The Chicago Bulls have put themselves in a good position for Derrick Rose's return. They are 19-13 and are in the race for the Central Division lead. They've been able to maintain their status as one of the top Eastern Conference teams by showing that they can beat the best of them even without their superstar.
However, they still need someone they can put next to Rose once he comes back from injury, whether it's a big man or a ball-handler; they just need another player that can score. The Bulls have had their share of offensive struggles (ranking 24th in effective field goal percentage), losing games to teams like the Hornets and the Bobcats.
The 2011-12 season was supposed to be "the year" for Chicago, but Rose's ACL tear put an end to that and it led the team to a first-round exit. By adding another scoring threat to their offense, the Bulls could finally bring back the championship atmosphere they had in the Jordan era.
Let's look at a few trades that could put Chicago above the championship threshold.
The Bulls have a very good trade piece, and it's the first-round pick that they acquired from Charlotte in 2010. Aside from that, they'd have to give up their own first-round pick, Carlos Boozer and Richard Hamilton.
There's no denying that Gasol is having a bad year, but there's also no denying the level of talent he has. Before this season, he'd never averaged less than 17 points per season, and in the previous three seasons, he averaged double-digit rebounds.
Boozer's recent performances have made many Bulls fans happy, but he's not the player he was in Utah as he can't be isolated anymore. According to Synergy, Gasol's scoring percentage in the post is higher than that of Boozer's. Gasol's size is most likely the reason for that as his seven-foot frame is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenders.
With no real threat of a big man in the East, Gasol would give the Bulls a huge advantage inside with his scoring and rebounding ability.
Giving up Luol Deng, Nate Robinson's expiring contract and two first-round picks for Evans and John Salmons would give the Bulls the best backcourt in the league. Rose and Evans' ability to penetrate defenses is among the best in the league.
Giving up Luol Deng for a smaller player can seem a bit dangerous, but the Bulls have the promising prospect Nikola Mirotic, who could end up playing for the Bulls as early as the 2014 season.
Evans would be able to play off-ball with Rose as the primary ball-handler, and Tyreke has shown success as a cutter. Of the 11 shot attempts he has while cutting to the basket, he has made nine of them.
The Bulls would also be adding another ball-handler with Evans, meaning they would lose very little when Rose is on the bench.
With an already strong frontcourt consisting of Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, there's no question that adding Tyreke Evans would make the Bulls a favorite to win it all.
This is perhaps the best trade the Bulls could make. For the Bulls' two first-round picks, Deng and Hamilton's expiring contract (should Memphis decline the team option), the Bulls could get one of the most versatile players in the league.
Gay can be isolated, posted up and can even be used in the pick-and-roll. He's essentially Deng but with an offensive mindset. His defense might not be as strong, but his size and athleticism still make him a very capable defender.
Gay's quickness allows him to put the ball on the floor in isolation, and his size allows him to post up and get an easy score. A pick-and-roll game with him and Rose would make defenses have to commit to one player or the other, making it a deadly weapon in Chicago's offense.
Whether the Bulls can execute one of these trades or not, they still need to address the fact that with Rose as their lone scoring option, they can only go as far as he can take them. With the trade deadline just a few weeks away, it will be interesting to see what moves the Bulls decide to make, if any at all.
Note: All stats are as of Jan. 9, 2013 before games were played.
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