The NBA trade deadline is three months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about possible deals.
This feels especially true for the Chicago Bulls, who are looking to stay competitive in one of the most tightly-contested Eastern Conferences we’ve seen in quite some time. While their 6-8 start to the year can be at least partially chalked up to one of the hardest slates in the NBA, playoff seeding doesn’t care about strength of schedule. The Bulls will have to learn how to start stealing wins against some of the league’s better squads, and part of that process might have to involve some roster tweaks.
Indeed, whether it be more reliable 3-point shooting or wing defense, there are several holes this front office may need to fill mid-season. The problem with that, however, is that the Bulls’ asset pool is frustratingly shallow.
After dealing a combined three first-round picks in deals for Nikola Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan, the Bulls’ most useful draft capital at the moment is the Portland Trail Blazers first-round pick (acquired last offseason in the Lauri Markkanen trade).
Now, they do have some interesting talent on the depth chart, but would they really be willing to trade that talent? Patrick Williams has been one of the front office’s key investments, while Ayo Dosunmu has been a true diamond in the rough. Even Javonte Green, who could effortlessly fit on almost any contending team, has proven extremely valuable to this Bulls team.
When we look across this roster, there is really only one player who has continued to feel like the front office’s preferred trade chip. And his name is Coby White.
We already know thanks to the many reports around draft night that White was available. More specifically, some reports suggested the Bulls were looking to shop White alongside the No. 18-overall pick. Obviously, Chicago went on to draft Dalen Terry and keep White heading into the season, but that moment told us that White’s future in Chicago could be in question.
Not only did the Bulls continue to add depth to the guard position (signing Goran Dragic), but they also failed to reach any kind of rookie scale extension with White on Oct. 17. This officially made it feel as if the organization’s interest in White didn’t extend beyond this season, and that’s something with which rival executives agree.
According to Mike Scotto of HoopsHype, execs believe that White very much remains on the trading block this year:
“Coby White’s role and production have declined for the third straight season thus far, and according to rival executives, he’s a trade candidate for the Bulls looking ahead before the deadline,” Scotto said.
Again, none of this should come as a major surprise when we consider the previous reports. Whether it’s the team’s fault, White’s fault, or some combination of both, the 22-year-old has continuously failed to carve himself out a consistent role in Chicago. He’s shown flashes of being the sparkplug scorer they want him to be, but waiting around longer to see if he can reach his full potential may not be something the Bulls can afford.
So, yeah, trading White could make a lot of sense, especially since his $7.4 million salary might return a truly helpful role-player. But the biggest obstacle has remained the same ever since the first rumor dropped: Who would want him?
I don’t ask that question to be a big fat jerk. While I’m sure a handful of teams would take a chance on his young talent, I’m not at all sure that a team would trade anything of substance to do so right now (especially with free agency looming). And the Bulls need substance.
It also surely isn’t helping the Bulls’ case that White has missed the team’s past seven games. The fewer minutes he’s on the floor, the fewer chances he has to improve his overall trade value. So while I totally believe the Bulls are ready to talk about White with other teams, I’m not yet sure they will be offered the kind of deal they covet. Maybe a potentially robust trade market can prove me wrong.