If the Bulls Are Active at the NBA Trade Deadline, Who’s Most Likely to Go?
The 2023 NBA trade deadline is less than two weeks away, and the Chicago Bulls remain one of the league’s most interesting, enigmatic teams.
Currently 23-26 and 10th in the Eastern Conference, it’s time for the front office to decide which direction they want to go: Sell assets now to continue building for the future or double down on this pre-existing core.
I honestly don’t know which path they’ll choose, but I do think I have a good idea of how they view their current assets. With that in mind, I thought we’d put virtually the entire roster into “trade tiers.”
As you go through the categories below, I want you to remember that this is how I think the front office thinks. In other words, this isn’t exactly the same tiers I’d put each of these guys in. Also, for the sake of at least some brevity, I excluded the following players: Marko Simonovic and Tony Bradley.
Ok, let’s go!
Most Likely to Go …
I think only one player fits the bill here and it’s likely the one you’d expect: Coby White.
The only consistent gossip around this team since the end of last season has been the availability of White. Chicago was reportedly open to moving White around the 2022 NBA Draft, and they reportedly remain open to dealing him as this season’s deadline nears.
Their eagerness to get something in return for the 22-year-old point guard isn’t a surprise when we consider his current contract situation. White is headed toward restricted free agency this summer after failing to reach a rookie scale extension with the franchise this past offseason. Considering the organization has implied that their not interested in handing White his next deal, it only makes sense to see what they can get in return for him.
Having said that, they don’t have to settle for just anything. The Bulls do have the power to match any offer White receives this summer. And, especially with the team struggling this season, there could be a greater emphasis on youth moving forward.
White’s value remains relatively ambiguous, so we can’t rule out the fact that the Bulls simply sign him to a cheap deal this summer to continue evaluating his potential. To his credit, he’s taken real strides this season as a ballhandler and defender.
At Least Making Some Calls …
I find this to be another shortlist. Other than White, the only two players I can see the Bulls actively shopping behind the scenes reside at center.
Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond are two veteran big men who may no longer be a part of the future plans. Vucevic, in particular, presents this front office with one of its most pivotal decisions. The 32-year-old is about to enter unrestricted free agency. Similar to White, reports surfaced that the bulls and Vucevic never had extension conversations in earnest, which only raises suspicion about their intentions of re-signing him this summer.
Of course, this could have been a mere leverage play in hope that Vucevic’s asking price would go down after this season. But, if anything, the big man might have reason to ask for even more after a nice bounce-back campaign. The organization has to decide before this deadline whether or not they are going to give Vucevic what he wants in free agency. Otherwise, they would risk losing him for nothing just two seasons after investing multiple draft picks and a talented youngster in Wendell Carter Jr. to acquire him.
With that being the case, I have to imagine their calling contending teams around the NBA to see if they would give up anything of value to add the experienced big man. If the answer is no, then they will have to cross their fingers that Vucevic will ink a relatively team-friendly deal to return or that they can find a suitable sign-and-trade partner (and the return for that is never as strong as what a deadline trade might net).
You just can not let a player as talented as Vucevic walk for nothing in return – even if the fit has proven complicated.
As for Drummond, he’s basically fallen out of the Bulls’ rotation. He’s only appeared in seven of the team’s last 13 games. Even more troubling, he’s only averaged about 8.4 minutes in those games. Head coach Billy Donovan has repeatedly favored a small-ball lineup that features springy forward Derrick Jones Jr., and that lineup has played pretty well at times.
With so many teams on the hunt for big-man help, I could see Drummond generating quite a bit of legitimate interest (and it appears he already has). He’s still an elite rebounder and good locker-room presence who has proven he’s willing to accept any role.
At Least *Taking* Some Calls …
This is undoubtedly the most jam-packed category, and I think it’s only grown in recent weeks. For the sake of simplicity, let’s take each player one by one.
Teams have reportedly called Chicago about Alex Caruso, and the organization has set their asking price high. When we consider the elite skillset Caruso brings to the floor and his numerous intangible winning qualities, it’s easy to understand why the front office would be hesitant to trade him.
Having said that, with the future currently murky, there is no question that Caruso could earn the Bulls one heck of a trade package. For example, if a team did meet their rumored demands of two first-round picks, it could be very hard to turn that down. The same can be said if a team like Golden State offered a first and a young former lottery pick.
Caruso’s status within this organization simply depends on which path they want to go. The fact of the matter is that his skillset is a bit of a luxury, so if the plan is to take a step back and retool this roster, taking what he gets you in return might be the best move.
Javonte Green and Derrick Jones Jr.
I’m going to group these two since both have provided the Bulls with similar play. Green and Jones have fit in wonderfully around the team’s trio thanks to their endless hustle and consistent ability to play bigger than they are.
While both seem adaptable enough to be valuable role players for any future iteration of this team, that also might not be a good enough reason to keep them around. Not to mention, both could hit unrestricted free agency this summer. Green is likely in store for a chunk of someone’s MLE, while I have to imagine Jones will look for a more long-term deal and turn down his $3.6 million player option.
My guess is the Bulls don’t plan to keep both after this season, especially as they look to add more shooting. With that being the case, I have to imagine their picking up the phone to talk through any conversation. I can also envision either being a throw-in to make a bigger deal work.
Dragic is a savvy veteran who has proven he has plenty of good basketball left in the tank. Before he had to miss a couple of recent games with an illness, he appeared in 42 of the team’s 45 games and was a vital part of the second unit.
The Bulls are probably prepared to finish out the regular season with him in uniform, especially since they lack some facilitating prowess. But I don’t think that means they’ll hang up the phone if teams came calling.
I’d consider Ball to be in a similar position as Caruso. While Karnisovas doesn’t have any plans to deal him or call teams to gauge their interest, he’ll likely hear out what an interested party has to say.
The fact is that he’s positioned to miss the entirety of this season. When he will return fully healthy remains completely up in the air, as does what he will look like whenever he does. If the Bulls are starting to panic, they may be eager to just get off his contract altogether. Again, I don’t see this happening (particularly with two years left on his deal), but it’s probably more likely he goes before the players in our next category.
I got to be honest, I had no idea where to put him. He could be lumped in with two of the young players you’ll see below, but my guess is that the Bulls would be more willing to include him in a deal than those two players. So, yeah, we’ll settle with placing him here.
You Have to Blow My Mind …
Regardless of which direction they choose (blow it up or stay competitive), I’m sure this front office understands the value of developing youngsters. Both Patrick Williams and Ayo Dosunmu have shown enough over these past two seasons to warrant further investment.
The organization is probably far less willing to part ways with Williams – their No. 4-overall pick – than Dosunmu, but I think they view each as a fit no matter how the roster is built moving forward. An opposing organization would really have to catch them off guard with an All-Star-level offer to even consider giving up on their potential. I know that might sound silly, but I do think that’s how important they believe it is to have a least a couple of intriguing youngsters in the mix.
The other player who is only leaving town via a holy sh*t offer is, duh, DeMar DeRozan. Maybe you believe the Bulls should be surveying the interest in the five-time All-Star since he’s extension eligible this offseason (and you bet your butt he’ll want that extension), and I don’t necessarily disagree with you. But my belief is that they’re taking very few calls on the guy right now.
Not only has DeRozan proven that he’s still one of the elite shotmakers in the NBA, but he’s been nothing but an admirable leader and face for the organization since joining two summers ago. My guess is the Bulls still want to try to make things work with him as a core piece. And, if that isn’t the case, they’ll at least wait until the summer to have a more extensive conversation about what DeRozan’s future holds.
No Freakin’ Way …
I highly doubt Arturas Karnisovas has any plans to trade Zach LaVine.
In the first year of a five-year, $215 million contract, the Bulls will want to prove that they were right to sign him to that deal. Not to mention, he’s the youngest of the core pieces remaining and arguably the easiest to continue building around.
Do I think this is the right mindset to have? Not necessarily. LaVine probably should be in the section above. But, remember, this isn’t what *I* think but rather what *I think the front office thinks.* And my gut tells me that LaVine is completely off the table.