Veteran swingman Caron Butler's presence at the Berto Center on Monday might lead observers to believe the Bulls are zeroing in on one their prime target in free agency, but according to league sources, the organization is casting a wide net in their pursuit of an upgrade in perimeter scoring. While the return of incumbent starting shooting guard Keith Bogans hasn't been ruled out -- Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and Bogans' backcourt mate, league MVP Derrick Rose each advocated for the veteran last week -- Butler, a native of nearby Racine, Wis., who trains in Chicago at Tim Grover's West Side A.T.T.A.C.K. Athletics facility in the offseason, is among several candidates under consideration.
The 6-foot-7 former All-Star's health is a chief concern, as it remains to be seen if he will regain his previous form. Additionally, the potential acquisition of Butler would likely mean small forward Luol Deng would be forced to at least occasionally defend shooting guards, something he's done in the past, but may not be ideal in every matchup.
Furthermore, whether Butler -- or, for that matter, small forwards Grant Hill and Josh Howard (who is set to visit Chicago in the near future, according to the Washington Post), and shooting guards Jason Richardson, Nick Young and former Bull Jamal Crawford -- would be willing to take a mid-level exception starting at 5 million per season, is another matter up for debate. Aside from Young, the aforementioned players are all veterans who have not won championships and are perhaps willing to sacrifice financially, as they have received major paydays in the past, but could see Chicago as the best opportunity to win a title.
Another name that has been linked to the Bulls in the prelude to what's sure to be a chaotic free-agency process -- beginning Friday, the same day NBA training camps open -- is Mike Dunleavy, a league source told CSNChicago.com. Dunleavy, who most recently played for the Pacers, the Bulls' Central Division rival and first-round playoff opponent last season, differs from some of the other names in that he's a proficient long-range threat, but not as much of a slashing type.
Vince Carter, currently of the Suns, is expected to be waived by Phoenix, freeing up 14 million for the team by ridding them of the former All-Star's contract and giving the Bulls yet another option. It also wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility for the Bulls to explore sign-and-trade scenarios -- engaging Atlanta about Crawford and the Nuggets, in regard to shooting guard Arron Afflalo, one of the hottest names on the market as of late, have reportedly been discussed -- or outright trade options, with the likes of Taj Gibson and Ronnie Brewer as bait.
As one veteran free agent told CSNChicago.com via text message, "Teams who wait will pay a premium for guys they could have got early in the process for much cheaper." Such is the price of the NBA's prolonged labor dispute, as well as the waiting game seemingly half the league is playing while anticipating how the bigger dominoes -- such as whether superstars Chris Paul and Dwight Howard are dealt before the season, let alone the destinations of top free agents in the middling class of 2011, like David West, Tyson Chandler and Nene -- will fall.