For better or worse, the Chicago Bulls have become an integral part of the trade conversation this season.
Thanks to a lackluster start to the year (11-15) – which currently has them outside the Play-In Tournament picture – the Bulls have become every contender’s dream. They are an underachieving roster full of veteran talent with no clear future. Thus, the surface-level case to embrace a tank isn’t necessarily the hardest argument to make.
And that’s why ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has already reported that a whole heap of teams have their eyes on Chicago ahead of this year’s trade deadline.
Indeed, rumors have already started about the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks crossing their fingers for a complete sell-off. The word is that LA might want to make a run at DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic, while the Knicks could hold out hope for a disgruntled Zach LaVine.
To be clear, the word has also been that Chicago has zero interest in pressing the reset button, reportedly making it known that Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan are “untouchable.”
The Bulls can say whatever they want, but the proof is in the pudding (and right now, the pudding tastes like chicken liver mixed with battery acid). Chicago can only hold off the vulture for so long if they continue on this trend, which is why Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus has become yet another reporter to emphasize just how many teams have their binoculars pointed at the Bulls.
“Everyone is watching Chicago very closely,” one NBA source told Pincus. “They’re so poorly constructed, they need to blow it up.”
Pincus lumped the Bulls in alongside the Wizards and Raptors as three middle-of-the-road teams that buyers are watching carefully. He also reiterated that the Lakers have an interest in a possible deal for both DeRozan and Vucevic.
Again, whether or not Chicago actually has any interest in picking up the phone remains unclear. Considering they remain only a half-game out of the play-in tournament picture, it’s not at all hard to believe that this front office prefers to stay the course. If one thing is for sure, however, it’s that they will be better off picking a direction sooner than later.
Both Pincus and The Athletic’s Shams Charania emptied their bag of trade rumors in recent days. What’s clear is that many teams around the league are ready to start talking deals. And the Bulls need to be one of them.
If the plan is to tank – which I don’t think is a viable path right now – then Chicago would be better off joining the race for the No. 1-overall pick ASAP. Let’s not forget their 2023 first-rounder belongs to the Orlando Magic and is top-4 protected, so they’ll need to accumulate as many lottery balls as possible to avoid the far more likely chance that they concede that pick. And, to be sure, even if they began the tank now, they might have a hard time getting better odds than expert tanks teams like Spurs, Pistons, Hornets, and Rockets.
Now, if their choice is to keep themselves afloat and continue to work toward playing competitively, trades still must be on the table. This roster has some serious holes, especially in the shooting department. The sooner they can add more reliable downtown threats, the sooner they will be taken more seriously. We can say the same about the need for more size and depth at the power forward position.
Staying put simply can’t be an option right now, especially as fellow Eastern Conference teams continue to look for ways to improve their roster. According to Charania, there have already been discussions about a three-team trade that would net the Bucks Jae Crowder. The Hawks and Heat have been interested in pursuing the veteran forward, as well, and Atlanta also continues to seek out trades for starting power forward John Collins.
Crowder is the perfect example of a player Chicago has to be interested in if the plan is to win games. Other players who also could be worth sniffing around include Gary Harris, Mo Bamba, Josh Richardson, Doug McDermott, and Jakob Poeltl – all players that Pincus recently mentioned as available.
The list of possible trade targets is only going to grow, so will the Bulls add to it or will they take advantage of it? That’s the question that needs to be answered in the coming weeks, and I’d be lying if I said I know what that answer will be on this gloomy December day.