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NBA Trade Deadline Primer: The four routes the Chicago Bulls could take

Will Gottlieb Avatar
February 7, 2024

The NBA Trade Deadline is set for 2 p.m. Central Time on Thursday, February 8.

Here are the Chicago Bulls options before the deadline strikes.

Option 1: Ep. 5 Continuity Strikes Back

Two offseasons and three trade deadlines later, the continuity plan is beginning to feel inevitable. Zach LaVine was the only domino the Bulls reportedly wanted to knock down. He is now, for all intents and purposes, off the market following news of his decision to have surgery on his foot. The market for LaVine wasn’t robust to being with, but now, the Bulls would have to attach asset(s) to LaVine in order for the Detroit Pistons to take him on.

And with LaVine not contributing to wins on the court, there is an argument to be made that his loss doesn’t impact team’s ability to make the Play-In Tournament this season.

And if there are no overwhelming offers for any of the players on the roster, the Bulls could easily continue on their current path.

Option 2: Rebuild around Coby White

Part of the reason the Bulls sought to trade LaVine was to open up some form of flexibility to be able to make moves beyond veteran minimum had half of the mid-level exception type deals in free agency. With the way they the Bulls cap sheet currently is, freeing up LaVine’s money, even without receiving assets in return, could offer them the opportunity to get space to make the next move.

Now that’s off the table, and what’s left isn’t going to be easy for the front office to accept. LaVine is effectively a toxic asset, they can’t move him. Instead, they will have to explore trades for DeMar DeRozan and Alex Caruso.

Though the market for DeRozan seems to be generating less than optimal return, Caruso remains a hot commodity. If the Bulls were to move on from DeRozan, it would be with his unrestricted free agency in mind, and clearing out space to move forward around Coby White.

As for Caruso, he represents the Bulls best opportunity to secure real value. While he could still generate some assets in the summer, acting now, while he has two playoff runs on his contract, would command the most in return.

While this directional change would be a difficult decision, the Bulls are equipped with White, Ayo Dosunmu and Patrick Williams, around whom they can move forward. LaVine will also remain on the roster, and maybe Lonzo Ball is even able to make a comeback heading into next season.

There’s still hope, excitement and some name brand equity to sell to the fans in this instance.

Option 3: Fringe sellers

The Bulls haven’t made a player trade since the first year of the Joe Biden administration, so a minor move could satisfy that urge, and potentially net some lower level assets.

Andre Drummond has drummed up interest from contending teams around the league and could net the Bulls a second round pick or two.

There may also be an opportunity to move off some unwanted long-term money, perhaps by trading Jevon Carter’s contract. With the salary cap crunch being what it is, every extra dollar they can free up will be useful, and while Carter isn’t breaking the bank at $6.2 million, he’s not been a fixture of the rotation.

These kinds of moves on the fringes wouldn’t be the re-direct that the team will need to face at some point in the near future, but it would help give the team flexibility on their books moving forward.

Option 4: Buyers beware

Before they stood pat, the Bulls were big-time buyers. Could they look add to their current group?

The Bulls are in the red with their own draft picks, owing a top-1o protected pick to the San Antonio Spurs in 2025 (which becomes top-eight protected in 2026 and 2027 before turning into a second-round pick). They also own Portland’s pick, lottery protected, through 2028.

At their disposal, they have their own second-round picks in 2028, 2029 and 2030. Would they attach any of those assets to LaVine to dump him? Would they turn those picks into a player that could help win now?

The Bulls aren’t quite flush with assets, but they do have some movable contracts. If they believe in the potential of this roster, adding to it could make some sense.

Ultimately, I’m not expecting much from the Bulls or any other team at the deadline. With the lack of sellers in the marketplace, the lack of assets owned by the determined buyers, the increased parity around the league and Play-In Tournament encouraging mediocrity, there doesn’t appear to be much inertia.

Still, there are always opportunities to extract value if you’re looking in the right places. We’ll see which direction the Bulls go in the next day-and-a-half.

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