With the NBA Draft inching ever closer (only 8 more days!), the team will have yet another opportunity to expand on everything they’ve been (re)building with a continued eye toward the future. But that ramp up might come with some unexpected twists and turns along the way.
For example … The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry reports that, according to sources familiar with the team’s planning, “There’s a growing belief around the league that the Bulls are open to trading anyone and anything not named Lauri Markkanen or Wendell Carter Jr.” And, yes, that includes the No. 7 pick.
The idea of the Bulls trading the No. 7 draft pick isn’t the shocking news. In fact, we’ve lumped that in with several of our conversations here in the past. Instead, what’s surprising is that, apparently, members of Chicago’s newly built core are on the trading block, as well.
One offseason ago, the team signed Zach LaVine to a four-year, $78 million deal. Later in the regular season, the organization completed one of its more reasonable trades, bringing Otto Porter to the Bulls with two years left on his contract. Now, arguably, an NBA-playoff-caliber starting lineup is just one piece away. And as we know, you have to earn your way through the playoffs before your roster can evolve into a championship-level team (be it by experience and development and/or the ability to attract top-shelf talent). And while the Bulls are not necessarily near that level just yet, developing a young core and showing true progress on the court can attract superstar-level players down the line.
However, the Bulls front office is apparently ready to shake things up anyway, something that, if done incorrectly, could send this team backward and prolong this already painful (even if necessary) process. Indeed, trading guys like LaVine or Porter right now feels like an overly-ambitious approach. I just don’t think there’s a deal out there that (1) includes either of those two players *and* (2) vastly propels this rebuild forward, which would be the goal.
Not to mention, Mayberry points out how a move like this completely goes against the “patient” approach the team has been stressing since announcing this rebuild with the Jimmy Butler trade two years ago. Demonstrating a confident level of competitiveness, of which the current starting rotation should be capable, and then proceeding with the next step (trade or big-time free agent signing later on) feels like the right path.
And not for nothing, but can we even trust GarPax to bring back a good return on that investment right now? I’m just not sure.
Now, I do believe that trading Zach LaVine or Otto Porter could bring in a reliable point guard, but then the Bulls would have another hole to fill on the roster. Not to mention, considering the abundance of point guards in today’s NBA, finding a reliable one in free agency (*ahem* or the draft), is certainly not a difficult feat.
Possibly down the road, once the Bulls have more depth and potential starters to fill LaVine and Porter’s place, a big-time trade could make sense. For now, though, holding onto the No. 7 pick along with the starting lineup just feels safer. And, hey, last year, “safe” got the Bulls Wendell Carter Jr (not too shabby). To be clear, it’s not that I don’t want them to be aggressive on the trade or free agent market – I just want them to be aggressive at the right time.
If the Bulls can hold their ground out just one more season, they should have a lot more cap space under which they can work (Cristiano Felicio, Kris Dunn, and, possibly even Otto Porter represent opportunities to thin out some room). Plus, if free agents can see this young nucleus playing well together for a year, Chicago may be in a far better position to actually attract, negotiate, and sign top-shelf free agents to a team and city that’s more appealing than they are right now. Patience is a virtue, friends.
In any case, the Bulls clearly have a lot weighing on this offseason, and it’ll be more important than ever to focus on defining a long-term path. And with the draft inching closer, we might have a better idea of what that path looks like pretty darn soon.