Rumors are swirling as teams begin to report for training camp, and the NBA season is under a month away.

As the Damian Lillard sweepstakes continue (with Miami still the likeliest team to land him), a recent report stated an unknown Eastern Conference team that wasn’t the Heat was linked to Lillard. Then yesterday, Kyle Neubeck, of PHLY Sports Network, tweeted what he said on a podcast: “On today’s @PHLY_Sixerspod, we discussed the ongoing Lillard saga and a wild-card team I’ve heard is making calls to get in the mix — the Chicago Bulls”

The Bulls have been rumored to be team that could talk to Portland about a trade, just due to their nature of already being all-in on their team. But this is new smoke for the first time in a while in terms of Lillard, about any team, even Miami. So there exists a small chance that it is true.

But let’s clear something up: the chances of this trade happening are less than 1%, for many reasons.

First, the Bulls aren’t trading one of the big 3 for Lillard, and Portland doesn’t want them either as they begin a legitimate rebuild. Nikola Vucevic and DeMar DeRozan are veterans already well past 30. Zach LaVine is still 28, but it doesn’t make sense for the Bulls to swap LaVine for Lillard, who is 34. They’d have to give up picks and another player to match salary to do that, and it would leave a huge hole at SG, a bigger one than what they have at PG right now. Plus, the Bulls floor and ceiling wouldn’t change much, even with Lillard coming off a career-year. So the Bulls would only make this trade if they could add Lillard to their current core. It’s the same way Miami isn’t offering Jimmy Butler or Bam Adebayo or even some other players who played a huge role in their finals run, but they’d give up Tyler Herro and picks and young players who didn’t play much.

Second, the Bulls lack assets. Portland would want young players and picks to start a rebuild around Shaedon Sharpe, Anfernee Simons, and Scoot Henderson. The Bulls could offer Patrick Williams, who may have decent value. But besides that, who? Coby White or Ayo Dosunmu? The Blazers already have multiple guards. Carlik Jones isn’t good enough. Dalen Terry and Julian Phillips don’t have much value at this point. The Bulls owe a protected first to San Antonio in 2025. So at most, they could offer Portland their 2024 lottery protected first back (not much value since Portland isn’t making the playoffs anyway), a 2024 first swap, a 2026 first swap, a 2028 first swap, and a 2030 first swap, along with unprotected firsts in 2027 and 2029 (I don’t think you can trade 2031 picks yet). The Bulls have just three seconds in that time period. Miami can basically offer the same picks, with just two less seconds and no Portland first, but they could engage the Thunder to allow them to trade up to 3 firsts unprotected.

Due to both teams’ lack of assets, a third team likely will have to get involved. But it’s much easier for a third team to get involved for Miami then it is for Chicago. We’ve already established that the Bulls won’t be trading LaVine in a deal for Lillard; he is the closest to untouchable on the team. Vucevic won’t fetch much in a trade. So for the Bulls to match salary, on top of sending Portland Patrick Williams, picks, and some combination of other young players (White/Dosunmu/Jones/Phillips/Terry), they would need to ship out Lonzo Ball’s $21 million salary. And with Ball already guaranteed to miss the entirety of the 2023-24 season, you’d have to package picks with Ball, on top of giving Portland picks. The Bulls war chest is already pretty bare. Whereas a third team can come in with Miami and take Tyler Herro, who is owed less, is younger, locked up long-term, and Miami is more willing to part with him.

So the last possibility is trading DeRozan to a third team, who sends assets with the Bulls to Portland, who send Lillard to the Bulls. This is probably the most likely scenario for any Lillard to the Bulls trade. The problem is, who is that third team? To me, the Grizzlies, the Nets, the Knicks, the 76ers (if they can get the Clippers to take Harden), the Hawks, the Kings, the Lakers, and the Pelicans are all possibilities, they could use the veteran leadership and buckets and play of DeRozan. But it’ll be hard to get good value for a 34-year-old DeRozan in the final year of his deal, when the league continues to move towards the 3 point ball and away from the midrange game, even though it’s still somewhat important to win in May and June.

The reality is, while you go and use the trade machine to get Lillard to the Bulls, temper your expectations. If there was a way to get him without giving up any of the Big 3, it obviously would be a huge win, but if it was possible, it would have already happened. A DeRozan for Lillard trade with a third team could maybe get the Bulls to that next level, but it’s not a guarantee, though it is the best chance at it. A LaVine for Lillard trade with a third team would be much harder to swallow.

Expect Lillard to still end up in Miami, but the Bulls are at least doing their due diligence.

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