After discussing whether the Bulls should get involved in the Russell Westbrook sweepstakes last night, Eli continued the conversation in today’s Bullets with some additional context around what it might provide … and what it might cost Chicago.
And while the Bulls aren’t known for swooping in and making splashy deals, one NBA insider believes they could be an ideal landing spot.
"Chicago makes a lot of sense to me…"@WindhorstESPN speaks on the future of Russell Westbrook and which teams could potentially be a good fit:@meJVT & @mattyoumans247 on #TheEdge at https://t.co/omBpOjPlh5 and @SIRIUSXM 204 pic.twitter.com/NegCA6lC4F
— VSiN (@VSiNLive) July 8, 2019
Upfront, though, we should note that a deal for Westbrook is (1) fairly unlikely and (2) not a guaranteed recipe for success. The Bulls front office has only finally begun to make moves with a longer-term picture in mind, and a short-cut – however enticing and potentially rewarding – could cut into that effort to the detriment of the rebuild. No one wants to be caught in sixth-seed limbo again, right? Indeed, in all likelihood, this team is going to look for internal improvements from guys like Coby White, Zach LaVine, Wendell Carter Jr., and Lauri Markkanen, among others, before going out and grabbing a star when the core is ready and the cap is more spacious.
WITH THAT SAID …
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst sees the Bulls as an ideal fit in a Westbrook trade on multiple levels. First, the basketball stuff: “If you think about Russell Westbrook on a team that has Otto Porter, Lauri Markkanen, you can really see how the floor can open up for him with shooters,” Windhorst said in an interview with VSiN Radio Live. “They haven’t had that in Oklahoma City, it’s been their one real downfall. They haven’t had shooters, so Westbrook has had to force it a lot.”
Well, if you put it that way, that certainly sounds like it would be fun to watch. And wasn’t the whole point of this rebuild to accumulate talent that would be attractive for a possible star to join up and move the group forward? The idea of Westbrook creating space for perimeter scorers or attacking the rack when defenders stay at home could open up a world of possibilities for Jim Boylen’s offense moving forward. I can totally see where Windhorst is coming from with this angle. Of course, it’s not that easy.
Windhorst notes that he hasn’t heard that the Bulls are actually interested in such a deal, instead referring to them as a team that simply makes sense as a suitor. Indeed, the Heat have apparently shown the most interest so far.
But there are challenges in those two sides coming to a deal, because of Miami’s hard-cap situation after acquiring Jimmy Butler. The hang-up with the Heat appears to be that the Thunder are most interested in reducing salary because of the repeater tax. A trade of Westbrook could move them out of the luxury tax, but Windhorst views it as impossible unless Miami gets a third team involved. Chicago wouldn’t need a third team, and could accommodate Oklahoma City’s needs to get out of their tax-paying problems.
It all adds up to to Windhorst linking the Bulls as a more ideal fit: “Chicago makes a little bit more sense,” Windhorst explained. “They have some really good, young shooters. And if you made Zach LaVine the centerpiece of a trade, potentially threw in a first-round pick, and you’d have to include other players to make the money work, but you wouldn’t have the hard-cap problem there.”
Elsewhere, ESPN’s team of NBA insiders put their brains together to come up with six possible destinations for Westbrook. Tim Bontemps followed Windhorst’s lead and put together a package headlined by LaVine, Kris Dunn, Cristiano Felicio and a 2020 lottery protected first-round pick (or possibly a top-10 protected selection in 2021 or an unprotected first-rounder in 2022).*
*Updated for clarity/accuracy after publication.
Like Windhorst, Bontemps raves about the basketball fit, calling it “the best” (!) fit because of the shooting and floor-spacing opportunities. Bontemps imagines a situation in Chicago where Westbrook could attack the basket and become a more efficient player in the process. He also sees a win for Oklahoma City as the team would save money, get under the luxury tax, bring in young talent, and continue to stock-pile first-round picks.
The more a deal of this magnitude is discussed in this light, the more intriguing the conversations will get for Bulls fans. At minimum, these are good discussions to have about the Bulls, their future, and the risks (and possible rewards) of trading for this particular star. It might not be a perfect fit, but perhaps it’s a better one than we previously believed.