Bulls 'Discussing' Trade With Nuggets for J.R. Smith Plus a Look at Possible Shooting Guard Acquisitions

Bulls 'Discussing' Trade With Nuggets for J.R. Smith Plus a Look at Possible Shooting Guard Acquisitions

The Bulls are reportedly in the market for a shooting guard, but there are reasons to be apprehensive, though it's the position where they are closest to weak.

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The Bulls are in talks with the Denver Nuggets to acquire shooting guard J.R. Smith via trade, Chris Sheridan reported Monday at ESPN, citing a "league source."

He added that the Nuggets won't make long-term roster decisions until a resolution to Carmelo Anthony's future with the team is finalized. The Nuggets continue to be stupid and lessen their bargaining power by dragging negotiations closer to the February trade deadline.

"The deal Denver can make with the Knicks right now might be better than
the deal New York would be willing to make a month from now, or two
months from now," Sheridan added. "And the Nuggets are determined to not lose Anthony with
nothing in return as the Cavs did with LeBron, and the Raptors did with Chris Bosh."

So, the "discussions" Sheridan's sources tell him Denver has had with the Bulls are preliminary.

The sexy trade-for-this-position take from Bulls fans has been to find a starting shooting guard. One better than Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver. The problem with that is players better than those two require trading Luol Deng or Taj Gibson.

As of today, Brewer and Korver are eligible to be traded with all other players who signed new contracts between July 1 and September 15, but trading either of those two are sensitive simply because three-year contracts are difficult to trade and simultaneously upgrade.

J.R. Smith is making a little under $6.7 million in the last year of his contract. The Bulls are slated to have a $64.5 million payroll in 2011-12, which would be over this year's and any other foreseeable soft salary cap. Another reason why trading Brewer or Korver's locked-in deals just wouldn't work in the Bulls' favor unless Smith agreed to a contract extention prior to a trade.

More importantly, referring to Smith as an upgrade over Brewer or Korver is marginal at best. Smith scores more per game, but I was very wrong. Offensively, Korver is more efficient and arguably Smith is the biggest defensive liability of the three. Smith is simply the best scorer on the dribble of the three, but he's not the talented enough scorer to be a ball-stopping fourth or fifth option without the defense.

A lot of people like to say Smith has "problems off the court" in an arcane manner like he's a junkie, drunk, or wife beater. Well, he's either a drunk, a junkie, or the worst driver in the history of vehicle driving.

O.J. Mayo

Other names have been thrown out into the ring, most notably O.J. Mayo of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Memphis has committed $82 million over this and the next four years to Rudy Gay and $40 million over the next five years to Mike Conley with the contract of Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol expiring at the end of the season. The word is that the only way to make room to sign one of them, let alone both of them, requires them moving money off of what's committed to players in 2011-12.

They used the 12th overall pick in the 2010 draft on shooting guard Xavier Henry. The Grizzlies have a monster starting lineup with Mayo in it, but had no scorers on their bench, so Henry's started 13 straight games going into Wednesday's game against the Charlotte Bobcats.

Immediately, the word was that Mayo was on the block, but the Grizzlies constantly refute that.

Making $4.5 million this season and being a career 17.2 PPG scorer at the young age of 22 means Taj Gibson's expiring contract -- most likely with that of James Johnson or Keith Bogans -- would have to be packaged with a first round draft pick to acquire Mayo. Brewer and Korver's longer contracts could be assets to the Grizzlies as above-the-cap trade bait.

Of course, Memphis could very well be telling the truth that they have no intention of trading Mayo. Playing him as a reserve instead of Gay, Conley, Randolph, or Gasol is actually completely rational when you look at that terrible bench.

My opinion: Neither of those Bulls players I mentioned are untouchable for Mayo. Brewer and Korver in a package would violate cap rules, so that's not even a possibility. Actually, either of those two can only be packaged with draft picks. Most likely, Memphis would be interested in Taj to replace Randolph with Bogans and/or JJ packaged with a draft pick. Mayo replacing two of the three in that last bunch with a draft pick definitely makes the Bulls better. Of course, it means Brian Scalabrine probably enters a four-man frontcourt rotation.

Mickeal Pietrus could be on the move to make room for CP3

The more intriguing name to me is Mickael Pietrus. He's making $5.3 million this season and he has the same as an option for next. The Bulls being under the cap could open a three-way deal that sends Taj with JJ or Bogans to a team that sends a shooter and a draft pick to Orlando. The word's that the Magic really want Chris Paul, but would need to maneuver a lot of money to slip CP3's $14.9 million salary into their roll. Not sure what sort of a three-way would be most realistic to get Pietrus in Chicago and CP3 to Orlando. I can't shake this as the most realistic option that can be an upgrade.

Iggy

The biggest deal would be one for Andre Iguodala. But, that would cost Luol Deng and I fail to see how that's an upgrade for the 29ers. Both are in long-term eight-figure per year deals. Packaging a first rounder with Deng and getting a second round pick from Philly is reasonable. Iggy is everything the Bulls would need in a two guard -- versatile, can play the point, can shoot, can put the ball on the floor, very strong defender.

In a vacuum, Iggy's a better basketball player, but what you gain in more all-around play and the ability to really play the point, two, and the three, is a less efficient scorer than Deng who can't play the four. Deng's been crucial to the Bulls defending stretch fours in their mid- and endgame strategy. I'm so torn on this because the upside just seems too marginal to end up basically losing your longest versatile forward to add a versatile player who's best defensively in the backcourt, but offensively as a swingman.

Others

Jason Richardson and Arron Afflalo are intriguing names with expiring contracts, but the former will wait it out to see if a big, satisfactory deal can be negotiated with Phoenix and the latter is fully expected to be a part of Denver's long-term plans.

My guy is Wilson Chandler because he's awesome and would instantly become the third- or fourth- best on the team, whose contract expires after the season, but Knicks president Donnie Walsh love him. Only reason Chandler didn't receive an extension was because the team wants to wait for a new collective bargaining agreement. Only way NY trades Chandler is to get 'Melo. Come free agent season, you'll be thoroughly annoyed with my "Sign Wilson Chandler" campaign.

Marcus Thornton is maybe a more talented, but less proven scorer than Smith. Unlike Smith and Mayo, Thornton isn't just coming off the bench, but he's struggling to get into games because Hornets coach Monty Williams can't tolerate the second-year player's defensive inefficiency. The advantage to chasing Thornton is that he's making less than a million dollars and anyone who get into their rotation is an upgrade.

Frankly, the Hornets will have to package someone with Thornton because he's so cheap. If the Bulls got into talks with the Hornets, Marco Belinelli makes more sense on the surface, but he's another defensive liability and Nawlins would want to improve their frontcourt rotation with such a trade. Not sure Belinelli improves the Bulls rotation without Taj Gibson.

Rudy Fernandez just straight-up isn't an upgrade over Brewer or Korver. Trading for Fernandez would also be too costly, as the Trail Blazers are too physically broken to part with him unless a better scorer were packaged in a deal. His contract's too small to upgrade Portland's rotation without giving up two or more players for one. With their injuries, that's not possible. They're stuck with him.

Courtney Lee would be an upgrade straight-up for Bogans or JJ, but all other possibilities downgrade the Bulls. Also, like Mayo, Fernandez, and Belinelli, you can't really play Lee at the three, forcing you to either start Korver or isolate him to the three off the bench. If Lee can't guard the longer types of players Bogans can off the bench, I'm inclined to say such a move is definitely a downgrade.

That said, Houston routinely shops the whole roster around. Kevin Martin is interesting, but making eight figures, so he'd cost Deng or a package of Brewer plus Korver. Straight up for Deng? Yes. Deng plus a draft pick? Yes. Brewer, Korver and a draft pick? Yes. Realistic possibility? No. And it's probably for the better because there'd be a rotation problem in trading Deng you get with Iggy with less defense than Iggy, but a much better scorer. And doesn't trading Brewer and Korver for Martin turn the Bulls into a slightly better Grizzlies team?

Rip Hamilton, John Salmons, Roger Mason, Anthony Parker, Jeremy Lin, and everyone under 6-foot-8 on the Nets will have their names tossed around periodically over the next two months, but I'm not wasting the finite amount of keystrokes in my wrist and hands before arthritis linking to their stats and getting in-depth on them.

I'll just say: Bad.

Wait

If the Bulls are going to make serious offers, it's best to wait until mid-January at least. At that point, more teams are out of contention and have a better feel of who they'll look to move before losing them for nothing. It's at this time you can best steal a player and looking at the Bulls roster, they really do have to look to make a steal. If they can't, just about every realistic scenario is realistic because the ceiling is little more than the potential of the status quo.

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