Why Bulls Must Keep an Eye on the Raptors as the NBA Trade Deadline Inches Closer
Arguably no NBA team has found themselves in more trade rumors this season than the Toronto Raptors.
The organization currently sits 23-29 and 12th in the Eastern Conference, failing to recreate the strong play that helped vault them above the Chicago Bulls and into the East’s 5th seed during the second half of last season.
The sophomore slump of ROY winner Scottie Barnes is part of the problem, sure. But the greater issue has simply been the fit of the team’s long-time starting core. The Raptors have struggled to build an identity around players Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet, and OG Anunoby.
While each has been able to put together his own strong individual play, the question of whether or not Toronto can build a truly competitive product with all three at the helm his one worth asking. Indeed, it’s not unlike the Bulls and their All-Star trio. And therefore, like the Bulls, the Toronto trade rumors have skyrocketed.
- Most recently, the New York Knicks and the Phoenix Suns have been tied to Anunoby, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
- Meanwhile, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype attached the Memphix Grizzlies to the top-tier defensive forward and claimed that Gary Trent Jr. remains the franchise’s top trade candidate as he heads toward free agency.
- We’ve also heard Fred VanVleet connected to both the Magic (via Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus) and the Clippers (via The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor).
Those are all well-known and starting-caliber players who could become fully available in the open market over the next week. And that’s a big freakin’ deal, especially for other teams who could also decide to sell. Like … say the Chicago Bulls.
No, we don’t yet know in which direction the Bulls are headed. If anything, most signs have pointed toward a relatively quiet trade deadline. But a lot can change in a week. The most important conversations are being had as we speak, and it can only take one of those conversations to push a team in a certain direction. The Bulls could still become one of the league’s most intriguing sellers by the time Feb. 9 roles around (the NBA Trade Deadline). And the timing of that decision could carry more weight than they even know.
For example … If Masai Uijiri and the Raptors make their intentions known before Arturas Karnisovas does, it could make it a lot more difficult for the Bulls to get what they want for their players. Some of those teams with big assets to spend could send them to Canada instead of Chicago. Not to mention, even if they do wait to see if both the Bulls and Raptors are selling, the Bulls now have to deal with Toronto indirectly impacting prices.
Understanding the possible impact is understanding supply and demand. The Bulls have a chance to be the rare team with All-Star-caliber talent to trade mid-season. If the Raptors join the club, they supply of those players goes up and the demand goes down.
Again, I don’t know which route the Bulls’ front office does plan to go. It’s very well possible that whatever the Raptors decide to do would have no major impact on what the Bulls’ course of action ends up being. But the element of the unknown also means the opposite could be true. The Raptors have a real chance to control this deadline, and the Bulls have decide if they want to beat them to the punch.