You want to know. I want to know. We all want to know. What the hell will the Chicago Bulls do at this season’s trade deadline?
With an entirely new front office running the show, it certainly felt like the upcoming deadline could be a major turning point for the franchise. Sell a little short-term value here, gain a little long-term value there. Etc. However, sitting at a better-than-expected 15-17 and just one game out of the No. 5 seed as the first half winds down, the urgency to get rid of superfluous pieces has undoubtedly withered (what a fancy sentence I doth created).
Fortunately, Arturas Karnisovas spoke to the media tonight, ahead of the Bulls matchup with his former-franchise, the Denver Nuggets. Unfortunately, he didn’t give us much of a clue in which direction he plans to head. Each time he was pressed about the March 25th deadline, Karnisovas fell back on his interest in evaluating the current roster, as is:
“Billy and I, we spend more time talking about how we can improve this group and focus now on this group that we have that is actually playing well and had its first month winning in February. The last couple of games they had some slipping, but I think overall this group is doing so much better. [I’m] looking forward to see the next 40 games.”
Karnisovas never ruled out the possibility of striking a deal around the deadline in either direction (buying or selling), which is important. But, at the same time, he didn’t necessarily inspire much confidence in that he’d stand pat, either. The only certain takeaway is that he seemed interested in putting these young players in a position to win games in the short-term in the hopes that it would also aid in the development process for the long-term. Great on paper, but what does it actually mean? Well, hang on, because there’s a little more context here.
Karnisovas also provided some insight on what he believes to be the reality of the market. With so many teams currently in the mix, he doesn’t feel confident that there will be many sellers, and thus there could be a lack of truly intriguing long-term pieces for this organization to acquire.
“Right now, we focus on winning games because the separation between 4th and 10th place is a game and a half. So, this group is doing pretty well, and hopefully, we can get Lauri back and OP (Otto Porter) and see what we can do with this team. We had a pretty good month in February with a winning record, so we’ll see what we can do. When the trade deadline comes, like I said, I think 12 or 13 teams are in, so I just think that teams are going to try to improve. And, like you said, there is not going to be a lot of sellers, so I think we’re just going to focus on our guys and how to get them better.”
(Michael: Of course, if there aren’t going to be a lot of sellers, that would make the prospect of selling all the sweeter. When you’re the only game in town (i.e. the only team with intriguing pieces to dish, the acquisition cost should go up).
But, hey, Karnisovas isn’t dumb. The guy knows he has some interesting trade assets under contract, and he also knows that this franchise isn’t in a place to ignore phone calls if they start rolling in. If his comments around draft night taught us anything, it’s that he listens to all offers and doesn’t rule anything out. Let’s also remember what he said on the first day of Bulls training camp about why he limited his initial roster moves this offseason:
“Well, probably because we were pretty happy with the roster that we had. We didn’t have a lot of wiggle room to work with. We added players that are versatile. We added some leadership, experience, to the roster that we already had, and that was the mentality. And also preserving cap room for the next summer and using this season to look our roster and evaluate what are long-term goals will be following the season.”
Karnisovas has endlessly preached putting evaluation first, and the fact of the matter is 32 games isn’t a whole lot of time to form a consensus. Regardless, I think the front office’s potential hesitation would stem less from the lack of time spent evaluating and more from the lack of impact moves to be made (at least, on the buy-side). We’ll see. A lot can happen between now and March 25th.
Watch the full press conference below:
LIVE: Arturas Karnisovas takes questions from the media ahead of tonight’s game against the Denver Nuggets https://t.co/Z6ARIn7whV
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) March 1, 2021