I’m not going to lie, I love everything about trade season.
Playing armchair GM is really fun when you have the tools to manufacture fake trades that tear it down, go all in, or hell, just create chaos.
There are strong opinions to argue on either side of what direction the Bulls should go, which informs what kind of trade you make.
The idea of doubling down in the form of sending out more assets — young players and or draft capital — scares me given what we’ve seen through 52 games, but it doesn’t seem like the Bulls are ready to call it quits on the core they’ve invested so heavily into.
While I remain unconvinced in the group the Bulls have put together, I understand the most likely scenario is to stand pat. But increasingly more likely, is the idea that they might add talent around the fringes, rather than smashing this thing into smithereens.
With that said, I came up with some fake trade ideas that the Bulls could look into that infuse the team with some talent and keep them competitive. In doing so, they sacrifice more of their assets, while keeping their core of Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso together, but add players that are win now without getting too much older.
Teardown trades coming tomorrow …
One, I tried to make these as fair for both sides as possible. Typically in trades, there are clear winners or losers, but if both sides come away slightly disappointed, it’s a win-win.
Two, this is nothing personal toward any of these players. Simply creating some chaos in the name of the beloved trade deadline.
Three, this will apply to every trade that includes Nikola Vucevic — he is really freaking good. He’s averaging 20 points, 13 rebounds and 4.5 assists on 56 percent shooting, 35 percent on threes and 81 percent at the line since January 1. He’s one of a small handful of centers who score, space and pass at an All-Star level. He means more to the Bulls than he likely would to anyone else.
Note: all of these trades are legal in the fanspo trade machine. I encourage you to come up with some trades of your own and send them my way on Twitter!
But the Bulls are in a precarious position with his unrestricted free agency coming up. Do they want to let him walk for nothing? Do they want to extend him to a longer-term deal and continue down this same avenue? Or do they want to sell now and recoup some of the assets they dolled out for him in the first place?
Without further delay, here are my fake trades, in order from my least favorite to favorite.
Bulls enter the OG Anunoby sweepstakes
This is going to be an expensive one. OG Anunoby is possibly the hottest, non-superstar name on the market and teams flush with draft picks are set to pursue him. For the Bulls to add one of the best defensive wings in the league, who shoots 36.6 percent on over five threes per game, they’re going to have to pay up.
Bulls get: OG Anunoby, Malachi Flynn
Raptors get: Coby White, Patrick Williams, Dalen Terry, 2023 first-round pick (lottery protected via Portland), 2026 and 2027 second-round picks
In this scenario, the Bulls give up all of their young players with upside (excluding Ayo Dosunmu) to bring in Anunoby. Bulls also get Malachi Flynn, who fits the sparkplug bench guard archetype the Bulls would be losing if the Bulls ship out Coby White.
While the Bulls get better this year, they get a lot more expensive and have less team control in the future. I’d be hesitant to cash in the Patrick Williams chip for anything less than a star, but Anunoby is exactly what the Bulls need.
Frankly, I think this is a lose-lose. The Raptors will end up getting way more for Anunoby, meaning what already feels like too hefty a price to pay will get even heftier.
Probably too expensive for my blood.
Younger, and more athletic with John Collins
Bulls get: John Collins
Hawks get: Nikola Vucevic, Tony Bradley
Collins is a nice player in his athletic prime, who is in the second year of a 5-year, $125M contract. He has fallen out of favor in Atlanta and been on the trade block as long as anyone in the NBA.
Would the Hawks move him for Nikola Vucevic (and Tony Bradley as matching salary) to provide a different look in the center rotation and clear out some of their longer term financial commitments?
To me, this is likely another no for both teams. The Hawks already have two centers on the roster in Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu. Adding Vucevic would simply be a money play. For the Bulls, they retain a high-level rebounder, while adding a vertical spacing threat, but lose out on the playmaking and defensive anchor element. Collins has also struggled shooting the ball this season, down to 25 percent from three.
However, this does secure the Bulls a younger timeline while adding upside and giving them the flexibility to ease into the post-DeRozan era. The Bulls would still need to find the right option at center in this scenario — this is probably not the only move that needs to be made in this reshuffling — but Collins needs a change of scenery, he could be much better in another home than he is with the Hawks.
Bulls upgrade rim protection and perimeter shooting
Bulls get: Jakob Poeltl, Josh Richardson
Spurs get: Nikola Vucevic, 2023 first round pick (lottery protected via Portland)
The Bulls defense is 12th in the NBA, but I’m not sure I buy it. Getting a legitimate rim protector in Jakob Poeltl would elevate the rest of the group, while Josh Richardson gives the Bulls a three-and-D player they simply don’t have on the roster.
Poeltl is a free agent, as is Vucevic, so you end up paying the younger guy the same contract. But while Poeltl’s rim protection is elite, I’m not sure it makes up for the loss of floor spacing and play making you lose with Vucevic.
The Spurs could lose both players for nothing this summer and while they need to pay someone (they’re below the salary floor), they may as well get a pick back in the process and look to spend elsewhere.
Richardson would be a huge addition to the wing depth that is currently non-existent on the team, but adding in the pick here doesn’t quite do it for me. I get why the Bulls might consider this, but I don’t know if it helps them enough.
Bulls add shooting and wing depth
Bulls get: Alec Burks, Saddiq Bey
Pistons get: Derrick Jones Jr., Coby White, Dalen Terry, 2023 first round pick (lottery protected via Portland)
I like this trade because it helps the Bulls now, keeps them young and allows them to retain control over Bey’s contract. Adding this kind of size and shooting to play off of DeRozan, LaVine and Vucevic would go such a long way for this team.
For the Pistons, they appear to be shopping Bey and could be looking for other young players to add to their core. White could be a great fit between Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey while Terry and the pick represent the upside a rebuilding team needs.
Parting ways with Terry and the first rounder hurts, but this helps too much to pass up.
Another long-term center option
Bulls get: John Wall, Ivica Zubac, 2023 and 2024 second round picks
Clippers get: Nikola Vucevic, Goran Dragic
Given the position the Bulls are in with Vucevic, finding a younger replacement on a much cheaper contract makes a lot of sense, even if he isn’t the same caliber of player. The Bulls also need a backup point guard and there have been rumblings about the Bulls interest in John Wall. Picking up two seconds in the process helps replenish the trove after all of the picks the Bulls have shipped out.
Meanwhile, the Clippers get a major upgrade at center and a new option at backup point guard.
Sign me up
Bulls get: Kelly Olynyk, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt and the lesser of their pick and the Jazz pick in 2026
Jazz get: Nikola Vucevic, Coby White, Dalen Terry, 2023 first-round pick (lottery protected via Portland), the better of their pick and the Bulls pick in 2026 and the Bulls 2026 second-round pick
This is the perfect solution to basically all of the Bulls problems. They add a floor spacing center who can still operate as a passer. They add an elite three-point wing who operates off of movement. And an elite defensive stopper who can switch onto multiple positions.
The Jazz are said to be looking for the equivalent of a first-round pick for each of these players and I think White, Terry, the Portland pick, a swap and a second roughly covers it. Vucevic serves as matching salary. The Jazz could opt to extend him and trade him down the line or let him walk to clear their books. The main thing is the draft and young player capital that they earn here in spades.
While taking on this exercise, I learned that there are no realistic perfect fixes. To get good players, you have to give up a lot, and the Bulls don’t have a lot to play with. They’ve retained some flexibility with their group of young players, but cashing in on those chips puts you all the way in with a group that hasn’t quite done enough to deserve it. If they’re going to make a trade like that, they have to be confident it truly helps them, and none
I am fully prepared to be roasted. Just be nice.