Who knows, if the Bulls hadn’t rattled off an 8-3 stretch with wins over Miami, Milwaukee, Philly, and Brooklyn, things might be different.
Perhaps all those cries for the organization to blow it up may have been answered. I’m not exactly sure if I truly believe that would have been the case, but I also can’t deny that the case would have been far easier to make. However, the reality is that the Bulls are now back in the Play-In Tournament picture and have one of the top-3 easiest schedules in the NBA remaining.
In other words: The chance they press self-district is arguably the least likely it’s been all season. And that comes with the trade deadline less than a month away.
Indeed, one report from The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry has already stated that people around the league expect the Bulls to remain “relatively quiet” as we enter early February. This also happens to be similar to what Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus is now sharing, as he states that only moves around the margins might be considered:
The Bulls are the wild card of the bunch, as many external sources believe the team should go in a different direction with players like Nikola Vučević, DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine. But they also seem to collectively think the Bulls will ride it out, perhaps looking for a minor deal for Coby White.
On one hand, this is what I always expected. When folks began screaming for the Bulls to trade their core pieces and begin a rebuild, I just couldn’t envision it. Not only did they choose this new direction only a year and a half ago, but Zach LaVine and Billy Donovan were recently handed fresh deals. Were they really going to reverse course so quickly?
On the other hand, trying to “ride it out” is sometimes the worst thing you can do in the NBA. While I don’t believe the Bulls have to do a hard reset, I don’t think anyone can deny that this roster is a finished product. Changes still need to be made, and why wait for the offseason to make them?
The deadline can present a great opportunity to buy low on talent and fill holes that sometimes otherwise can’t be filled during free agency. So, in that case, I’m at least somewhat relieved to hear Pincus throw out the concept of a “minor deal.”
Honestly, I can envision the Bulls seeking out a handful of smaller deals to re-invent their supporting cast around Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan. More specifically, adding length and 3-point shot-making at this deadline could feel like the top priority. What assets do they have to seek out such additions, though? Well, Pincus mentioned one key name to keep an eye on.
Coby White’s days in Chicago felt numbered this offseason. Rumors swirled about the Bulls looking to package him alongside a draft pick for veteran assistance. Obviously, no deal came to fruition, but what’s stopping them from trying again this February? If the plan isn’t to pay White as he hits restricted free agency this summer, striking some deal for him should be the objective.
Would a rebuilding team like Detroit have interest in him for a veteran shooter like Alec Burks? What about the Spurs if it helps net Josh Richardson or old friend Doug McDermott? Can you call Orlando about Gary Harris? I know those may not be the sexiest names, but (1) your not getting the sexiest return for White, and (2) those guys are representing the types of low-cost options who could actually exceed their pay grade with their value in this specific roster.
If you do throw the Portland pick back into the equation, the hope is that you can target someone whose name carries a little more weight. But we also just don’t know what the rest of the market will look like right now. The more buyers, the more competition, and the more teams who could upstage that kind of offer.
The other names to look out for as part of a “minor deal” would probably be Derrick Jones Jr., Andre Drummond, and Goran Dragic. Each of these guys has performed well in their respective roles this season, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised to hear a contending team is interested in their services, especially the latter two.
Heck, I could even imagine Javonte Green’s name coming up in conversations. While his recent knee injury may have some teams skeptical, he’s proven to be a winning role player and is also up for a fresh payday this summer.
The last thing I’ll say for now is this: I very much wonder what the Bulls’ definition of “minor” is and whether Nikola Vucevic fits into it. There is no question that trading him would feel significant, but they might not view it that way if they already expect their marriage to end when he hits unrestricted free agency in the coming months. Using his contract and value to land a more defensive-minded big man for the future could make plenty of sense (is it feasible, though?).
It might be doing some very wishful thinking – especially when we consider the Bulls’ assets the best – but a creative front office should be able to make some use of this deadline. Chicago doesn’t necessarily have a bad roster, they just have one that doesn’t fit all that well together. Fixing that is essential, and I have some faith that even minor moves over the next month can help put this team on a better track.