We need a plan. Without a plan there's no attack. Without attack there's no victory. [I don't even know what movie that's from, but I can hear it in my head]
With the Bulls playing like the worst team in the NBA right now, the hopes of landing one of the top few FAs in next year's free agency class are limited. The worst case scenario for the team, and one I think has an excellent chance of happening, is to vastly overpay a 2nd tier free agent so that we at least landed someone and so that the team can at least maintain it's level of mediocrity.
The Bulls simply don't want to get real bad again, and in many respects, I can't blame them. It didn't exactly work out the last time they tried to build through the lottery despite an unprecedented number of draft picks.
This plan, named the "Joe Johnson/David Lee/Carlos Boozer" plan or the "let's be mediocre forever plan" doesn't give the Bulls any real upside. If you can't get a guy who has a chance of taking you to the next level, don't over spend on him. Especially if he's 29 or older that season.
So what should the Bulls do now? If you can move Deng for an expiring do it. Do it as fast as you can. Same with Hinrich. If you can get picks back in the process then jump up and down for joy. If you could move both off the roster then the team can be in the "2 max contract range" and try and convince two guys to come here with each other and have Derrick Rose. It's a long shot in working, but since the talent level has dropped low enough that it's unlikely to get one, you might as well go for two.
The other option is to embrace the 2011 plan. Find teams in desperate financial straights, trade your 2010 expirings for 2011 expirings, and get some draft picks thrown in the mix. Salmons + Tyrus + Jerome James for Andrei Kirlenko + scubs + Knicks pick? Utah might improve considerably with Salmons playing SF, they have the potential of keeping Tyrus who might fit on their roster and save a buttloas of money next year.
How about you throw a similar package together for Peja and the Hornets and their lotto pick? Though you have to be careful there as if they get talent they could turn things around quickly and not even give you a lotto pick, and they're not giving you a high lotto pick regardless. Maybe something like Miller + Tyrus for Peja + Wright + draft picks.
I know I'm jumping the shark here. However, everyone else is aligning around 2010, if you can get cap room in 2011 instead and stock up on three 2010 lotto picks in a deep class, then you may have a chance to rebuild the roster quickly.
The best thing to do is probably to weigh your options in the off season. If Utah's willing to move Kirlenko just to save money, the Bulls can accept him back with the rights to Utah's pick in trade using our cap space after the team fails to land a 2010 free agent. Use this as the backup plan rather than the primary plan.
The one thing I'm certain of is Luol Deng needs to start shooting three or more threes every game at 35% or greater percent, or he needs to be traded. The team can't go forward with him and Rose playing together while he's not taking threes in volume at a reasonable percentage. I think Deng could actually do that right now if he just started shooting them, but if he's not going to then he needs to go.
If you combine the two above plans, you basically try to enter the 2010 off season with only rookie contracts on the books, max cap space for two FAs, then if things fall apart pursuing FAs, you forward your capspace a year while collecting two more lotto pick talent guys in trade plus your own lotto pick talent guy.
Then you make a bid for Carmelo in 2011 with hopefully a roster full of potential, talent, and boatloads of flexibility. Jumping the shark? Yes. Too cold outside for rational thought? Yes.