With the NBA trade deadline three days away (Thursday, 2:00pm C.S.T.), every team is looking to fill their needs.
For some teams, it is clearing up cap space, for others it is adding depth, and for the Chicago Bulls, it's to get an upgrade at the shooting guard position.
It's much easier said than done; the Bulls, who will get Joakim Noah back this Wednesday, are lacking the assets needed to make a run for the biggest star on the market, Carmelo Anthony, but have the pieces to make a minor trade.
Let's take a closer look at the needs for the Bulls, as well as which players can fit the bill, and also which trade is the most likely to happen:
Bull Market: It's no secret the Bulls need an upgrade for Keith Bogans at the shooting guard position, but there's a fine line between finding the right man for the job, and messing up team chemistry.
We all know the ball will be in Derrick Rose's hand 75-80% of the time, so acquiring a shooting guard who needs the ball in his hands is not the best idea.
Currently, the Bulls run a tripod at shooting guard, with Bogans starting, and Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver off the bench.
Out of the three, Brewer plays the most minutes at 23 per game, and Korver right behind him with nearly 21 minutes. Many fans are irate at Bogans' starting role, but he doesn't play starters minutes (17) and rarely is on the court when the game matters the most, in the 4th quarter.
The Bulls don't have the assets to acquire top-tier shooting guards such as O.J. Mayo or Arron Afflalo. The Bulls would love to get rid of James Johnson and package him with a first-round pick, but he has close to zero value right now.
The player that teams want in a trade with the Bulls is Taj Gibson. He's in his second season, and although he's having a down year statistically compared to his rookie season, much of that has to do with the Bulls' new starting power forward, Carlos Boozer.
Playing in an Eastern Conference with teams like the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, the Bulls will need size -- to match up with the Celtics, and to dominate the Heat. The Celtics have Kendrick Perkins, the O'Neals (Shaquille and Jermaine), and rookie seven-footer, Semih Erden.
The Bulls will need all the size they have to match up with the Celtics come playoff time, and getting rid of the most versatile one isn't the right way to go.
Still, the Bulls appear in the market for a shooting guard, but which options do they have?
Richard Hamilton (Detroit Pistons, SG, 6'7"): Hamilton would be a great addition, but he has two more seasons after this one at $12.65 million per year.
That's a contract the Bulls will stay away from, so the only way Hamilton will end up in red and white is if he's bought out by the Pistons. Even then, though, the Bulls won't be the only team interested. The Celtics have also been interested in bringing Hamilton aboard if he's bought out.
Hamilton would be a great fit with the Bulls, since he doesn't need the ball in his hands to make an impact, and is a good shooter.
Nonetheless, if he isn't bought out, the Bulls will pass.
O.J. Mayo (Memphis Grizzlies, SG, 6'5"): Mayo is very talented but with Rose in the fold, the Bulls don't need another guard who needs the ball in his hands in order to be effective.
Also, the Grizzlies are unlikely to give up on him so early, and their GM Chris Wallace has stood behind him through his 10-game suspension due to breaking the NBA's drug policy.
A back-court of Mayo and Rose is interesting to consider, but the Bulls would be foolish to break up their chemistry by making a deal for Mayo. The Bulls also don't have the assets the Grizzlies would want.
J.R. Smith (Denver Nuggets, SG, 6'6"): Among all the options, Smith is the worse. He lacks basketball IQ, shot discipline, and hasn't shown defensive potential in his 7 seasons in the NBA.
Smith is a big-time athlete, but what good is that when he won't contribute at a high level. However, he seems like the cheapest of the options. Denver knows they won't get good value for Smith, but they'll likely settle for a draft pick or two.
Tom Thibodeau could try to get to Smith, and help him develop, but if Byron Scott and George Karl couldn't, the chances Thibodeau does is highly unlikely.
Arron Afflalo (Denver Nuggets, SG, 6'5"): Afflalo is the anti-Smith. He doesn't rely on his athletic game, instead, he's developed a good jumper early in his NBA career.
The situation in Denver is clouded; him, or any other Nugget, getting dealt is all predicated on when and where Anthony gets traded. Still, he would be an outstanding fit with the Bulls as the starting two-guard.
He's a good three-point shooter (44%), has defended the likes of Kobe Bryant at a very high level, and unlike his teammate Smith, is a very smart player. Afflalo would do very well with the Bulls and would thrive under Thibodeau on the defensive end, but the question is the price tag on him.
Out of all the options, he's the best one for the Bulls. But they lack the assets to make an even trade, so to get Afflalo, it would likely mean they would have to overspend and give up Gibson.
Afflalo would be the best fit for the Bulls, but the chances the Bulls land him are slim-to-none. He's one of the most underrated players, and there's no chance Denver gives the Bulls a discount.
Courtney Lee (Houston Rockets, SG, 6'5"): Besides Afflalo, Lee seems like the best fit that has the most chance of actually getting done.
Lee, in his 3rd season in the NBA, is averaging a career-low 7.4 points per game, but he's put up over 20 points in 2 of the past 4 games and still has an above average three-point percentage, 42%.
He's shown that he can defend, but not at a consistent level, and his offensive game has a lot more versatility than either of the Bulls' shooting guards.
The Bulls have reportedly been scouting Lee in recent weeks, so it's no secret that they've been on his tail, but they've also been asking for Bulls' rookie Omer Asik. He's a name that hasn't been brought up in trade talks up until now, but the chances the Bulls let go of quality depth at the center position is unlikely, especially considering Asik is just a rookie.
Unless the Rockets bump their price for Lee a little lower -- possibly to Johnson and multiple draft picks -- it's unlikely Lee will land in Chicago. But if Noah comes back with, say, a 15 point, 15 rebound performance on Wednesday, the Bulls might be willing to give Asik and upgrade at shooting guard.
Lee would give the Bulls an upgrade, but unless the Rockets ask for a little less, this situation is a growing slimmer with each passing day.
Anthony Parker (Cleveland Cavaliers, SG, 6'6"): Out of all the options, Paker seems like the most likely to happen. He's on the block for the NBA's worse team, but they're probably in the market for draft picks and/or contracts that end after the season.
Besides Lee, the Bulls have also been interested in acquiring Parker. However, they are not alone: the Celtics have been talking with Cleveland for the 8-year guard, but they're also having trouble compiling the assets needed for a trade for Parker.
Parker is shooting the ball at a decent 40% clip from three-point land, and would give the Bulls an upgrade at shooting guard since he's a versatile defender and can also shoot. He's basically Brewer and Bogans (shooting a little better) combined.
Another upside to acquiring Parker is that he's an expiring contract. The Bulls can acquire him, and not worry about paying him next season; they can look for other shooting guards if need be.
At this point, Johnson and a draft pick for Parker would be a good trade. Johnson has potential, but his value around the NBA isn't much, and quite frankly, he hasn't shown much at all.
Parker seems like the likeliest shooting guard to land in Chicago, and it would be wise for the Bulls to go at him hard -- if he's the best they can do -- so Boston doesn't snatch him up before they do.
The trade deadline will be interesting, not only because the Anthony situation will come to closure, but the Bulls will likely make a move of their own. Not as big as Anthony, but it will be an upgrade of sorts.
The Bulls have shown interest in a handful of shooting guards, but the one most likely to "take his talents" to Chicago, is Parker. He's the cheapest option -- not only contract-wise, but also considering what the Cavs would ask for him.