Since the start of the NBA season, Chicago Bulls fans were clamoring about the lack of a competent shooting guard on the roster. Keith Bogans started for the entire season and certainly picked up his game toward the end of the year.
Still, it wasn't enough.
At this point, the Bulls have a MVP point guard, defensive-minded center, a "glue guy" small forward and a low-post presence at power forward, backed by a strong bench. That is a championship lineup right there, with just one glaring omission: a shooting guard who can score.
The Bulls are just one player away from hoisting the trophy at the end of the season, and here is, thanks to the article idea from Matt Donnelly, a list of 10 players who would put them over the top.
In a list of 10 shooting guards who could put the Bulls in the NBA Finals, a couple names immediately come to mind.
Dwyane Wade is one, Andre Iguodala another. Monta Ellis is another.
Of course, each will not be traded to the Bulls, for obvious reasons. You can read about why Ellis will not join the Bulls here.
For this list, each option realistically could be added to the Bulls through free agency and the Mid-Level Exception, or a trade. Whether or not the player will actually be added remains up for debate. Hopefully this slideshow will lead to plenty of discussion in the comments section.
And remember, these just aren't additions that will improve the Bulls, these are players that will take them over the top.
Finally, what constitutes a player who would put the Bulls over the top?
I'm looking at a few key areas, mainly offensive and defensive abilities. Defensive ability is important, because the Bulls won't be interested in a player who is a lazy defender. Offensive ability is measured mainly in the player's ability to score.
The player the Bulls start at shooting guard won't score 20 points a game, especially in a backcourt with Derrick Rose. All the Bulls really need out of the two guard spot to compete for a NBA Championship is 12-16 points a night. Therefore, contributions in that range would land the player a spot on this list.
An obvious first choice, Jamal Crawford is one of the best scorers off the bench in the NBA. As a Bull, he would start alongside Derrick Rose and be part of an elite backcourt that could combine for 40 points a night.
As a Hawk last year, Crawford averaged 14 points per game, right within the range the Bulls need. He also shot 35 percent from long range last season.
But Crawford only played around 30 minutes per game. It's not a stretch to consider he could score around 16 or more if he started.
True, he is not the youngest player on this list, and he certainly did not leave Chicago on good terms, but he might be interested in returning. As his career is slowly winding down, it stands to reason Crawford would want to be on a championship competitor.
Despite his scoring ability and the fact that he might want to join a competitor, his price tag might be too high for the Bulls to pay.
But if he were to come to Chicago, a championship is sure to follow.
Of all the players on this list, Arron Afflalo is the best long-term fit for the Bulls.
The first benefit is his age; Afflalo is only 25 years old. He will be a quality player in this league for years to come.
With good size at 6'5'' and a quality jump shot, Afflalo is an efficient player who can find ways to get the ball into the hoop. Yet, he is not an O.J. Mayo-type player who demands the ball and will take possessions away from Derrick Rose.
Afflalo is a shooter, converting 50 percent of his shots from the field, and an incredible 42 percent of his three's. Yet, he still can put the ball on the floor and create something. He is also a tenacious defender who will put in the effort Tom Thibodeau demands.
The combination of his age and shooting makes Afflalo incredibly appealing. He can be a long-term solution to receive open looks from defenses collapsing on Derrick Rose for years. Afflalo scored 12.6 points a game last year, so it's not a stretch to believe he can score 15 or more as a starter.
The best overall fit for the Bulls in terms of skill set, ability, defensive effort and intangibles, Afflalo easily could be the difference-maker who leads to a Chicago championship.
His salary would be a problem, though.
Afflalo is a free agent, but is restricted. The Bulls would have to offer a contract that could be matched, similar to what happened with J.J. Redick. Since Afflalo is a fan favorite in Denver, the Bulls would have to throw huge money his way for the Nuggets to let him go.
Another Nuggets two guard who could instantly make the Bulls a championship favorite, the league's "attitude boy" is an unrestricted free agent this year.
Whenever free agency comes around, Smith will likely be available. The Nuggets cannot keep both Afflalo and Smith, and logic dictates they keep Afflalo.
The reason: Smith is toxic.
He fights with teammates, argues with coaches and is a terrible influence in the locker room. If he ever gets benched by Thibodeau, he won't take it well.
And despite all of his issues, he would make the Bulls the championship favorite for years. A career 39 percent shooter from three-point land and an ESPN highlight machine with his dunks, Smith would come in and add some pizazz to the two guard spot.
His average of 12.3 points per game isn't too bad itself.
If the Bulls bring Smith in, Gar Paxson should bring in Kurt Thomas again. If I were Thibs, I would have KT babysit Smith the entire season to keep him under control, and if Thomas can do so, Smith's shooting, dunking and scoring will get the Bulls into the NBA Championship.
Nick Young burst onto the scene this year while playing alongside a young, extremely athletic point guard. As a restricted free agent, the Bulls could come in and put him next to an even better point guard.
Young is one of the best-kept secrets in the NBA; no one seems to realize he averaged 17 points per game last year. That scoring would be perfect for the Bulls and would certainly make them title favorites.
Young is a big guard at 6'7'' and can easily score in the paint, whether in a half-court set or transition. Even better, he is a 39 percent shooter from long range. With Derrick Rose driving and kicking, Young will get plenty of open looks that he will most likely convert.
The biggest issue with Young is the fact he is a restricted free agent. The Wizards can match any contract the Bulls offer and will obviously do so. Chicago would have to throw large amount of money Young's way for him to ever come to the Bulls.
That being said, Young and Rose would combine to form one of the best, if not the best, scoring backcourts in the NBA. With such a talented backcourt, a low-post defender, low-post scorer, glue guy and strong bench, how could the Bulls not be the championship favorite?
Okay, I will be the first to admit it, this is a stretch.
A bench player never will be the difference between a very good team and a championship team, but the addition of DeShawn Stevenson might be an exception.
The first value he brings is experience.
Derrick Rose hasn't been to a NBA Championship, neither has Deng, Noah or Boozer. The majority of the bench hasn't either. The Bulls simply don't have Championship experience.
And that's where Stevenson would come in. He likely would not start, but would be part of a rotation that includes Ronnie Brewer (starter) Kyle Korver and himself. This rotation would be different than last year's and might not very high-scoring, but would have experience.
Stevenson could also add some long-range shooting, as he shot almost 40 percent from downtown this postseason.
But perhaps his biggest advantage would come when the Bulls play the Heat. Stevenson did a great job on LeBron and Wade, and obviously got into their heads. True, the Bulls have one lock-down defender in Ronnie Brewer, but against the Heat, you can never have enough good defenders.
Stevenson isn't the biggest difference-maker in the world, but he brings two aspects the Bulls desperately need: experience and defense.
And the value of experience is something that can never be measured.
The first target the Bulls would need to trade for, O.J. Mayo has been mentioned as a target for a long time now. A young player, Mayo is a quality player who never seems to get the minutes he should.
The Grizzlies only played Mayo 26 minutes per game this year, yet he still managed to contribute 11 points per game. When Mayo received starter's minutes earlier in his career, he averaged 18 points per game.
If the Bulls had a young shooting guard capable of contributing that many points a game, they obviously would be championship favorites.
The only problem is acquiring him.
The Griz's owner does not like doing business with the Bulls, so if he does agree to pull off a trade, he will demand as many assets as possible in return. Ronnie Brewer, Taj Gibson and maybe Omer Asik could be demanded.
It all comes down to what the Grizzlies are willing to give him up for. If the Bulls could live without the players, O.J. Mayo could be a perfect fit.
If it's too much, he might never come to Chicago.
A year later, I'm still a huge J.J. Redick fan. I had hoped for weeks the Bulls would offer him a contract. When they finally did, I was pumped. When the Magic matched, I wasn't too happy.
But I still believe Redick can make this team a championship contender.
The Bulls obviously like Redick too and might be interested in trading for him, as the Magic are slowly imploding and might be willing to listen to offers for him.
Still a young guy, Redick is known for his shooting. Almost a 40 percent shooter from three-point range, Redick can convert after a Derrick Rose drive and kick. He also can put the ball on the floor and score in transition much better than Kyle Korver ever will.
Redick averaged 10 points per game in only 26 minutes a game. If he comes in as a starter, Redick would get many more minutes and could easily average 12-16 points, what the Bulls need out of the two guard.
True, he is not the best defender, but he puts in effort. His defensive limitations come from a lack of NBA athleticism, not because he does not value defense. Since he puts in effort, Tom Thibodeau can make him a much better defender.
The young man with the beard, Harden was a recent high draft pick who does not start for the Thunder. Harden burst onto the scene during the playoffs though and could be the player who takes the Bulls to the NBA Championship.
Thunder GM Sam Presti normally does not like to make trades. As a result, the Bulls would have to throw a lot the Thunder's way to make them interested. But they are on the verge of becoming a championship team and might be looking for a player to help them there—maybe Taj Gibson.
Harden is a big guy at 6'5'' and is a decent defender. His shot is decent, as he makes three's at a 36 percent clip.
The best part about Harden is his scoring. The guy can flat-out put the ball in the basket. He averaged 12 points per game in only 26 minutes a game; in comparison, Keith Bogans averaged four points per game in 17 minutes.
Harden's scoring could help the Bulls reach the NBA Finals and win, easily. The only questions are whether or not the Bulls are interested and if the Thunder want to trade him.
Marcus Thornton is a young player who has already been traded once, and it looks as if he will be traded again.
Now a member of the Kings, Thornton won't be starting over Tyreke Evans or new draft pick Jimmer Fredette. He is too talented to sit on the bench, so it makes sense to assume the Kings will trade him for assets.
Thornton is a little small for a shooting guard at 6'4'', and as a result, he won't be great at defending the better guards in the league. But similar to Harden, he can score. In 24 minutes a game, Thornton put up almost 13 points per game, and he also shot a decent 37 percent from downtown.
To me, Thornton makes the most sense.
He can score, should be available and shouldn't be too expensive. Either Taj Gibson, or Omer Asik sent back for Thornton should get this trade done. Most likely it will be Asik, as the Kings have DeMarcus Cousins at the four.
At 24 years old, Thornton can be a longtime member of the Bulls and make a living off the open looks Derrick Rose will provide. The Bulls' lineup would look something like this:
PG: Derrick Rose, with C.J. Watson off the bench
SG: Marcus Thornton, with Kyle Korver off the bench
SF: Luol Deng with Ronnie Brewer off the bench
PF: Carlos Boozer, with Taj Gibson off the bench
C: Joakim Noah, with Kurt Thomas off the bench
This lineup screams championship, with the only addition being Thornton.
As a result, Thornton is the perfect player to end with, as he certainly is a shooting guard who can make the Bulls championship favorites.