The Chicago Bulls had a successful season in 2010-11 and exceeded almost all expectations by winning 62 games and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals.
Through outstanding coaching from first-year head coach Tom Thibodeau, the team came together more quickly and better than anyone could have imagined, including management.
However, the ECF revealed what Bulls fans feared all year... that the Bulls are at least a shooting guard away from truly contending for a championship.
Since the final seconds of Game 5 of the ECF, Chicago management has been on notice that the Bulls need to do something to inject life into the shooting guard position and alleviate some of the scoring and playmaking burden on Derrick Rose's shoulders.
Sure, Keith Bogans played admirably as the starting shooting guard this past year and played great defense, but that was just not enough.
Though hitting an occasional three-point shot did keep some defenses honest, this Bulls team needs more play making and consistent scoring out of its shooting guard.
Chicago needs a two guard who can play defense, but more importantly it needs someone who can create his own shot and take scoring pressure of Derrick Rose.
These Bulls need a player who does more than knock down an open three. They need an offensive-minded player who makes defenses respect the three-point shot while also fearing that a one-on-one defender will be taken off the dribble and the Bulls guard will create for a teammate, finish strong at the rim or draw contact and get to the free throw stripe.
This article provides a comprehensive list of potentially available shooting guards that the Bulls should consider in order to take that final step to become a title favorite.
First things first though, the Bulls need to elect not to pick up Keith Bogans' team option before July 10 and save the $1.728 million owed for his 2011-12 salary. Bogans had a solid year as the Bulls starting shooting guard and is a lock down defender.
However, the Bulls are in a win-now mode with the contracts of Derrick Rose and Omar Asik expiring at the end of next year with big pay increases expected and with Taj Gibson due for a big raise the following year.
The Bulls need a shooting guard who can contribute offensively now and who is either a veteran who comes cheap or is young and in the long-term plans for the future.
Unfortunately for Bogans, he does fit that bill due to his offensive shortcomings. His best attribute is his defense, but he will be a step slower next year and does not provide anything offensively to make up for that extra lost step.
We already have Ronnie Brewer as our lock-down defender, so Bogans is expendable in that nature. Therefore, Chicago needs cut ties with Bogans and find an offensive weapon to round out the starting five.
This article breaks down 21 potentially available shooting guards who could fill the Bulls' void into four categories.
Category #1 - We understand you are available, but we're just not interested.
Category #2 - Money in your hand does not equal rings for the team.
Category #3 - Is the risk worth the reward, can you offer dollars on the penny?
Category #4 - Thank you sir, may I have another?
Each category starts out with the least desirable player in the group and advances to the most desirable.
Willie Green is an unrestricted free agent with the Hornets. He is a solid veteran who shoots a decent three ball, but does nothing else special.
He is nothing more than an average to below-average shooting guard and would be a limited-minute back-up at best.
Even if he came cheap, he would be a downgrade on the incumbent starter, Keith Bogans.
Eddie House is an unrestricted free agent if he decides not to exercise his $1.4 million player option for next year.
He will most likely pick up that option with the Heat even though he can stand to make more than $1.4 million in the open market as a combo guard who can score in bunches because that gives him the his best chance to win a second ring.
Regardless whether House picks up his team option, he would not be a good fit for the Bulls. Although his scoring in bunches and ability to create his own shot would be a welcome addition off the bench, Chicago is not looking for another bench player, and especially not one who is only 6'1" and does not play defense.
He only played in limited games this past season in New York, but has made a career of stepping up when the starting shooting guard goes down with an injury.
Unfortunately for Mason, he is nothing more than an insurance policy for a contending NBA team. The Bulls are a contending team, but are not looking for an insurance policy.
They already have superior talent in Brewer and Korver as backups and Mason would even be a downgrade from Bogans as the starter.
For the money, Bogans is a better defender and brings more to the table than RMJ for the Bulls.
Daequan Cook is a restricted free agent with Oklahoma City after they gave him a qualifying offer. Although Cook didn't play in 34 straight games early in the season, he averaged over 6 points and shot 45% from three-point range after getting into the rotation.
Although Cook showed the ability to space the floor by shooting 42 percent from three-point range on the season (making 65 of 154 attempts) in limited minutes, the Bulls need someone with more overall offensive talent and scoring ability out of the starting shooting guard spot.
Overall, he is a solid defender and has shown a knack to knock down the three ball, but the fact is that Oklahoma City can match any offer Chicago could make and he just doesn't bring enough to the table for the Bulls to really be interested unless he comes very cheap (which isn't going to happen).
Rodney Stuckey was tendered a $3.8 million qualifying offer from the Detroit Pistons, making him a restricted free agent. Stuckey would be the most interesting and best option from this category of players for the Bulls to pursue.
He is still relatively young at 25 years old and should continue to grow and get better. Although Stuckey played the point in Detroit, it looks as though he would be a solid combo guard and could provide Rose with needed scoring help, another ball handler and the ability to play off the ball when he is on is on the court.
Stuckey scored over 15 points per game last year, shooting 44% from the field and over 86% from the charity stripe. However, a major downside is that he only shot 29% from downtown.
Would Detroit get into a bidding war for Stuckey if the Bulls offered more than $3.8 million? Probably not, now that the Pistons drafted Brandon Knight as their point guard of the future. The real questions are whether Stuckey is worth $4 million per year and whether he could succeed as a shooting guard, especially in a starting role.
He definitely has the ability to score and make plays and at 6'5" certainly has the size and speed to play the shooting guard spot. However, for the money, I think the Bulls would rather take a gamble on fellow more established Pistons, T-Mac or Rip Hamilton, as explored later.
Shannon Brown has a player option with the Lakers for $2.4 million next season, but all signs indicate that he will decline the option and test free agency as an unrestricted free agent.
Brown is a uber-athletic and explosive shooting guard with a strong ability to attack the rim. His athleticism helps to cover up other flaws in his game, but he has never been much more than a backup.
Brown only plays limited minutes behind Black Mamba for the Lake-Show, but he has been improving his three-point shot over the past couple seasons in an effort to become a more complete player.
The former Chicagoan has a decent mid-range game that has been progressing over the past two years and can create his own shot which would benefit Chicago. This means that Brown would be a solid addition to the Bulls back court, but not for the money that he thinks he is worth.
I'm confident that fans would love the all-Chicago back court that would be created with Brown and Rose playing side by side.
And rest assured that he is sure to give fans the bang for the buck in terms of highlight plays, but I am not sold that he would give the bang for the buck in terms of being the missing piece at the starting shooting guard spot in the rotation.
Overall, Brown is a solid player who possesses some upside, but I don't think he is the guy this team needs as its full-time starter.
J.R. Smith is an unrestricted free agent with the Nuggets and provides instant offense, which has made him a common topic among Bulls theorists. In my mind, he shouldn't be, though.
When you think of Smith, think Ben Gordon, only not as offensively potent. He is more athletic than Gordon and a little better defender, but does not have the same shot making ability.
Smith should be available to the Bulls at a price of $5 million-$7 million per year, but does he have what it takes to be a starting shooting guard or is he just a superb backup? I would argue that he is not the answer for the Bulls, as he has a history of not playing within the flow of the offense and not playing within himself.
Don't get me wrong, he can score in bunches, is a quality three-point shooter and adds lots of energy, but that is a role for a bench player.
Smith would surely add another offensive level to the bench mob and his defensive shortcomings could be hidden by stellar defense from teammates, but Chicago needs a reliable starting two guard, not an offensive loose cannon.
When considering whether Smith will be in a Bulls uniform next year, see management's decision to trade him away the moment he was traded to Chicago a couple years ago and its decision to let Ben Gordon walk away in free agency two years ago.
And no, I will not be addressing Ben Gordon and whether the Bulls should try to trade for him. That would be a terrible idea.
Another name that has been gaining steam in the media as a potential Bulls target is Jason Richardson.
However, Orlando's drafting of of Kentucky shooting guard DeAndre Liggins and figuring in the contract that the Magic gave J.J. Redick last year, it does not appear that Orlando will be bringing Richardson back.
J-Rich has made a career of being an above-average three-point shooter who has the ability to space the floor, which is one of the Bulls' biggest needs. He is also an average defender and still a pretty good athlete who has some ability to create his own shot, but is he worth the money that he will be looking for in free agency?
Richardson will probably be seeking a contract of around 3-4 years at around $8 million-$12 million per year. One final big payday for a player whose best years are behind him.
For what he would bring to the table and the amount of money the Bulls are going to be spending with the contracts of Rose, Asik and Gibson needing to be renewed in the next two years, I don't think he is a long-term solution.
He would be a decent option if he were willing to take a two-year contract at the mid-level exception or slightly higher, but that is not going to happen. The fact is that he thinks he is worth more than he is worth at this stage in his career and some GM will overpay to obtain his services... just not the Bulls.
Jamal Crawford is yet another one of the names that keeps popping up in Bulls free agent rumors as the answer to the shooting guard vacancy. He is an unrestricted free agent and brings a lot to the table as a savvy veteran.
The former Bull is exactly what Chicago needs in terms of offensive firepower. He is a very good scorer, has the ability to space the floor with strong three-point shooting and is a solid free-throw shooter.
Crawford can also handle the rock and can create his own shot, which is something that the Bulls need as much if not more than three-point shooting.
The problem is that he is not the type of player who is looking for his best chance to win a championship, not yet at least.
Jamal sees this as his last chance to get paid. Crawford will be looking for a big payday and like Richardson, some GM will pony upwards of $7 million-$10 million a year for the services of the former sixth man of the year.
At the end of the day, that is what Crawford is... a sixth man. Crawford brings size and the scoring punch to be a starter, but being that he is on the wrong side of 30 and is looking to get paid, he too is not the answer to the Bulls shooting guard dilemma.
Out of this group, I think DeShawn Stevenson has the best chances of ending up a Bull, though not a good chance. Stevenson is an unrestricted free agent from the champion Mavericks.
It does not appear that he is in Dallas' future plans with its draft day trade with Portland that brought Rudy Fernandez to the team.
Dallas now has JET, Fernandez and will probably have Caron Butler returning from injury next year to fill Stevenson's minutes and rumor has it that he wants too much money for them to afford his return.
Stevenson would be a strong addition to the Bulls as the starting shooting guard, playing the majority of the regular season last year as the Mavericks' starter.
He is a tenacious defender who will not back down from anyone, including the likes of LeBron and Wade. Stevenson also has the ability to space the floor for Rose with excellent three-point shooting.
Overall, he is an athletic wing and has proven he will not shy down from the moment, but as another 30-plus-year-old player looking to get paid, he would not be the best fit for the Bulls.
If, and this is a big if, Stevenson were willing to take the mid-level exception or close to it, he would be a welcome addition as Rose's starting back court mate, but that isn't going to happen.
Anthony Parker is an unrestricted free agent from the Cavaliers. He was a big topic of rumor at the trade deadline last year as the possible missing piece of the Bulls playoff run. However, Cleveland wanted too much in a trade for his services and the Bulls weren't biting.
He is another solid veteran with size, above-average defensive abilities and a penchant for making threes. The fact is that Parker has had some injury concerns, is getting older, has lost a step and was never that great of a player to begin with.
He could probably be had by the Bulls at very decent price, but at this point in his career, is he anything better than the end-of-the-rotation backup? I don't think so and I doubt Chicago management does, either.
Even if Parker comes at a very cheap price, he isn't an upgrade on Bogans and will not be a Bull next year.
Michael Redd represents the first player of the 10 best options for the Bulls in finding the missing piece at shooting guard.
Redd is a deadly three-point shooter and a true scorer, but at this point in his career after the past couple seasons of injuries derailing almost full seasons, will Redd ever resemble the player he once was?
For the better half of a decade, Redd was one of the best two guards in the NBA and was as good as it gets offensively. He had leadership, experience and almost never missed an open jumper.
If he were able to play at a level even close to his pre-injury form now, he could be a low risk, very high reward player.
Unlike many players on this list, Redd has made his money. He is finishing out a massive contract with the Bucks that saw him making $18 million per year.
That is good news for Bulls fans, because it is believed that Redd would now be willing to play for a true title contender at the mid-level exception or lower if the circumstances were right. In Chicago, circumstances are right.
He knows he could be the missing piece. Redd could start the season on the bench backing up Brewer. If he gets his legs under him and proves to be what the Bulls hope he could be, Redd would move into the starting shooting guard spot towards the end of the year and playoffs.
Redd would be extremely valuable to the Bulls as a deadly three-point and outside shooter who could space the floor. Defenders would not be able to sag off him to help on Rose, because Redd would make them pay.'
The big question with Redd would be whether his knees could hold up and whether he has lost too many steps to be an effective team defender and play maker.
That remains to be seen, but the fact is that if he comes at a cheap enough price, say $1 million-$4 million per year, it would be hard for the Bulls to pass up on that chance with his shooting ability.
I don't think he will be Chicago's first option as a free agent, but he will certainly generate interest and will be considered by management if they can't obtain the services of a younger scorer or someone with less uncertainty at a decent price.
For the money, Redd could be lightning in a bottle.
Vince Carter's name has been popping up a lot recently due to talks that the Suns will be buying out the final year of his contact. If that in fact happens, will Vinsanity be willing to sign for a mid-level exception or less to play for a contender?
Much like Redd, Carter has made his money and probably isn't looking to get paid, so odds are that he will be trying to hook up with a true championship-contending team.
The Bulls certainly qualify as that type of team, especially since Vince would be able to join the Bulls as the starter and not a backup which would help his ego.
He is coming off a down year for his standards scoring, only 14 points per game, but even his down year would be a significant upgrade offensively for the Bulls at the two guard spot.
Carter is a big shooting guard and used to be a human highlight reel (of film). Now that he is a step slower, he still makes some amazing plays, but he isn't quite as athletic and dynamic as he once was.
Still, Carter has the ability to create his own shot whenever necessary and take pressure off of Rose in that regard. He can handle the rock and provide the Bulls with another reliable ball handler when Rose is on or off the court.
Carter is not a lights out three point shooter, but he shoots a more than respectable 37% for his career, which would help space the floor. He also has the ability to knock down the open jumper whenever left alone, which will keep defenses honest.
The biggest negative and question that remains for Vince is his dedication to winning and his ability to play defense. He has never been known as a defensive stopper, but he has the size and still enough of the athleticism to be a very strong team defender under Thibs' coaching.
Look at what Thibs did for Ray Allen when he came over to Boston. I believe that Coach T could do the same for Vince if he is willing to buy into the team defense and work hard defensively.
Chicago coaching and pressure from teammates should offer Carter the motivation to play both ends of the floor and work hard to win like he did after changing from the Raptors to the Nets, but is he still that player? Probably not.
But, if he could have that same type of rebirth in Chicago as he did in New Jersey even at a diminished level, he could be the missing piece.
Like the other vets in this category, it all comes down to price. He certainly has the upside, but is it worth the risk? You have to think that Bulls management will take a long hard look at Carter if he hits the open market.
Another intriguing player who used to be as dynamic and great of a player as Carter is former two-time scoring champion Tracy McGrady. He is an unrestricted free agent after a solid year with the Pistons.
Last season when T-Mac was making his comeback, he worked out for the Bulls and almost signed on as their shooting guard. The only problem was that McGrady felt he was a starter and the Bulls were not sold on that yet.
Chicago management feared that he would be discontent without starting and could be a locker room problem. As it ended up, the Bulls passed on his services and Detroit signed T-Mac at a great price for the boost he provided in an otherwise lackluster season for the Pistons.
McGrady ended up running the point in Motown the second half of the season at a time when the Pistons were playing their best ball.
He played through the ups and downs of the season, the coaching problems and moving in and out of the starting lineup without issue, which is a good sign for the Bulls. Chicago was close to signing him last year, but passed on it due to uncertainty about T-Mac's play and mindset.
Now, the Bulls could have another option to sign him, but it will cost a little more than it did last year. That isn't necessarily a bad thing since there is less uncertainty about his game and abilities. McGrady is a proven scorer and showed last year that he can also be a facilitator.
Even at an older age, T-Mac can still score and create his own shot. He also possesses the ability to play some point and handle the ball when Rose is on or off the court.
McGrady isn't the greatest three-point shooter available, but he shoots a respectable clip and can still keep defenses honest and spread the floor without being a sharpshooter from long range.
Like Redd and Carter, T-Mac is a former superstar who could be signed at a modest contract and be a player who could contribute as a starter now and help the Bulls title chances immediately.
The biggest question in my mind is whether McGrady would be willing to consider signing with the Bulls a year after feeling slighted by the same team. I think he will consider it and the Bulls should, too.
The final player in the low risk, high reward category is probably the best fit for the Bulls out of the five, but is also the hardest to acquire. The third Detroit Piston on this list is Rip Hamilton, who is not available as a free agent, but rather could be had for the right trade offer.
This past year there was a lot of Hamilton trade chatter and even a potential deal with the Cavaliers, which would have afforded Hamilton the chance to obtain his walking papers. Problem was that he didn't want to take a buyout for the amount Cleveland wanted, and the trade fell through.
That in itself is a warning sign because money was an issue to Rip. Then again, it might not be as big a concern for the Bulls, because he has already made his money and may only be after a second championship ring were he to find his way out of Detroit.
This year will be the final year of Rip's deal, which makes his expiring contract an asset to the Pistons. I think this means that odds are he will not be moved before the season starts unless a great offer is made and Detroit will wait until the year-end trade deadline when his value may be highest to a contender or as an expiring contract.
Regardless, Hamilton offers the Bulls almost everything they need to win now.
Championship experience, check.
Ability to start at shooting guard, check.
Above-average defender able to defend big guards, check.
Quality outside shooter able to keep teams honest, check.
Good three-point shooter at 38% last year, check.
The only attribute that Hamilton probably does not have the Bulls need is the ability to create his own shot. Though he would be an upgrade over Bogans and Chicago's other shooting guards in this regard, he isn't going to put pressure on defenses the way other potential two guards could in terms of attacking the basket and isn't really known as a ball handler.
That being said, Hamilton would offer an immediate upgrade and would make the Bulls a well-rounded starting five. If he can find his way out of Detroit and acquire his walking papers, it is assumed Chicago would be one of his top destinations. And in that case, he would probably come at quite a bargain price.
However, if the Bulls needed to trade to acquire his services, he probably would cost them a future first round pick or a young player and a second round pick.
Is he worth that much to Chicago? Probably not unless it is a deadline deal where the Pistons have picked up most of his 2011-12 salary and the Bulls are just paying the prorated remainder.
Overall, it looks as though Rip is a true wait-and-see candidate.
The first player in the category of guys who fit the Bulls needs the best and would be a strong building blocks for the future of the team is Courtney Lee. He is not a free agent, so the only way that the Bulls could acquire him is through a trade with Houston.
Chicago attempted to obtain the services of the three point shooting defensive minded Lee at last year's trade deadline, but were unwilling to part with center Omar Asik and so the deal fell through.
There is a generally accepted rule of thumb in the NBA that you never trade good bigs for smalls unless it is an absolutely slam dunk deal because quality bigs are much harder to come by than quality wings. The Bulls stuck with that philosophy and held on to Asik at the expense of not acquiring Lee.
Good move, in my mind. Not that Asik is untouchable if the right shooting guard became available, but just not for Lee's services. He just doesn't have enough upside.
Sure, he can shoot the three and space the floor, he can play solid defense and has played in the NBA finals, however, he is not "special" enough to warrant a trade for the big Turk.
Lee had a strong season last year from behind the arc hitting at a clip of almost 41% and provided his usual above-average defensive support. And although he can space the floor with that outside shooting, can he handle the ball well enough and create his own offense? It doesn't appear so.
He is young, entering only his fourth season and is big enough at 6'5" to defend the larger guards, but he just doesn't seem to have enough of the offensive firepower to really make the difference Chicago needs.
Without a doubt, he would be a more than a welcome addition if the Bulls could get him in a swap for Korver, Bogans, a draft pick or even a combination of those, but I don't see that happening.'
Therefore, unless Lee all of a sudden becomes an explosive offensive weapon over the summer, he will never be worth trading Gibson or Asik and odds are that he will not be in a Bulls uniform next year.
The next player who has been stirring up a lot of trade rumors around the NBA as of late and especially regarding the Bulls is Monta Ellis.
He is not a free agent, but it looks as though his days in a Warriors uniform are numbered with the addition of Klay Thompson by Golden State in the first round of this year's draft and his seemingly similar skill set to current back court mate Stephen Curry.
Ellis is a much flashier and dynamic guard compared with Curry, but Curry seems a better fit to run the point and general the Warriors going forward. Though they can play together, they create a very small back court and neither excels in the defensive department.
With the amount of money tied up in Ellis for the next two to three years and the amount he will require when his contract finishes, Curry gives the Warriors a better chance to build their team for the future.
That is where the Bulls come in. They are built to win now and are potentially a shooting guard away from hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy. The two questions that pop up next are: why would Chicago want Ellis? and What would it cost the Bulls to get him?
The first question is simple. He is one of the most dynamic and explosive offensive players in the game and a clear cut top 5 shooting guard in the NBA.
Positives: elite scorer at 24 points per game, solid shooting percentage at 45%, good three point shooter at 36%, decent free throw shooter at 79%, proven ability to create his own shot, dishes out over 5.5 assists per game and has an above average ability to handle the ball.
Negatives: Small size at 6'3" and only 185 pounds, just outside the top 10 in the NBA last year in turnover rate, can hog the ball, doesn't always play within the flow of the offense and is a questionable defender.
Looking at the positives and negatives, I would argue that Ellis would be worth pursuing if the trade price is not too high. Many of his negatives could potentially be improved by joining the Bulls.
With Rose in the back court, Ellis would not be handling the ball nearly as much which would reduce his turnovers and decrease the chances of the ball getting stuck in his hands.
More importantly, though he is not considered a great defender, he averaged over 2 steals per game last year and could probably benefit from playing in a very strong team defense.
Again, think Ray Allen when he joined Boston under the Thibs coaching and how he transformed from an ole' defender to a very respectable team defender...only better.
Could Ellis be the missing piece to a championship? It would appear so, but at what cost? Yes, he would instantly make the Bulls the most explosive and probably the best offensive back court in the NBA and yes he would take pressure off of Rose in the scoring and playmaking department. But again, at what cost?
Would it be worth making a trade knowing that he is owed $11 million per year for the next 2 years with a $11 million dollar player option in year 3 that he will opt out of unless he is not playing well and wouldn't be worth $11 million a year? Is it worth what the Bulls would have to give up in a trade to acquire him? Maybe.
It would all depend on whether Golden State insists on Noah heading west, which I believe they would. The Bulls would want to find a way to dump Boozer, but I don't see that happening with GSW signing David Lee to a big contract last year.
If you were the Bulls, would you insist on the Warriors including Dorell Wright in the deal if Noah had to be part of the swap? Could the teams agree on a swap of Ellis ($11 million) and Wright ($3.8 million) for Noah ($10 million), Korver ($5 million) and Jimmy Butler or the Charlotte first round pick?
I would suggest that this would be a fair trade for both teams if the Bulls were willing to part ways with Noah. The Warriors certainly seem poised to trade Ellis and the Bulls most definitely need a scoring shooting guard.
The Warriors would be losing a scorer in Ellis (which they may no longer have room for with the log-jammed back court) and a solid all around wing player in Wright, but would be bringing in a high octane defensive minded anchor to improve the team defense and to play alongside Lee in Noah, a three0point shooter in Korver and a defensive minded wing replacement for Wright on a rookie pay scale in Butler.
Not sure either side would jump on this trade, but to me this seems like the best and only deal that would land Ellis in a Bulls uniform without Boozer taking his talents to the Golden State.
Marcus Thornton is another young player who seems to be hitting his stride at just the right time. He recently received a qualifying offer from the Kings, which means the Bulls would have to get into a bidding war if they want to make a play for this restricted free agent.
Thornton is entering his third year in the league on a positive note. After a lackluster start to the season with the Hornets, he was dealt to Sacramento before the deadline and his stats really began to take off.
Thornton averaged 21 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in 27 games with the Kings shooting at a respectable clip of 45% from the field and 36% from downtown.
He has exhibited a strong all-around game during his first two years in the NBA and is a solid defender with decent size at 6'4". He looks to be an elite scorer and had a very low turnover rate this past year.
His outside shooting could help space the floor for Rose, and his scoring ability would be a welcome punch from the shooting guard spot.
Overall, there is not a lot to dislike about this kid. At 24, he is just getting started in the NBA and looks to have a lot more room to improve over the next couple of seasons.
The biggest problem with trying to sign Thornton is that Sacramento has a lot of money under the salary cap and seems poised to sign the young two guard seeing him as one of the building blocks of their future along with Evans and Cousins.
However, you just never know. Maybe there is still a slim chance for the Bulls since the Kings drafted Jimmer Fredette even though it doesn't appear that Fredette has the tools to be a starting shooting guard in the NBA.
Will the Kings somehow shy away from paying Thornton what he is worth if the price gets to high with Jimmer in the wings? Probably not. And if they cant afford him, how could the Bulls?
As much as Thornton would be a great fit for the Bulls, I don't see it happening.
The second Nugget on the list is a great all-around player and would be a very welcome addition to the Bulls unlike the first one. Arron Afflalo has been offered a qualifying tender of $2.9 million from Denver and is now a restricted free agent.
He is a young, high-character player the Bulls should covet and here is why. The soon to be fourth year shooting guard plays strong defense, has good size at 6'5" to defend the likes of Wade, shoots well from the floor at 50%, from downtown at 42% and from the charity stripe at 85%.
Afflalo also has a reputation of being a good locker-room guy and an extremely hard worker, which is exactly what the Bulls need and not a lot of other players can offer. A pairing of Rose with Afflalo would create a back court tandem for the Bulls that would be set to thrive for the next half decade.
His skills would complement Rose beautifully and he would immediately be an upgrade over Bulls incumbents.
Of course Chicago will be interested, but will they be able to afford his services especially if Denver gets into a bidding war with the Bulls? Probably not. Afflalo stands to get a 3-5 year contract in the neighborhood of $6 million-$9 million per year.
Is he worth the money? I would think so. Do the Bulls have the money? Probably not unless they are able to find a taker for either Brewer or Korver's services, which would require some crafty maneuvering.
My suggestion would be to try and convince Charlotte to trade DJ Augustin and the Gerald Wallace trade exemption for Korver and Charlotte's first round pick back.
The Bobcats drafted Kemba Walker because they don't see a future with Augustin and rumor has it that they want their pick back. Would taking on Korver's contract be asking too much to get their pick back? I don't think so.
If the Bulls could pull off that deal, they could clear extra money this year to sign Afflalo (or another quality young shooting guard for that matter, see Marcus Thornton or Nick Young) and have the option to resign either Augustin or Watson at the end of next year when both players' contracts run out.
The extra cash saved on dumping Korver could be used to set the Bulls up for the future, as Afflalo is one of the top four potential shooting guards that the Bulls could acquire to improve at the two guard spot now and for the future (along with Thornton, Nick Young and OJ Mayo).
If there is any chance of acquiring Afflalo, the Bulls should investigate every possible option of getting it done.
Another young player entering his fourth year in the league is restricted free agent Nick Young of the Washington Wizards. Young just completed what many have considered a breakout season that Wizard fans have been waiting for since he was drafted three years ago.
Young set career highs in minutes played and points per game at over 17 as the starting shooting guard for a Wizards team that didn't have a lot to play for last season. He shot a respectable 44% from the floor and a solid 38% from behind the arc along with a decent free throw rate of almost 82%.
Though he is a big shooting guard at 6'7" and he is very athletic, he does not have a reputation of being a defensive minded player.
The biggest knock on Young which keeps him from potentially being the top free agent shooting guard is his defense and his seeming disregard for putting in effort on both ends of the floor.
Can he become a good defender and does he have the tools if he focuses on defense? Yes. Would Coach Thibs be the guy to get it out of him if anyone could? Probably.
However, that is one of the biggest risks with signing him to a contract. Young did prove that he could score on a regular basis this year, but was it a break out season where a team like the Bulls should invest a good chunk of money on a player with concerns on the defensive end or was it simply a product of being on a bad team without a lot of offensive weapons where he had free range offensively?
If that is the case then should we wonder the same thing about his defense and was that too simply the product of being on a bad team with players like Andray Blatche who don't care about defense?
Those are probably the same questions that NBA execs will have to ponder this summer when deciding whether it is worth paying Young what he will be worth in the open market.
I would argue that based on the strong locker room presence in Chicago and the way the team came together last year that if Young is going to improve defensively, this is the team he could do it on.
Even if he doesn't have all the defensive skills to be great on both ends of the floor, his size and quickness should allow him to play very good team defense.
His ability to space the floor and create his own shot would be a big improvement for the Bulls starting five and even if he doesn't have the greatest set of defensive skills, the Bulls team defense could help that.
I am not totally sold on Young, but he is one of those players who could be an All-Star next year if the circumstances were right.
Ultimately, he will probably end up with the Wizards, but that does not mean Chicago management should not be doing their homework and considering signing this young player who could end up being that missing piece.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to how much money he commands compared to other free agent shooting guards in this category and whether the Wiz are the only team that can afford him.
The final player on the list is considered by many (including me) to be the very best fit for the Bulls, especially after his performance in the 2011 playoffs. O.J. Mayo is a dynamic scorer and showed the ability to be an above-average defender towards the end of the year and throughout the playoffs.
This former runner-up to rookie of the year Derrick Rose had a tremendous rookie year and followed it up with a very solid second year. However, he took steps back offensively last year and was the discussion of much trade talk at last year's trade deadline.
The Bulls made a play for Mayo before their playoff run in 2011, but Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley is rumored to have a strong dislike for Bulls' ownership and does not want to deal with Chicago.
The Pacers had a deal worked out for Mayo's services, which would have sent Josh McRoberts and the Pacers 2011 first-round pick in a swap for the shooting guard, but that deal never consummated in time to beat the deadline.
After the trade deadline passed, Mayo picked up his game and finished out the regular season and playoffs very strongly, prompting Memphis management and fans to want to stick with him for the long haul. Memphis ownership and management are steadfast in their position that they will not be trading Mayo, but realistically they cannot afford to keep his services after this year and don't want him walking away for nothing.
Memphis has big money tied up in Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley and will soon have to pony up for Marc Gasol. That means that they will not be able to afford Mayo, especially when they already have depth at the wing position with Xavier Henry, Tony Allen and 2011 draft pick Josh Selby who could be lottery talent taken in the second round.
What does all that mean? It means that although Memphis is saying Mayo is unavailable, that probably isn't true and is just being used to increase his trade value.
Memphis needs to shed money this year to be able to offer Gasol the contract he will command and knows it does not have the money to re-sign Mayo after this year anyway. Therefore, the smart bet is that he will be moved this summer.
To where though? Probably not Indiana anymore since they traded for George Hill to run the point, will start Rush at the two guard and may try to move Darren Collison for more help.
Memphis will not be interested in taking on another point guard in Collison with Conley having a substantial contract so they would seem out of the mix.
The Bulls, however, would still be very interested and have the Charlotte pick and their own pick to offer along with Kyle Korver who could space the floor for the Griz. The wings that the Grizzlies currently have on their roster are very athletic, but aren't the deadly shooter Korver has proven to be over the past half decade.
The salaries of Korver and Mayo would match nicely and Memphis could use one or two first-round picks from the Bulls for next year to bring in young players with rookie scale contracts to fill in around Gay, Z-Bo, Conley and Gasol.
It would be a good strategy moving Mayo to build for the future, but will Grizzlies' ownership put aside hatred for the Bulls to make a deal? That remains to be seen.
Many of you may be asking is Mayo worth it. The answer is simply, YES.
Mayo's offense has never really been questioned even during his down year. Mayo is a natural scorer averaging over 16 points for his career, shoots at a respectable 44% and can certainly create his own shot.
Mayo's ability to handle the ball and create off the dribble would also provide the Bulls with another scoring threat, another ball handler to take pressure off of Rose, a player who isn't afraid to take it to the hole and get fouled (shoots a solid 83% from the charity stripe) and he would provide the Bulls with two dynamic scorers in the back court. Mayo also possesses the ability spread the floor as he is a career 38% three point shooter.
The questions are more of his character, defense and work ethic. However, his post-trade deadline play gives a lot of hope in response to those questions.
He bounced back from early season off-court distractions, constant trade talk and bouncing in and out of the starting lineup to finish the year strongly and on a positive note. Not only did his offense bounce back, but he showed the ability to be an above average if not a lock-down defender during the playoffs.
If Mayo can bring that kind of energy and two-way play to the Bulls, why wouldn't we want him? In my mind, Mayo is the guy with the most to offer the Bulls and would be the missing piece to a championship. Again, the question is whether Memphis would make a deal.
Here is a wild suggestion if the Griz wouldn't take the deal I mentioned before. Offer Noah.
I know, why would we do that? Here is the scenario. If the Griz can't seem to find a way to sign Gasol (which I am sure they will) what do they do? Or what if the Griz like the defense and energy Noah offers more than the skills of Gasol?
Maybe the Bulls offer a sign and trade for Noah, Korver and the Bulls two first round picks next year for Gasol and Mayo. In this trade Memphis gets Korver to replace Mayo's outside shooting and two first round picks to rebuild.
The only difference in this trade is that they get a defensive anchor in Noah to play alongside the offensive minded and highly skilled Z-Bo. Together they would make the kind of offense-defense pairing that the Bulls hoped would have transpired with Noah and Boozer. Plus, they wouldn't lose Gasol for nothing.
Why would the Bulls do this? Well, they would get a top notch shooting guard and a very good up and coming center who is much more offensively gifted than Noah. The Bulls would also still have a defensive minded center in Asik to back up Gasol. Win, win.
Will this trade happen? Almost certainly not. But, if Memphis can't find a way to sign Gasol or would rather have a defensive anchor next to Z-Bo, maybe just maybe it could be an option.
Either way, with or without Gasol, Chicago management needs to find a way to pry Mayo from Memphis. Bottom line, Mayo has the best chance of being the missing piece to another Chicago championship and the Bulls need to get it done at almost any cost.