COMMENTARY | When Bulls forward Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah went down at the same time with injuries the first week of February, the Chicago Bulls' frontcourt was depleted.
Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau had to start aged center Nzar Mohammed in one game, then when he realized that wasn't a great idea, he started a lineup that had Taj Gibson, a smallish power forward, at center. Luol Deng became the power forward, and Jimmy Butler started at small forward.
Because Derrick Rose has been out all season rehabilitating his surgically repaired ACL, the Bulls have not been healthy all season. That they not only survived but have succeeded without Rose (rising as high as the third playoff seed in the Eastern Conference) is a testament to the team rebuilt by vice president of basketball operation John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman, and the strident coaching of Thibodeau.
But the bench was always thin in the frontcourt because the Bulls could not replace backup center Omer Asik over the summer with anyone close to his defensive ability and offensive potential. Mohammed, in his 15th year in the league, is not sufficient assistance at the '5' spot.
When Rose returns (and if he does not play in the first game back after the All-Star break, a lot of people will be surprised) the Bulls will have seven backcourt players on the roster - Rose, Rip Hamilton, Marco Belinelli, Kirk Hinrich, Nate Robinson, Marques Teague and Daequan Cook. That's 3.5 point guards and 3.5 shooting guards (Hinrich can play either position well.)
If the Bulls can find any frontcourt player that can play some defense and some offense, and they can make a trade so that the new player's salary fits in their very tight salary cap budget, it seems plausible that they will do so.
The question is, who do they trade?
In the backcourt, Rose is the only player that is a lock to stay. Belinelli, Robinson and Cook are on one-year deals. Hamilton has a year left at the team option for $5 million. Hinrich has a year left at $4 million. Teague is on his rookie deal that has one more year guaranteed at just over $1 million.
So, who do you trade?
It is believed Thibodeau likes Hinrich for his flexibility and his strong defense at both positions. Hamilton and Belinelli are the other shooting guards, and both play better as starters than as bench players. Hamilton, because of his age, is unlikely to be much help as a bench player, however, while Belinelli has more offensive moves that make him a better option to distract defenses from concentrating on Rose when he comes back. Neither has a guaranteed contract for next season.
Robinson has proven to be a great offensive threat, although he is one of those players that scares his coach whenever he shoots. "No, Nate, No'' you can see Thibodeau thinking, only to follow it with "Nice shot'' when he scores. But because of his diminutive size, Robinson can be a poor defensive matchup for teams with two tall guards.
It is hard to estimate the value Teague or Cook would have in a trade scenario.
Yahoo! Sports asks you to comment on stories, so here is your chance. Assuming the Bulls need to make a trade for frontcourt help, who would use try to get rid of?
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Kent McDill has covered the Bulls for three different companies: for United Press International from 1985-88, for the Daily Herald newspaper in Arlington Heights, Ill., from 1988-99, and currently for NBA.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title "100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die" published by Triumph Books.