't forget that this trio was good enough to get the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals. Could it be that another summer of developing these players and nurture the team's chemistry could do the trick? I don't think the Bulls will bring back Keith Bogans, but I do think they will bring back Brewer and Korver. Korver hit clutch threes in the fourth quarter for the Bulls all season and Brewer has been a solid defender.
No one expected Bogans to do anything last year, but he was a dark horse on defense for the Bulls, as he did a great job in the playoffs guarding the Heat's perimeter offense. I have a lot of respect for him because he just did his job every night even with all of the scrutiny around him about him starting.
With him gone, the Bulls would have to sign another veteran like a Michael Redd or Rip Hamilton to fill out the rotation. Michael Redd is coming back from many surgeries and he has always been a deadly shooter from deep as long as he stays healthy. Hamilton is also a veteran who is a good all around player.
Estimated Cost: Maybe $3 million for Redd or Hamilton
Chances of Happening: Very possible. The Bulls could let this happen as they don't want to let their youth like Gibson and Asik leave. Look for the Bulls to possibly use Nikola Mirotic as trade bait if they don't want to wait for him or use the Charlotte first round pick. After all, their current lineup was good enough to get them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Some minor tweaking could help clinch them a title.