The Chicago Bulls have one month to make up their mind.
With the Feb. 9 NBA trade deadline just around the corner, teams around the league are going to have to take a gamble. Whether it be selling, buying, or standing pat, these decisions around the trade deadline are ones that can have long-lasting ramifications, especially for those middling teams like the Chicago Bulls.
Three weeks ago, the cries couldn’t have been louder for a full-blown tank. The Bulls had been performing like one of the worst teams in the league, and their position outside the Play-In Tournament picture led to rival organizations quickly circling DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine on their deadline wishlists.
But things can change fast in the NBA.
After winning eight of their last 11 games, the Bulls are now sitting 9th in the Eastern Conference and only 1.5 games out from re-entering the top 8. Tankathon also currently projects the Bulls to have the third-easiest schedule the rest of the way, which likely only fuels this organization with more confidence that they can continue their ascent up the standings.
I have remained adamant that I am not a fan of the Bulls pressing the reset button, and this recent winning stretch represents at least part of the reason why. With that said, the last thing the Bulls’ front office can do is let these wins distract them from the roster’s obvious holes. The lack of 3-point shooting, facilitating, and rim protection remain necessary fixes.
Not to mention, battling for a Play-In Tournament spot isn’t the goal. Arturas Karnisovas made clear that improving on last season’s sixth-place finish and first-round exit was the goal. The fact of the matter is that this team is still falling well short of that mark, and they’ll likely continue to until roster tweaks are made.
The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry recently preached a similar sentiment in his column for The Athletic, and he also dropped a somewhat concerning update. According to his sources, the Bulls may be falling into the same old trap that got them in this unfavorable position.
The last thing the franchise needs for its long-term outlook is the front office being fooled by this encouraging stretch and failing to take steps to improve the roster.
But in the weeks leading up to what could be a crucial deadline, multiple league sources have told The Athletic the expectation is for the Bulls to remain relatively quiet. No one expects the Bulls to “blow it up” and commit to a complete rebuilding process.
*walks into closet*
*closes the door quietly*
Either Arturas Karnisovas is the most stubborn man in the world or these sources are mistaken. Let’s hope it’s the latter.
We’ve seen the Bulls’ brass sit on their hands and preach continuity for the last season and a half. They remained quiet at least season’s trade deadline before only locking in Andre Drummond and Goran Dragic this summer. Ever since they built this win-now core two offseasons ago, they have refused to continue the aggressive pursuit they started. And this deadline is now their opportunity to change that.
To be clear, I’m not saying I want some massive roster overhaul. All I want is for this front office to admit that what they have right now isn’t the long-term answer for which they were hoping. Whether they do that by trading Nikola Vucevic’s expiring contract for a defensive-minded center or sending some package around Coby White elsewhere for a two-way wing, they need to show fans that they’re at least trying to create a more competitive roster (that is, if the plan isn’t to outright tank).
The fact that Mayberry is sharing the teams around the league don’t expect them to pursue such changes is extremely discouraging and only further muddies the direction of this franchise. Now, having said that, I guess there is a world where we can interpret Mayberry’s comments in a semi-more optimistic way.
Perhaps “relatively quiet” simply means “not blowing it up” instead of “not doing anything.” Because, yeah, the loudest thing the Bulls could do is trade DeMar DeRozan or Zach LaVine. If that was something these same sources once thought was on the table, anything would feel “relatively quiet” when compared to that. In other words, perhaps mixing and matching pieces around this core (or at least LaVine and DeRozan) is still on the table.
I don’t know, guys. I’m just trying to be optimistic because reports like these undoubtedly concern me. The worst thing a front office can repeatedly do is nothing. As I always say: This is an ever-changing league. If the Bulls refuse to change with it, they are only going to fall further and further away from true contention.