Whether the Bulls win the championship or not this year, there are still areas in which the team can improve significally in terms of filling out their roster. So just for now, let's ignore everything called playoffs and lock-out. Imagine both dealt with.
The obvious concern regarding Chicago's roster is at the shooting guard position. Since the middle of October, it's been the most active debate in terms of what the Bulls potentially could be missing from being a contender for the title.
You don't often find teams this deep into the playoffs who exclusively rely on one shot-creator for the majority of a ball game. However Derrick Rose has been doing just that, which is one of the reasons he hoisted the MVP award this season. The situation, and Rose especially, have drawn comparisons to the Philadelphia 76'ers team from the 2000/2001 season in which Allen Iverson took home the MVP.
Now, a case can be made that this Bulls team does have decent scoring talent around Rose. Afterall, Carlos Boozer, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, and Kyle Korver combined this season to average 54.9 points which is far from terrible. The problem doesn't lie in the overall point production, but rather the lack of dimensions in which these points are coming from.
Carlos Boozer is capable of getting the ball on the low block, but to consistently create his own offense is asking too much. Boozer is a guy who does his best work when he reacts quickly, and that's usually what he does when he gets a good pass. But that pass isn't always there, and when it isn't, Chicago tends to eat a little too much clock trying to find Rose a hole in the defense. Having another player on the floor who can dribble into his own shot, won't allow the opposing defense to focus as intensely on Rose as they have over these last two seasons. Both Deng, Noah and Korver fall under similar categories as Boozer, as all of them have to be set up primarily.
So what kind of options are out there, and which are realistic? Assuming the MLE (Mid-Level Exception) is still availble after the CBA negotiations, Chicago can probably guarentee themselves someone like Marco Belinelli or J.R. Smith. Belinelli never did much ballhandling for New Orleans due to the presence of Chris Paul and Jarrett Jack, but he's a decent dribbler and passer. The problem with Belinelli is that he's pretty underwhelming. Sporting a PER of 12.1 is hardly impressive, so throwing the MLE at him might not be a sound idea financially. A part of it, yes. But given that the Bulls likely need to use the entire thing on a scoring wing player, this doesn't seem like a viable option.
J.R. Smith has had his issues in Denver. Without going into detail, Smith has a very negative reputation around the league as well as being reported as immature despite having reached the age of 25. Smith is also very inconsistent, having gone from a TS% of .603 to .515 in a span of two years. This season he pulled it back up to .550 but it's impossible to project what kind of effort and production he'll give a team.
Sacramento Kings guard Marcus Thornton could have been an interesting player to look at, but seeing as he exploded in Sacramento with 21.3 points a night after a mid-season trade, it looks like he'll be out of Chicago's price range. That shouldn't keep the Bulls from offering him the entire MLE, but he's not likely to accept it.
So what can be done about Chicago's one major roster problem?
The Bulls signed Jannero Pargo and John Lucas to multiple years through unguarenteed contracts, meaning they can be moved along with Keith Bogans (who is also unguarenteed for next season) to a team in desperate need of immediate cap relief. Pargo, Bogans and Lucas combine to earn roughly $3.9 million. The Bulls can take back 125% of that salary, which is about $4.9 million.
There are shooting guards out there who could start for the Bulls at that price range, such as Houston's Courtney Lee ($2.2 million) packaged with Terrence Williams ($2.3 million) - Though the Rockets are in no rush to clear additional salary with their cap number going from $71 million this season to $48 million next season. New Jersey's Anthony Morrow is another option, though his ballhandling isn't going to solve Chicago's issues.
O.J. Mayo from the Grizzlies is making $5.6 million, so to get him Chicago will have to add salary, but none of their remaining contracts are unguarenteed. Having said that, it's not impossible. The Bulls have two 1st round picks in this year's draft and could offer a re-signed Kurt Thomas at a partially guarenteed deal. Though, you have to wonder if Memphis will be ready to let him go after their playoff run.
With the problems in Orlando, Chicago might look J.J. Redick's way yet again. Last season, Orlando matched the offer sheet Chicago signed Redick to. The Magic would also to be able to take money off the cap completely, but with Redick's contract of $6.7 million, creative finances would have to be applied again. Lucas, Bogans, Pargo, two 1st round picks and a re-signed Kurt Thomas (same offer as in the O.J. Mayo trade) would maybe not be enough for Orlando, but it would make them think. The Magic is on the hook for $76 million next season. If they could remove $6.7 million, they'd be considerably closer to the luxury tax limit.
A player who was attatched to Chicago rumors all of last season was Blazers guard Rudy Fernandez. Seeing as Portland's cap number will be at $74 million next season, he too could be a possibility. If Portland ends up paying Greg Oden his $8.8 million qualifying offer, while also hanging onto Andre Miller for $7.8 million (Miller is on an unguarenteed deal), it might even be possible to make a play for Wesley Matthews pending their priorities. Portland usually doesn't have a problem spending, but with the CBA issues, who knows. It's a long shot, but one that could be there. Fernandez though, should be able to be acquired.
Overall, there are players out there who can be had for the right price. With Chicago becoming a legit championship contender this year, it's only assumed that the team is willing to spend money for the future, especially to round out the starting line-up. How does a starting unit of Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, Luol Deng, J.J. Redick and Derrick Rose for the next four years sound like? Because pending the right offer, this could be a reality.