Report: League Executives Believe the Bulls Could Be Buyers at the Trade Deadline

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Report: League Executives Believe the Bulls Could Be Buyers at the Trade Deadline

Chicago Bulls

Just this morning I was pondering whether or not the Chicago Bulls could add talent mid-season to ensure their perceived playoff goal is met. Now, right on queue, ESPN’s Tim Bontemps is reporting that executive around the league believe that very well could be the team’s approach at the March 25th deadline (emphasis mine):

What seems clear is that the Bulls want to be one of those 10 teams themselves. In fact, executives think the Bulls would even consider improvements to push to make the playoffs for the first time since trading Jimmy Butler four years ago, and referenced coach Billy Donovan’s decision to bench Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr. in favor of Tomas Satoransky and Thaddeus Young for Sunday’s win over the Toronto Raptors as proof.

With the NBA committed to the play-in tournament, two more teams will have a shot to snatch a playoff seed this season. Those around the league believe that everything we have seen recently from the Bulls suggests that they want to be playing meaningful games this spring, and it’s almost impossible to disagree with that. Changing the starting lineup spoke volumes about this team’s intent, and it sure feels like head coach Billy Donovan has thrown around the “W” word a lot in recent weeks.

Still, whether or not we should expect the Bulls to become “buyers” at the deadline has been a tough call. We know from his previous comments that Karnisovas values the flexibility the Bulls are set to have this offseason. Not to mention, devotion to player development and evaluation this season has made it feel as if the front office would let the cards fall where they may. If the existing unit made the playoffs behind a new coaching staff … that would be great. If not, that’s okay too. Both outcomes would be equally telling.

Concurrently, this team never said winning wasn’t a priority. General Manager Marc Eversley picked his words carefully when he said that the Bulls were not about to go through another rebuild but rather a “retooling.” Perhaps the trade deadline is the first part of that process, and the front office views this as an opportunity to add some impactful talent. After all, while recent reports stated that the Bulls are no longer “itching to make moves,” those same reports could have been written through a “sellers” lens. For example, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor and the Action Network’s Matt Moore both shared that Chicago was not interested in moving coveted trade chip Thaddeus Young. So while that implies this team will not be selling talent for future assets, it could only further imply that they would like to add pieces to Young to make the team more competitive.

Bontemps also reports that the league is unsure of what the Bulls might look to do with Lauri Markkanen. In my opinion, his contract situation is interesting because trading him at the deadline would not necessarily be synonymous with selling. The Bulls probably could get back a piece that would help them in their playoff pursuit this season, and it would simply be a move that tells fans they are not interested in paying him when restricted free agency hits this summer.

In any case, while his expendability is something to ponder, executives settle on the belief that he isn’t moved:

What’s more unclear is the status of Markkanen, who will be a restricted free agent this offseason. The Bulls might not want to match what Markkanen could get on the open market this summer, especially in a free-agent market that has lost much of its star power. However, any team trading for the 7-footer would face the same dilemma.

“I think they’d trade Markkanen if they get a good offer, but I don’t think they’re likely to trade him,” said an East executive. “I don’t think they do anything unless they get something they love.”

The major takeaway here is that signs continue to point to the Bulls eagerness to balance player development with immediate on-court improvement. Karnisovas and Eversley do not look ready to move on from a bulk of their hand-me-down talent, but that could be because they see a path toward consistently better play with the pieces already in place. I’m still not all-in on the idea that they buy. I think, if anything, they could hedge their bets and wait to make significant moves in the offseason when they are set to have some solid spending power. I guess we’ll find out in 10 days, though.

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.