A drunk turtle is moving faster than the NBA offseason.
The free agency madness has subsided, and Summer League is a thing of the past. Even reports about Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell – who have become two of the hottest names on the trade market – have become scarce. Things will surely pick up as training camp nears in September, but until then, I’ll be stuck thinking way too much about even the smallest of rumors – the latest of which comes courtesy of Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer.
The Utah Jazz received a king’s ransom for Rudy Gobert earlier this offseason. All attention has now turned to what they’ll do with Mitchell, but the availability of the players added via the Gobert trade is also worth keeping an eye on. Jarred Vanderbilt, in particular, has emerged as one of the most talked about names on the market, per Fischer.
“A lot of teams have called about Jarred Vanderbilt,” Fischer said on a Live Q&A (the recording can be found on Spotify here). “I don’t know the number. I don’t really have any specific teams that I’ve heard of. But last I talked to Utah about it, he was the guy who was getting the most calls, the most incoming calls of all the players that were of that Rudy Gobert return.”
As Fischer makes sure to note, which teams have actually picked up the phone to inquire about the power forward remains unclear. But he is confident that many teams have expressed interest in Vanderbilt, so I have to ask … should the Bulls be one of those teams?
The front office has seemed pretty set on entering the regular season with this existing roster. However, we know Arutras Karnisovas and Co. aren’t afraid to blindside us with a trade or two, and Vanderbilt certainly feels like the kind of player this front office went into the offseason hoping to add.
A gritty six-foot-nine forward who became a starting-caliber role player for the Minnesota Timberwolves over the past couple of seasons, the role for Vanderbilt in Chicago feels obvious. Not only would he give the Bulls a tougher and more sizable option at backup power forward, but he would offer head coach Billy Donovan another multi-positional defender who could even eat-up minutes as a small-ball five.
Vanderbilt averaged a career-high in points (7.0) and rebounds (8.4) last season over his 74 games. His 12.0 OREB percentage this season – which ranked in the 93rd percentile, per Dunks & Threes – feels particularly noteworthy when we consider the Bulls sat with the NBA’s third-worst OREB% last season.
To be sure, Vanderbilt doesn’t possess the highest ceiling due to his total lack of a 3-point stroke, but he isn’t a complete zero on the offensive end either. He’s still a threat to score from the dunker spot, and he would also immediately supply the Bulls with another strong cutting option. Vanderbilt scored the 17th-most points in cutting situations last season and had the 11th-most possessions as a cutter, per NBA Stats.
Already accustomed to playing alongside names like Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards, Vanderbilt is someone whose proven he understands where he fits on the floor. I also can’t help but be excited that he is just 23 years old and heading into the second year of an extremely inexpensive three-year, $13.1 million deal.
So if we’re simply asking if the Bulls should check in with Utah about Vanderbilt, I think the answer is a quick “yes.” However, whether or not they can get a deal done at the right price now is a frustrating question.
Front office leader Danny Ainge isn’t one to lose a deal. He also knows that many teams are calling about Vanderbilt, which allows him to jack up the asking price. While Fischer couldn’t provide specific details on what the Jazz wanted in return, he did say his educated guess would be a first-round pick.
Now, to be clear, we’re likely not talking about a potential lottery pick. Fischer noted that something right outside the lottery would make more sense, which instantly made me turn toward the protected first-round that the Bulls snatched from Portland. Is that really worth giving up for Vanderbilt, though? I’m not so sure. The fact that the front office’s asset pool is already so shallow could force them to hold this pick to a higher value.
So what about Coby White? In my head, using White as the basis of this deal could make sense. While it’s unclear where the Jazz stand on White, they feel like the right organization to buy low on his potential. He’s a former lottery-level talent who could come into his own as he works with an expanded role on a rebuilding team. The franchise might already have a more proven sparkplug scorer in veteran Jordan Clarkson, but White could be an easy replacement if he ended up being a part of this mass exodus in Utah. Something to consider.
Again, we all know Danny Ainge isn’t an easy executive to do a deal with, so whether or not the Bulls are in a position (or want to be in a position) to talk business with him is a fair debate. But the Jazz also appear ready to enter a full-blown rebuild, which means now could very well be the right time to strike.