November 26, 2006 6:24pm CST
Is it too early for the Chicago Bulls to panic? After yet another disastrous November trip out west – the Bulls lost all five games on their annual western swing while the circus inhabits the United Center – Chicago finds itself near the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a 3-8 record. While slow starts for the Bulls have been rather commonplace in recent years (0-9 in 2004-05, 12-19 last season), this one is more disturbing. The addition of Ben Wallace to a strong young nucleus was supposed to elevate Chicago to the top of the East, but so far, the same old problems are apparent for the Bulls. They have no inside scoring presence whatsoever, and as a result they don't get many easy points. Chicago depends way too heavily on perimeter shooting, and because of those offensive woes, the Bulls are forced to work incredibly hard defensively to stay in games. They were hoping that Wallace's rebounding and shot blocking would ignite their fast break and help generate easy points, but other than the opening night victory over the Miami Heat, that hasn't happened yet. Opponents know that if they take care of the ball and play solid defense against Chicago, they have a great chance to win. John Paxson has done a fantastic job the past couple of seasons building a young, talented roster while maintaining salary-cap flexibility. He and Scott Skiles have drafted and traded for competitive, energetic players who come from winning backgrounds. It just so happens that most of them play on the perimeter. ADVERTISEMENT If Paxson determines that his team isn't strong enough inside to be a competitor in the East, it might be time to put together a package that would attract a big-time post player. The Bulls certainly have the assets necessary to bring back a marquee performer. Assuming Kirk Hinrich is untouchable, a quick look at the remainder of the roster reveals some intriguing names: Andres Nocioni, Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, Thabo Sefolosha and Tyrus Thomas. Chicago also has the right to flip-flop first-round picks with the New York Knicks this year (a result of the Eddy Curry trade), so it will most likely own a high draft pick. So who can the Bulls go after? This might be farfetched, but what about Kevin Garnett? The Minnesota Timberwolves are in the midst of their own struggles and could be headed for a third straight non-playoff season. If Garnett – who has been incredibly patient during the Wolves' struggles over the years – decides he wants to leave, he might be able to force Kevin McHale's hand and request a trade. Perhaps the Bulls could put together a package that included some of their young players, a high draft pick or two and P.J. Brown, whose $8 million salary comes off the books after this season. Would that be enough to pry K.G. away? Maybe not. But the fact is, Garnett is aging and the future looks rather grim in Minnesota. So a juicy Bulls offer might be something the Wolves would consider. Is there anyone else out there who would fill the void on the interior for Chicago? Jermaine O'Neal maybe? Carlos Boozer? The way the Utah Jazz are playing, one would think Boozer is no longer available. Zach Randolph perhaps? How about a Los Angeles Lakers package that includes Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom? Garnett spends a lot of his offseason at his home in Malibu, and apparently he would jump at the chance to play with Kobe Bryant. But the fact is, there just aren't that many powerful low-post players in the league right now. Most of the ones who exist aren't on the trading block. The Bulls might not be able to make a move even if they want. But with the way things are going, they will have to pick up the pace quickly – or think about some changes. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Speaking of Garnett, it sure seems like it's time for him to move on. He is one of the league's best players – skilled and amazingly agile for a man his size – and he's a fantastic competitor and team player. For 12 years, he has toiled in Minnesota, suffering through the Joe Smith contract fiasco that cost the Wolves three first-round picks, as well as a host of bad trades and draft decisions by management. Other than his 2004 trip to the Western Conference finals, K.G. has hardly sniffed an NBA title. The 30-year-old has several good years left, but it would be a shame to see Garnett waste them on a bad Minnesota team. His loyalty to the fans and organization is one of the reasons Garnett is so respected around the league, but at what point does he say "enough is enough" and demand a trade? If the Wolves don't get their act together by January, Garnett just might be ready to move on. Steve Kerr is Yahoo! Sports' NBA analyst. Send Steve a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.