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Bulls can use any help they can get, so here's a to-do list
By Mike McGraw | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 4/7/2008 12:04 AM

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Bulls general manager John Paxson may not even bother formulating an off-season plan.

There is no point going down the roster and targeting certain players for trade, because restricted free agency (Ben Gordon, Luol Deng), expensive contracts (Larry Hughes, Kirk Hinrich, Andres Nocioni) and still-developing talent (Tyrus Thomas, Thabo Sefolosha, Joakim Noah) leave the Bulls at the mercy of what other teams are willing to give in return.

Recruiting free agents is not a strong possibility, because the Bulls will be close to the luxury-tax threshold if they do re-sign Deng and Gordon and only have the midlevel exception available to use, anyway.

So rather than a set-in-stone plan, here's the Bulls' summer to-do list. The goal is to accomplish as many as possible:

Settle on a coach: Interim boss Jim Boylan hasn't been eliminated as a permanent candidate, but his chances appear to be slim.

Some news outlets have pegged former Pistons and Pacers coach Rick Carlisle as the top candidate, but I've heard there is no front-runner. Carlisle is on the list, though the Bulls will have to weigh his team success (two trips to the conference finals) with a reputation for having poor communication skills.

The timing of a coaching hire will be tricky. The Bulls figure to have strong interest in a pair of assistants -- Boston's Tom Thibodeau and Detroit's Terry Porter -- who should be busy in the playoffs for a while.

In the meantime, candidates such as Carlisle, Jeff Van Gundy, Mike Fratello, Larry Brown and perhaps Avery Johnson will be available the day the regular season ends and may get snapped up by other teams.

Add a point guard: Kirk Hinrich is at his best when he's an aggressive scorer. He's not a run-the-team point guard, which is why Chris Duhon played so much the past three years. But now the Bulls need an upgrade at the point.

The best-case scenario is getting lucky in the draft lottery and landing Memphis guard Derrick Rose. Otherwise the Bulls are sitting with the No. 9 pick, and there may not be anyone in the second tier of point guards worth taking that high.

The best candidates appear to be UCLA's Darren Collison, Texas' D.J. Augustin and North Carolina's Ty Lawson.

Toronto guard T.J. Ford may be traded this summer, since Jose Calderon has played so well. Ford has great speed, but he also has a history of injury problems.

Memphis figures to trade either Kyle Lowry or Mike Conley, maybe both if the Grizzlies land Rose in the draft. The Bulls liked Lowry when he left Villanova in 2006.

Find a shot-blocker: Basket protection is a key ingredient to any strong defense. Just look at the impact Kevin Garnett made in Boston or how Sam Dalembert helped spark Philadelphia's fastbreak game.

The Bulls thought they had a top-notch shot-blocker in Ben Wallace. Now that he's gone, it's possible Joakim Noah and Tyrus Thomas could handle the role. Thomas might be an elite shot-blocker if he'd focus on guarding the basket, while Noah has the quickness to stay in front of driving opponents.

There could be some interesting big men available in the draft at No. 9, such as UCLA's Kevin Love, Texas A&M freshman DeAndre Jordan, Chicago native JaVale McGee from Nevada, Connecticut's 7-foot-3 Hasheem Thabeet and Georgetown's 7-2 Roy Hibbert.

Thabeet averaged 4.5 blocks this season, third best in the nation, while McGee was at 2.8.

Increase 3-point range: It used to be that NBA teams would look for big men to collect easy baskets. With so few post scorers in the league, the NBA's new go-to guy is the hot long-range shooter.

Of the top 14 teams in 3-point baskets per game, only two (Indiana and Memphis) are not headed to the playoffs. The Bulls rank 23rd in the league in 3-pointers per game at 5.75.

With this in mind, it's difficult to see how removing Gordon from the roster will make the Bulls a better team. Having a player who can score 9 points in three trips down the floor is almost essential these days.