Why the Trail Blazers Could Make the Bulls Deadline a Success

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How the Trail Blazers Could Help Make the Bulls Deadline a Success

Chicago Bulls

All indications are that the Chicago Bulls will remain relatively quiet at this season’s trade deadline.

While they have blindsided us with shocking deals before, they have also shown a blind commitment to the core they’ve put together. Rumors about Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and even unrestricted free-agent-to-be Nikola Vucevic have been rare. And, even when word has broken on either of the three players, it has mainly been to reiterate that the front office wants each to be a part of a playoff push.

It’s hard to imagine we can deem the Bulls’ trade deadline a success for Chicago if they sit on their hands. However, there is one circumstance where this could be the case, but it all rests in the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers.

The Bulls received a 2022 Portland Trail Blazers lottery-protected first-round pick two offseasons ago. They acquired the draft assets in the same three-team deal that brought Derrick Jones Jr. to Chicago and saw Lauri Markkanen head to Cleveland. Since the Blazers failed to make the playoffs last season with an injured Damian Lillard, the Bulls’ pick didn’t convey and will now carry over into the 2023 NBA Draft.

To be clear, the pick will continue to carry over into the following season if not conveyed until 2028, at which point it will then turn into multiple second-rounders. Any fear of having to wait around for that pick, however (the Blazers are currently in a position AGAIN to keep the pick), could technically come to an end this Thursday if the Blazers get frisky.

Portland seems determined to build a contender around Damian Lillard. They continue to be in a handful of trade rumors, with Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer recently connecting them to highly-coveted wing OG Anunoby and Stadium’s Shams Charania connecting young big man Jarred Vanderbilt back to the franchise. While it’s unclear how much they’re hoping to spend on an addition, it is clear that they can open up a handful of draft assets by calling Chicago.

Indeed, as of now, the Blazers can not trade ANY of their first-rounders between now and 2028 (since you can also only trade picks seven years out, 2029 is their only tradeable first-rounder right now). The reason for that is because of the NBA’s Stepien Rule, which prohibits teams from trading a first-round pick in back-to-back drafts in advance. In other words, teams must possess a first-round pick every other year. Since it’s currently unclear which season the Bulls pick will convey, the Blazers can not freely trade any first-rounder since they run the risk of it being in the year after that pick conveys. Make sense?

Now, there are protections they can put on a first-rounder right now that would ensure it conveys at an appropriate time after the Bulls’ pick. But who is going to be truly interested in that, especially in a deal for in-demand talent? Opposing teams will not want a pick that relies so heavily on another pick.

So, yeah, the whole thing is kind of a mess. But you know how you could fix that? Remove those protections! If the Blazers are truly as interested in a playoff pursuit and adding talent as the rumors suggest, they might have no other choice but to make the 2023 pick completely unprotected. And, considering they’re currently 11th in the West (and the Bulls don’t own a first-round pick in this upcoming draft), that sounds great to me!

Even if they didn’t choose to go this route right now, though, they might have to do it later on. There is always a world where they decide to make the pick fully unprotected in 2024 or 2025 to free up the availability of those other picks. Hey, whatever works for me.

The last thing I’ll say for now is this: Keep an eye on Portland as a potential trade partner for the Bulls. Whether Chicago plans to send out core pieces are not, these are two sides who have reportedly connected in recent weeks. They have also been vocal about their willingness to trade wing Josh Hart, who is someone that could make a lot of sense as a 3-and-D wing in Chicago. Again, conversations may be dependent on the Bulls’ desire to trade a big fish (guys like Shaedon Sharpe or Anfernee Simons could make sense in a return for someone like LaVine or DeRozan), but it’s just something to keep in mind.

Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.