In a bit of pure speculation, I think the Chicago Bulls can fill their need at shooting guard by trading Luol Deng for Atlanta's Jamal Crawford. If second-year forward James Johnson can step up, the Bulls can fill the hole at the shooting guard position without creating a new one at small forward.
The trade actually makes a lot of sense for both sides, here's why...
The Chicago Bulls already look like they could be a much better team than they were last year. They've added three former Jazz players in Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer. Each of them improves the squad in his own way.
Taj Gibson exceeded expectations for the Bulls as their starting power forward last year, but Boozer is a significant upgrade at that position. Korver gives them the outside shooting they desperately needed last year and Brewer will be a solid perimeter defender.
While the team should certainly be better, they didn't improve as much as they thought they might and there is still a hole in the lineup.
We all know that the Bulls lost out on the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh sweepstakes. There was a lot of chatter prior to the "The Decision" that one or even two of those players may have been leaning toward Chicago. Of course, they all went to Miami.
Chicago settled on Boozer and then set their sights on J.J. Redick. They offered him a three-year, 19 million dollar contract and hoped that he could provide some of the perimeter scoring the team had been missing since they lost Ben Gordon.
The Orlando Magic matched Chicago's offer to Redick and thus retained his services. The Bulls were forced to settle once again, this time for Ronnie Brewer.
Brewer is solid, but he is not exactly what Chicago needs or wanted. Gordon led the Bulls in scoring from '06-'09 but they let him walk last summer and sign with the Detroit Pistons. It was obvious all year long they missed his scoring ability.
Filling a Hole, Without Creating a New One
There is still a bit of a hole in the lineup at the shooting guard position. However, I believe there is a potential trade that could fill that hole quite nicely.
Atlanta Hawks shooting guard and reigning Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford has recently expressed some frustration with his current situation. He's in the last year of his contract, wants another big deal, and feels he should be starting.
The Hawks have a need at small forward since Marvin Williams has not been able to develop into the player most people thought he could be. Deng could take care of this need.
The Bulls have already entertained the notion of trading Deng, and Crawford would be a great return for Chicago's small forward.
Crawford started his NBA career in Chicago and played for the Bulls from '01-'04. He's averaged 15.5 points per game for his career, and last season he put in 18 a game coming off the bench.
He would definitely give them the kind of backcourt support they want for Derrick Rose, and could average over 20 points per game as a starter.
The question is, will trading Deng create a new hole in the lineup? Who would step in and play small forward?
The most likely candidate is James Johnson. Last season, he didn't get much playing time, as he and coach Vinny Del Negro never really seemed to click. He averaged 12.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per 36 minutes of playing time, but he struggled to take care of the ball and stay out of foul trouble.
This year, he looks to be combining those natural gifts with hard work. He lost 30 pounds before starting training camp, and he's been working with Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen on his overall game.
If Johnson lives up to his potential, trading Deng for Crawford would be a huge score for the Bulls.
The Thibodeau Factor
Defense has been one of the biggest strengths of the Boston Celtics over the last few years. They assembled a lot of offensive talent when they put together their "Big Three" of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. However, it wasn't the offensive prowess of these players that made the team truly dominant.
It was their defense.
The architect of Boston's defensive schemes was assistant coach Tom Thibodeau. He took three aging superstars that were mostly known for offense, combined them with two unproven youngsters and turned the team into a defensive powerhouse.
Thibodeau is now the head coach of the Chicago Bulls, and he has a lot more athleticism at his disposal than he did in Boston. The current Bulls roster may not be quite as smart or experienced as Boston's, but athleticism makes defense easier and desire is really the key.
If this team decides to put everything they can into playing good defense, and they learn and trust Thibodeau's schemes, they could be scary on that end of the court.
A lineup of Derrick Rose, Jamal Crawford, James Johnson, Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah would be extremely dangerous.
Rose and Crawford are both very explosive scorers. Boozer and Noah would dominate the boards against most other teams. James Johnson could be an X-factor, providing good defense and scoring when he's called upon.
They would also be quite deep, with guys like Kyle Korver, Taj Gibson, Ronnie Brewer and C.J. Watson coming off the bench.
As the Bulls stand right now, I don't see them contending with conference powerhouses Boston or Orlando, or the upstart Miami Heat.
If they can pull off the trade I've proposed here... nah, I think I've done enough speculating already.