The Chicago Bulls didn’t make a peep at the trade deadline. And while the decision certainly makes some sense considering the team’s success – and the expected price tags on a few of their preferred targets – there is still plenty of room for improvement (and that feels especially true after seeing the deadline additions of several key Eastern Conference teams, many of which bolstered their frontcourt rotations).
Fortunately, there’s still another way for the Bulls to add talent.
Arturas Karnisovas told reporters on Thursday that the team would “look at some things” on the buyout market. Exactly what that means is anybody’s guess, but I thought we might as well take a look. While the options may be limited, there are still a handful of players who could be of interest to a Bulls team that currently sits 2nd in the Eastern Conference.
Goran Dragic: Goran Dragic could easily be the biggest prize in this season’s market. The Raptors sent Dragic to San Antonio as part of the deal for Thaddeus Young on Thursday, and the veteran guard is expected to reach a buyout to join a contender. The Dallas Mavericks have long been the speculated landing spot for the 35-year-old, but the organization’s trade for point guard Spencer Dinwiddie feels like it has opened the door for more teams to get involved. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski named the Bulls as a team expected to show interest, and there is no question he would instantly bolster this team’s guard depth (however crowded it might be when fully healthy). Dragic averaged 13.4 points with 4.4 assists and 3.4 rebounds for the Miami Heat last season and is a 36.4 percent 3-point shooter. With plenty of postseason experience under his belt, he can bring a reliable presence to this backcourt rotation.
DeAndre’ Bembry: If we want to get technical, Bembry wasn’t bought out by the Nets. The organization waived the 27-year-old wing after their massive Ben Simmons trade with the Philadelphia 76ers. With that being the case, he can be claimed by someone off waivers before the Bulls get a crack at him. Still, if he does clear waivers and becomes a free agent, Bembry is a midseason pick-up that I’m sure a handful of contenders have already started to think about. Bembry is a six-year NBA vet who spent his first four seasons with the Atlanta Hawks before splitting the past two seasons between the Raptors and Nets, respectively. He has appeared in 48 games for the Nets this season, starting 20 and becoming a necessary staple in their rotation. While he doesn’t provide much in the scoring department, he has been a plus-defender every season of his career. He could immediately help clean up a Bulls defense that has plummeted into the league’s bottom third, and he has plenty of experience staying out of the way of lethal scorers. Basically, I ask myself this: Can he give me more productive minutes than Matt Thomas or even Alfonzo McKinnie? I have to think so.
Gary Harris: Did someone say defensive wing? Rumors have swirled that the Orlando Magic could look to buy out Gary Harris, who is in the final year of a four-year, $84 million contract. Harris’ 3-and-D capabilities would immediately become another hot ticket for contenders around the league, likely giving the Bulls some serious competition. Harris has shot a career-high 38.8 percent from behind the arc this season on 4.9 attempts per game. He is a little smaller than Bembry, but he provides the kind of proven defensive energy that the Bulls could find quite useful against opposing backcourts. When I think about the kind of player this front office seems to like, Harris slides right into that mold. And, hey, that makes plenty of sense considering he played his first six seasons under Arturas Karnisovas in Denver. The only problem: Whether or not he actually hits the open market remains in question …
I've heard the same as Keith. Not convinced at all that Orlando buys Gary Harris out, per league source. https://t.co/4zWf3IBzvL
— Mike Singer (@msinger) February 11, 2022
Dennis Schroder: I’ll keep this brief since we’ve talked about the point guard plenty. Schroder was sent to the Houston Rockets in exchange for Daniel Theis. A tanking team with plenty of young talent to stuff in their rotation, it’s not hard to see a world where Schroder is freed to find a playoff home. The Bulls were attracted to him for the past several weeks, so we have to at least consider the possibility they would make room for him on the roster if he became available. More on Schroder here.
Tomas Satoransky: Yes, I know Tomas Satoransky has played easily the worst basketball of his career this season, averaging just 2.2 points with 2.4 assists on a disgusting 29.9 percent shooting from the field. And, yes, I know we’ve already been down a rocky path with him. But … hear me out. The Bulls love their multi-positional talent, and Satoransky remains just that. He is a 6’7″ guard who can slide into all three backcourt positions. He’s a great passer. He limits mistakes. He tries on defense. A naturally unselfish player, he’d fit in just fine on this roster, and head coach Billy Donovan is already plenty familiar with his skill set.
Tristan Thompson: The Indiana Pacers acquired Tristan Thompson as part of their deal that sent Domantas Sabonis to the Sacramento Kings. Whether or not they plan to buy out the big man is still in question, but he is an obvious target for the Bulls if they do. Thompson is an 11-year vet with 83 playoff games under his belt. He’s averaged 8.5 rebounds per game over his career, including 3.4 offensive rebounds. He may not be the most stout rim-protector, but he’d provide the kind of experience size down low that this team lacks behind guard Nikola Vucevic. In a dirty work role off the bench, Thompson has the potential to be a truly impactful addition.
Paul Millsap: Like Schroder, we’ve talked about Millsap plenty, so I’ll just share this tidbit from one of our previous posts: “Old, yes, but as a four-time All-Star who played 20.8 minutes per game for a successful Denver Nuggets team last season, he has shown that some good basketball remains in the tank. Millsap has long been viewed as a strong defender and good rebounder, and he does possess the ability to hit the occasional 3-ball. The veteran forward would also provide the Bulls with yet another locker room presence that is plenty familiar with playoff hoops (129 games).” Millsap found himself in Philly as part of the 76ers-Nets blockbuster, but his standing inside that organization remains unclear. If they can’t find him a consistent role, I’d expect for him to still hit the open market.
Robin Lopez: The former Bull has probably been living the life playing just 25 games right outside Disney World. However, duty calls. I’m sure a number of big-man-hungry teams are just waiting to get their hands on the energetic 33-year-old. Bulls fans know well what Lopez brings to the table, and a lot of those skills fit this team quite well. He is a high-effort rebounder, physical defender, and efficient finisher. He’s no longer some kind of shot-blocking menace, but he’s a battle-tested big man who knows exactly how to fill his role. I wouldn’t mind seeing a reunion happen.
Mike Muscala: I don’t know if Muscala will get bought out, but I do know he shouldn’t be on the Thunder. Stuck on a rebuilding team, the 30-year-old could easily be contributing to a number of playoff-bound teams right now. He is a floor-spacing big man who has averaged 37.7 percent from downtown on his career. Not the most dominant presence on the glass, Muscala still stands 6’11” and would offer the Bulls some much-needed size down-low.
Drew Eubanks: Another player who technically is not a “buyout candidate,” Eubanks was waived by the Raptors quickly after they acquired him from the Spurs on Thursday. I got to be honest, I find it hard to believe the big man is going to be better than Tony Bradley, but he has appeared in 49 games this season and should be ready to contribute if needed. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that he’s … ya know … big.