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updated: 5/28/2011 10:34 PM

Bulls can go a couple of routes to improve team

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  • Could the Bulls work a trade with Orlando for Dwight Howard? Possibly, but only if the asking price isn't too high.

      Could the Bulls work a trade with Orlando for Dwight Howard? Possibly, but only if the asking price isn't too high.
    Associated Press

  • Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (12) scores as Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (15) defends in the fourth quarter of Game 6 of an NBA basketball Eastern Conference first-round playoff series in Atlanta, Thursday, April 28, 2011. Atlanta won 84-81. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

      Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard (12) scores as Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford (15) defends in the fourth quarter of Game 6 of an NBA basketball Eastern Conference first-round playoff series in Atlanta, Thursday, April 28, 2011. Atlanta won 84-81. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

  • Atlanta Hawks guard Jamal Crawford (11) drives to the basket as Orlando Magic shooting guard Quentin Richardson (5) looks on in the second quarter half of Game 3 of a first-round playoff NBA basketball series in Atlanta, Friday, April 22, 2011. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

      Atlanta Hawks guard Jamal Crawford (11) drives to the basket as Orlando Magic shooting guard Quentin Richardson (5) looks on in the second quarter half of Game 3 of a first-round playoff NBA basketball series in Atlanta, Friday, April 22, 2011. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

  • Atlanta Hawks guard Jamal Crawford (11) reacts next to Orlando Magic guard J.J. Redick (7) after the Hawks' 84-81 win in Game 6 of an NBA basketball Eastern Conference first-round playoff series, Thursday, April 28, 2011, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

      Atlanta Hawks guard Jamal Crawford (11) reacts next to Orlando Magic guard J.J. Redick (7) after the Hawks' 84-81 win in Game 6 of an NBA basketball Eastern Conference first-round playoff series, Thursday, April 28, 2011, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis)

  • Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose (1) and Orlando Magic's Jason Richardson battle for a loose ball during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Friday, Jan. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

      Chicago Bulls' Derrick Rose (1) and Orlando Magic's Jason Richardson battle for a loose ball during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Chicago, Friday, Jan. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

 
 

The Bulls are capable of beating Miami in a playoff series with their current lineup.

The biggest reason the Heat moved on is it did a better job of finishing three games that went down to the wire. That could easily be fixed by Derrick Rose gaining experience or maybe through less-disappointing performances from Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah.

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"I'm going to get better. I'm not worried about that," Rose said after the Game 5 loss. "If anything, this is going to make me hungry."

Miami's stars heaped plenty of praise on Rose and the Bulls following the series clincher at the United Center on Thursday.

"He's a great talent, unbelievable player," LeBron James said of Rose. "The sky's the limit for that guy. I mean, wow, as a fan. He's going to get better and better. Hopefully, we don't have to continue to see him in the postseason."

"We will," Dwyane Wade added.

Don't expect any major changes as the Bulls regroup and think about the future, except for maybe one remote trade possibility. The most obvious tweak is to increase the offense without harming the defense and the logical position of need is shooting guard.

Keith Bogans gave the Bulls a great effort this season and if he could have knocked down 1 more 3-point basket in each game, the Bulls would probably lead the conference finals 3-2. But it's not realistic to expect Bogans, 31, to pick up the scoring pace at this point in his career.

The answer to scoring more against Miami could be as simple as this: The Bulls need someone who can spread the floor by knocking down 3-point shots. But when defenders run that player off the 3-point line, he needs to be able to drive and make a play on the move.

Bogans and Kyle Korver don't do that very often.

The only free agents in the rotation are Bogans and Kurt Thomas. The Bulls should have a standing offer for Thomas, 38, to return for the veteran's minimum. He made a positive impact every time he was needed and might have clinched Game 5 for the Bulls if Rose's pass had sailed over James instead of being stolen in the final minute with the score tied.

Planning for the future is difficult right now because negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement are under way and there's a strong possibility a lockout will delay next season.

There are two scenarios that make sense whenever the Bulls get a chance to make some moves:

Sign a shooting guard:

Under the old rules, the Bulls could try to add another player for the midlevel exception, which was equal to the league's average salary. That may not exist in the new labor agreement, but there will be appealing players available.

The best fit among the free agents is Orlando's Jason Richardson, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard who averaged 15.6 points this season. He's never been known as a great defender but has the athleticism to learn something useful from Tom Thibodeau's system.

Richardson spent a long time out of the playoffs with Golden State, but he went to the Western Conference finals with Phoenix last season. During that 16-game postseason run, he shot 47.5 percent from 3-point range (48-for-101) and averaged 19.8 points. At 30, he's also at that age when winning usually becomes more important than padding an already sizable bank account.

A couple others worth considering are Denver's J.R. Smith and Atlanta's Jamal Crawford. Smith (12.3 points, .435 3-point percentage) is very talented, immature and wildly inconsistent. But he's someone the Bulls could throw out there every game and if he's got it going, great. If not, just sit him back on the bench.

Crawford (15.4 points. .350 3-point percentage) could be available since the Hawks broke the bank to keep Joe Johnson last year. Unfortunately, the Bulls just demonstrated how guardable he can be. Crawford, who spent his first four seasons with the Bulls, averaged 8 points and shot 27.7 percent in the last five games of the second-round playoff series.

There are plenty of other free agents who don't fit quite as well, such as Dallas' Caron Butler, Washington's Josh Howard, Sacramento's Marquis Daniels, Phoenix's Vince Carter, Milwaukee's Michael Redd, New Jersey's Sasha Vujacic and Indiana's Mike Dunleavy.

The Bulls could try again to trade for Memphis' O.J. Mayo, Houston's Courtney Lee or Portland's Rudy Fernandez. The other teams would likely want Taj Gibson or Omer Asik in return and Bulls fans shouldn't need a reminder about why that's not a great plan. If they want to talk trade, the Bulls should stick to one long-shot possibility.

Get a Magic man:

With Orlando fading out in the first round and center Dwight Howard a year away from free-agency, most are expecting a Carmelo Anthony-style trade watch during the next eight months.

Could the Bulls be a contender for Howard?

A competitive offer would probably have to start with Luol Deng, Joakim Noah and Asik, plus a couple other pieces and a bad contract or two from Orlando.

The Bulls might decide Rose, Howard and three guys off a D-League roster would be a championship contender. The two players are already friends, Howard is the league's best defender and the seventh-year center would gladly take a back seat to Rose in late-game situations.

So the Bulls could probably take the attitude of giving up whatever it takes (besides Rose, of course) to get Howard. It might be tough to compete with the Los Angeles Lakers, though, who could give Orlando a talented young center in Andrew Bynum.

If the Magic insists the Bulls take Gilbert Arenas or Hedo Turkoglu and their miserable contracts, or swap their good bench players for the Magic's bad ones, then a deal makes less sense. It's all about waiting for the right time and not being afraid to say no.

Obviously, the Bulls are disappointed with Carlos Boozer. He had a couple of nice games at Miami in Games 3 and 4, then went 1-for-6 from the field in Game 5 and sat the entire fourth quarter.

With four expensive seasons left on his contract, trading Boozer isn't very likely. The Bulls would be better off hoping he stays healthier and builds a better chemistry with Rose next season.

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