Jerami Grant and Harrison Barnes are basking in a lunchbox full of Cosmic Brownies, Lunchables, and Capri Suns at the cool kids’ table. Unfortunately, the Bulls might not get the head-nod to come sit with them this trade deadline. So let’s take a look at some other frontcourt players who could prove to be better friends.
Some Big-ish Names
P.J. Washington ($4.2mil, RFA in 2023)
I’ll admit, this one is a long shot. Washington came off the board 12th-overall in the 2019 draft and he remains just 23 years old. A versatile frontcourt player whose natural position rests at power forward, he’s also gained more experience filling in as a small-ball five over his first three years in the NBA. In fact, Williams has clocked 95 percent of his minutes at the five this season for Charlotte in his new role off the bench, according to Cleaning the Glass. Bulls love versatility!
Washington isn’t going to stand out in any one category, but the Bulls wouldn’t need him to. He can provide some of the size and length they covet at the four while also possessing the ability to guard multiple positions. We can’t necessarily consider him the highest-impact rebounder, which is a department the Bulls certainly need to improve, but he does provide the kind of no-fear physicality Chicago has missed down low. Offensively, he allows for the kind of spacing the Bulls want alongside Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan thanks to a consistently efficient 3-point shot (shooting 39.5 from long range this season). We’ve also seen some growth as a passer this season, as he’s averaging a career-high 3.3 assists per 36 minutes.
PJ Washington in the final 2+ min last night:
2:02 – forces a missed Giannis iso jumper
1:00 – strips Giannis on drive, leads to Bucks TOV
:43 – assist on Bridges layup
:08 – iso on Middleton to force timeout, Hornets D resets
:03: helps wall off Giannis drive, leads to TOV
— Sam Perley (@sam_perley) January 11, 2022
So why would the Hornets give up a still improving young player? Well, they have a lot of talent, and it’s forced Washington to become the odd man out. Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer recently reported the team is quickly approaching the luxury tax, and he reminded us they are likely staring at a big contract for Miles Bridges this offseason. It’s also been no secret the team wants to improve the center position, so Fischer reported that moving Washington has become a possibility.
I’m not sure what the Hornets’ asking price would be, but I do wonder if this is a situation where the Bulls can sneak into a three-team deal. Perhaps Charlotte makes a run at someone like big man Myles Turner, which would leave the door open for Chicago to sneak in with some cap filler and the Portland first-round pick to be the squad that ends up with Washington. I don’t know, just a fun thought.
Robert Covington ($12.9mil, UFA 2022)
If it’s a proven and defensive-minded veteran the Bulls want, it’s a proven and defensive-minded veteran they get with Robert Covington.
We all know things in Portland are … well … rocky, and the team appears open to shuffling practically all their pieces around superstar Damian Lillard. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst recently said that interim GM Joe Cronin has taken calls on several players, including Covington. Chicago has some experience conducting business with the Blazers after they became a part of the three-team deal that netted them Derrick Jones Jr. and a Trail Blazers protected first-round pick this offseason. Considering Covington’s +2.0 estimated defensive plus-minus this season, which ranks in the NBA’s 94th percentile, per Dunks & Threes, it’s not hard to imagine Chicago trying to do business with the Blazers again.
Nicolas Batum ($3.3mil, UFA 2022) or Serge Ibaka ($9.7, UFA 2022)
With Paul George’s health up in the air thanks to a UCL injury in his right elbow, people have started to speculate whether the Los Angeles Clippers could become a surprise seller at the deadline. Kawhi Leonard remains out as he rehabs his ACL tear, and Los Angeles sits just 9th in the Western Conference with a record of 22-24.
If the Clippers were to start fielding calls on some of their assets, I’d gladly point the Bulls in the direction of two frontcourt veterans: Nicolas Batum and Serge Ibaka. Batum arguably is the better fit for what this Bulls team needs in the absence of Patrick Williams. He could immediately slide into the starting power forward spot and provide perfectly adequate two-way play. Like many of the names on this list, he can guard multiple positions and even give the team stints as a small-ball five. We should also note his shocking career-high 40.4 percent clip from downtown has proven not to be a fluke this season.
Batum makes just $3.3 million this season, meaning the Bulls can technically absorb him into their $5 million trade exception this season (though, they’d have to waive someone to make that happen).
As for Serge Ibaka, the Bulls would have to match his expiring $9.7 million, which is something they could do quite easily with Derrick Jones Jr.’s almost identical expiring contract. Why exactly would the Clippers do that, though? Your guess is as good as mine.
Still, Ibaka is a big man with 146 playoff games under his belt and a championship ring around his finger. He knows how to protect the rim, and he’s long been a strong rebounder. The real question is whether he can stay healthy and whether he runs the floor in the way this Bulls team might like. Also, at this stage in his career, Ibaka would have to be an off-the-bench backup center. The versatility Chicago wants might not be there anymore.
Other Helpful Types
Dorian Finney-Smith ($4.0mil, UFA 2022): According to Fischer of Bleacher Report, Finney-Smith could become the byproduct of a “financial squeeze” this deadline. A pesky defender with active hands, he would give this team a streaky 3-and-D forward who has also become an improved finisher at the rim. I’d love this fit, and he played for head coach Billy Donovan at Florida!
Torrey Craig ($4.8mil, UFA 2023): Something just works about Torrey Craig, and Arturas Karnisovas knows it. The two were paired in Denver for three seasons after the Nuggets brought Craig over from the NBL in Australia. He then spent time with BOTH Finals-bound franchises last season as an impact defender, appearing in every playoff game for the Suns. He may be undersized at 6’7″ but Craig is always one of the toughest players on the court. Like Caruso, this is a guy who made himself who he is on the defensive end, and the Pacers might be willing to let him walk as they enter sell-mode.
Chris Boucher ($7mil, 2022 UFA): Chris Boucher can shoot. Chris Boucher can block. Chris Boucher can rebound. With a 6’9″ frame and 7’4″ wingspan, Boucher would certainly give the Bulls the kind of size and length they are missing in the frontcourt. He should bolster the rebounding department while picking up at least some of the rim-protecting slack. He isn’t going to offer the kind of toughness or physicality this team necessarily needs, but there is just something fun about his game that I could see working for the Bulls. Eric Koreen of The Athletic named Boucher the “most likely” member of the Raptor’s rotation to be traded.
Kenrich Williams ($2.0mil, 2023 UFA): Speaking of tough, KENNY HUSTLE! A swingman currently hiding in OKC, Williams is a ball of energy and switchable defender who understands his role. He isn’t going to give you a ton offensively, but he doesn’t need to on this Bulls team. He’s a willing passer, a slightly improved shooter, and someone who should be able to slide in and out of a lineup without much concern. The guy is a contender’s dream, and I expect someone to scoop him up this deadline.
Updated top 10 players in our Off-Ball Chaser Defense metric:
1. Luguentz Dort
2. Gary Harris
3. Kenrich Williams
4. Landry Shamet
5. Desmond Bane
6. Matisse Thybulle
7. De'Andre Hunter
8. Nassir Little
9. Isaac Okoro
10. Austin Rivers
🔒 Off-Screen Shooters🔒
— BBall Index (@The_BBall_Index) January 14, 2022
Trey Lyles ($2.5mil, 2022 Team Option): The 6’10 big man and 2015 lottery pick is finally starting to find his role in the NBA. Unlike many of these other options, Lyles’ appeal is more on the offensive end as a floor spacer and offensive rebounder. His jumper has gone up and down over his career, but he provides the kind of offensive versatility that I can see fitting on this free-flowing Bulls team. Is he the perfect option? Absolutely not. But he’s a $2.5 million option.
For more on why these options may be better suited for Chicago, check this out:
I don’t think Grant is the way to go if Williams is the asking price. https://t.co/n5XLeIVU2Q
— Bleacher Nation Bulls (@BN_Bulls) January 19, 2022