Slowly but surely, the trades are rolling in.
Both the Milwaukee Bucks and Miami Heat made moves to add veteran talent for their respective playoff pushes on Wednesday afternoon. The Bucks packaged some role-playing talent with a future draft pick to bring in forward Houston PJ Tucker, while the Heat sent Meyers Leonard’s salary along with a second-round pick to OKC for Trevor Ariza.
Sources: Houston is trading PJ Tucker, Rodions Kurucs and Bucks’ 2022 first-round pick back to Milwaukee for DJ Augustin, DJ Wilson and 2023 unprotected first-round pick. Houston also gets right to swap its 2021 second-round pick for Milwaukee's FRP pick unless it falls 1-9.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 17, 2021
ESPN Sources: Oklahoma City is finalizing a trade to send Trevor Ariza to the Miami Heat for Meyers Leonard and a 2027 second-round pick. Leonard must still waive his no-trade clause because of the one-year Bird restriction on his deal, which he’s expected to do for Miami.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 17, 2021
While neither move feels earth-shattering – the Bucks trade could hold the most substantial impact if Tucker can reclaim his corner 3 and aggressive defense – things are clearly getting real. The playoffs are only 33 games away (at least, for the Chicago Bulls), which means it’s time for fringe teams to determine how much effort they want to put into immediately improving their competitiveness.
The Bulls, of course, are one of those fringe teams. They sit 18-21 and one game back from the 8th-seed. If they rattle off a quick win streak, they could even sit as high as the 5th-seed (currently only 2.0 games back). So, yes, investing in wins right now by acquiring deadline talent could net the Bulls their first playoff berth since 2017. Not to mention, finally give their pile of young players a taste of the postseason, which is something we can all agree is beneficial to the development process.
At the same time, when the Bulls put up massively concerning performances – like, say, blowing a 23-point lead and losing to the Spurs – one has to wonder whether or not this team can actually compete for a playoff spot over the next several weeks. Even if they add a role-player (and that is likely all they would get with no “star” players expected to be on the market), there are still fundamental problems with the roster. Those are problems that can’t be fixed with one trade deadline but rather need a full offseason – where it might be nice to have additional assets that could through taking a “sellers” approach.
I don’t know what path the Bulls will choose. I also don’t know which one is better. What I do know, though, is which way it feels like the Bulls have leaned as of late, and that is toward a playoff pursuit. Not only has the change in the starting lineup implied an immediate devotion to winning, but a recent ESPN report shared that executives around the league expect Chicago to make improvements over the next week.
We talked more about all of that here:
Report: League Executives Believe the Bulls Could Be Buyers at the Trade Deadlinehttps://t.co/VBTrnB59WK
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) March 16, 2021
And more about the lineup change here:
Do Changes to Billy Donovan’s Starting Lineup Give Us a Hint at the Future?https://t.co/Qm9hia5ZmJ
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) March 15, 2021
Major lineup changes coming for the Bulls. https://t.co/GclPwQb9Sm
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) March 14, 2021
We also addressed the team’s interest in taking advantage of Zach LaVine’s breakout season, and their possible investment in his happiness with a contract extension looming here:
The Bulls Are Keeping Zach LaVine Happy at Exactly the Right Timehttps://t.co/5MeGEqkMdF
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) March 17, 2021
Do I think the front office will go all-out to add new faces? No, not yet. But I do think they sit somewhere between the “Do Nothing or Buy” spectrum as opposed to the “Sell or Do Nothing” spectrum. We’ll see.
If I had to guess which players we see pop up in rumors over the next week, I’d have to go with the following (in this order): Thaddeus Young, Otto Porter, Tomas Satoransky, and Lauri Markkanen. I have to imagine all four of these players have some kind of interest around the league – particularly from contending teams. Young has turned into a lethal playmaking veteran; Porter (when healthy) is still an adequate 3-and-D option; Satoransky is a savvy point guard who limits mistakes on a decent contract; Markkanen is a high-upside 23-year-old who is headed toward restricted free agency.
Anyway, all we can do for now is wait and see what happens. The suspense is really starting to get to me, but I guess that’s part of the trade deadline fun, right?