As of right now (for me, the evening of Monday, January 10th) the NBA trade deadline sits one month away, and the Chicago Bulls sit in first place of the Eastern Conference. In other words, the most competitive window since the early 2010s has quickly opened inside the United Center. Thanks to a duo of top-10 scorers, an elite defensive backcourt, and a slew of better-than-expected reserves, any conversation about which team will be the one to come out of the Eastern Conference alive must begin with the Chicago Bulls.
And when an organization claims the top spot, like the Bulls have so far, they go from being the chaser to the chased. Decisions around how to improve become that much harder to make. Do you rock the boat with another big splash or do you feel like your best course is already set? We talked more about that tough question here, and we later heard Karnisovas address the topic last week on 670 The Score.
The Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations didn’t divulge much on the organization’s deadline goals (I know, shocking), but he did mention how much he likes the current roster. He made it clear the group built this summer is one he’s comfortable watching grow together, perhaps implying that Chicago could take a relatively tamed approach as they head toward the deadline and toward the playoffs this season.
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) January 6, 2022
However, the NBA trade deadline is often anything but tame. Even if the Bulls are expecting to stay relatively quiet (which, again, we don’t know if that’s exactly the case), the need to jump could arise at any moment.
Teams in the Eastern Conference are trying to catch up to the Bulls, which means teams in the Eastern Conference will look for that next big addition. And, if you’re the Bulls, you never know how much ground that one big addition will help make up. Multiple Eastern Conference playoff teams have been rumored to seek sizable deadline deals. The Philadelphia 76ers (5th), Cleveland Cavaliers (6th), Charlotte Hornets (8th), Washington Wizards (9th), Boston Celtics (10th), and New York Knicks (11th) were all mentioned in Shams Charania’s most recent Inside Pass article at The Athletic.
The Cavaliers were reported to be interested in a backcourt upgrade, eyeing the Indiana Pacers Caris LeVert. Meanwhile, the Knicks and Hornets were both mentioned as potential suitors for big man Myles Turner. The Jerami Grant sweepstakes was also brought up, with both the Knicks and Wizards reportedly expressing interest in a deal for the Pistons’ versatile forward. NBA Insider Marc Stein also recently connected Ben Simmons to the Atlanta Hawks in his newsletter (which you can sign up for here), adding one more East playoff contender into this mix.
But the point here isn’t about the specific names connected to each team right now, it’s simply the fact that multiple squads appear eager to add high-impact talent for a post-All-Star-break playoff push. Is that out of the norm? Not particularly, but it’s more relevant to the Bulls now than it’s been in a long time.
Only 5.5 games separate the No. 1-6 seeds in the Eastern Conference. The Bulls will want to ensure they hold onto this slim Eastern Conference lead, which means monitoring how much steeper their competition becomes is vital. Could a big-time move from someone lower down the totem pole convince the Bulls to tweak their plans? Does Karnisovas already have something in his back pocket that he’s waiting to do? We will have to watch this closely as the next month unfolds. After all, chaos is always right around the corner in the NBA.
Read Charania’s Inside Pass below: