Now, it's time to look at the unlikely scenarios- the big names. Carmelo Anthony. Kevin Love. Pau Gasol.
When it comes to coveted players who are legitimately available, Melo is pretty much the top, middle, and bottom of the list. His time in the Big Apple has been a rousing disaster- one trip to the second round, two first-round losses where they won a grand total of ONE game, and this year's failure to even make the playoffs in an incredibly bad Eastern Conference.
If Melo truly has matured with age- he turns 30 this summer- and decided that it would be better to take less money to play for a winning franchise than to maximize his earnings by staying with the Knicks, then the Bulls have a chance. Forget Derrick Rose, put Melo on this current Bulls team and they would have a shot at winning it all this season.
But with the hiring of Phil Jackson, the Knicks organization seems to have finally put a brilliant basketball mind in charge of things- and if he decides that he wants Melo to be a part of the team's future, Melo probably stays. It's more money, it's obviously where he wants to be, and how can you say no to Phil?
The Bulls have to hope that Phil would rather tank next season- and while Phil is obviously a win-now kind of guy, the Knicks aren't winning anything next year, Melo or no Melo. And if he trades Melo, the Knicks will be at least $50 million under the cap in the summer of 2015. Coincidently, that's when LeBron and Kevin Durant and Rajon Rondo and Kevin Love can become unrestricted free agents.
If Pat Riley can get a Big 3 to come together on South Beach, I'm sure Phil has no doubt that he can do the same thing in NYC. If Phil can land a decent center in next year's draft, doesn't a lineup with the Big 3 and a young, defensive center with a defensive stopper at SG seem like something Phil's protoge coach can win with right away? (Yes, that's a rhetorical question).
So would Phil sign-and-trade Melo to the Bulls? Sure, I think he'd have no problem helping out his former owner and point guard, and the Bulls have the assets to make it happen. And it would be real simple- take back Boozer and the Bulls' newly-signed trio of unguaranteed contracts, and Melo can get a maximum salary contract of $22,458,401 if he opts out of his contract on June 30.
The Bulls would only need to send out $17,458,401 in contracts to take back Melo at the max in a sign-and-trade, and Carlos Boozer plus one of the Bulls' first-round picks this summer would cover it. It's an easy sell for Phil, "Melo wanted to leave so I got back draft picks and a double/double type PF with an expiring contract".
All that being said, I don't see it. I think Melo will re-sign with the Knicks and Phil will get a big-name free agent in the summer of 2015. But with the comments from Melo about what a great system Thibs runs, and the fact that he and Thibs are represented by the same agency, it's certainly possible. Right now, I'd put the odds at 50/50.
What about Kevin Love? He's a great offensive player and rebounder, but not much of a defender (and that's being nice). Taj Gibson isn't 2nd in the league in 4th quarter minutes (to Noah) for no reason, and I'm pretty sure the Bulls will bring over Mirotic this summer, leaving no room for Love.
Pau Gasol is a definite possibility if the Bulls can't get Mirotic to come over this summer- but since I see the Bulls doing everything possible to get Mirotic in a Bulls uniform next season, I just don't see that happening.