What if the Bulls and Trail Blazers Made Some Noise at No. 3?
I’m convinced that in at least one timeline, the Chicago Bulls and Portland Trail Blazers make a trade for the No. 3 overall pick. The question is … will it be this one?
After a season where they went 40-42 and failed to crack the postseason, the Bulls have entered unsettling territory. A team built around three pricey All-Stars in Nikola Vucevic, DeMar DeRozan, and Zach LaVine no longer appears equipped to compete in the Eastern Conference. Even more troublesome, the franchise lacks the necessary assets to easily retool the roster.
The NBA Draft Lottery in Chicago on Tuesday night was a painful reminder of this. Chicago watched their 2023 first-rounder fall into the hands of the Orlando Magic at No. 11 overall. They originally dealt the pick to the franchise in 2021 as part of the Nikola Vucevic trade.
Now, with no pick in the 2023 NBA Draft (not even a second-rounder), plenty of money tied up in LaVine and DeRozan, and a future first headed toward the Spurs in 2025 (thus restricting them from trading either the 2024 or 2026 in advance due to the Stepien rule), the front office will enter the summer as one of the least flexible teams in the NBA.
But that doesn’t mean they can’t swing for the fences!
While I’d say the chances are slim, there is still time for the front office to press the reset button. And one of the boldest ways to do so is by calling the Portland Trail Blazers.
The Trail Blazers officially own the No. 3 pick in the 2023 draft. However, with Damian Lillard locked into a long-term deal and fresh off another All-NBA-caliber season, the goal seemingly remains to continue building a title contender out West.
Indeed, according to Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes, the franchise is so committed to Lillard that the No. 3 pick is believed to be up for grabs:
Portland, in an effort to continue building a contending roster around its star Damian Lillard, is expected to make the pick available for a trade, league sources tell Bleacher Report.
The franchise is in the process of evaluating the market for the No. 3 pick as well as examining incoming rookie prospects that are attainable at No. 3, sources say.
WHADDAUP, PORTLAND! YOU’RE LOOKING RAVISHING THIS EVENING!
The Trail Blazers are desperately trying to keep Lillard happy. The Bulls are desperately trying to establish a brighter future. A phone call just makes sense!
Let’s be very clear: A pursuit of the No. 3 pick would not come cheap. Portland will hang up the phone instantly if the conversation doesn’t start with the name “Zach LaVine.” And rightfully so. A two-time All-Star, he would provide Portland with one of the West’s more explosive and dynamic backcourts.
Now, I do think it’s fair to wonder if they view Anfernee Simons as a younger and cheaper player who can eventually provide similar production to LaVine. But there is little questioning that LaVine is currently the better option and would provide the franchise with some of the secondary star power it’s been looking for next to Lillard.
This is also a franchise that has been linked to LaVine multiple times. Prior to this season’s deadline, Yahoo Sports’ Jake Fischer reported that the Trail Blazers showed interest in LaVine during his free-agent summer. K.C. Johnson linked him to Portland back in 2022, as well.
Parting with LaVine isn’t an easy decision (even if some angry fans like to pretend as if it is). He is easily the Bulls’ best asset and is young enough to be a building block in a roster overhaul. Choosing to move him would mean choosing to start a full-blown rebuild – somewhat reminiscent of what the organization did in 2017 by trading Jimmy Butler.
In other words, you have to be confident whomever you’re drafting at No. 3 can turn into a franchise centerpiece. A case could absolutely be made that either Brandon Miller (whom the Bulls have interviewed!) or Scoot Henderson can be that someone. But it’s still always a major risk when you’re giving up a known commodity for upside.
And this isn’t just a tough decision from a Bulls’ standpoint. We can’t assume Portland has an interest. They have an extremely coveted asset on their hands, and they may feel as if they can land someone with far more playoff production than LaVine. They may also be skeptical of adding another offensive-minded running mate alongside Lillard after the many years with McCollum.
If the Bulls really wanted to get this done, though, they might have an extra way to entice Portland. Chances are the two sides will already talk this summer, as the Trail Blazers need to unlock some future flexibility. In short, they dealt a future lottery-protected pick to Chicago in the three-team trade that saw Markkanen head to Cleveland. Since that pick hasn’t conveyed, Portland is in limbo and unable to trade any other future picks. For a greater explanation of why that is, read our post here.
While the Trail Blazers could work out a deal to give the Bulls another pick or change the protections to help themselves, what if the Bulls just gave them back the pick? What if it ended up being LaVine + their future first back? Is that enough?
If we’re being honest, that seems like it’s worth even more than a rookie and just some salary filler. The Bulls might even be able to get another player with real value back in return! Shaedon Sharpe, anyone!? Yes, I know I’m getting delusional!
Again, all I’m saying is this seems like the kind of thing front offices at least have a chat about. I don’t expect a blockbuster deal to get done right now … but we’ve seen crazier things happen, particularly when two franchises are in desperate waters.