The NBA trade deadline is less than three weeks away, with February 8th, 2024, 3 pm EST rapidly approaching. The blockbuster trade of Pascal Siakam to the Indiana Pacers will likely get the ball rolling on more deals.
The Chicago Bulls are expected to be among the teams at the center of the trading landscape; with a 5-14 start to the season, they appeared to be heading toward a firesale, but now sitting at 20-23, and inching closer to the top 6 in the East, they could elect to stand pat, retool, or even buy low on a player. Let’s take a look at their situation in this primer, and what Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley might do.
Players who won’t be traded and have value
The Bulls can’t afford to trade any of their young talent, especially with how these three have finally started blossoming. White is developing into an elite guard. Williams is finally starting to put it together after three seasons of inconsistency. And Dosunmu is a very valuable bench piece as he does everything.
Players who won’t be traded due to low value
The Bulls wouldn’t get more than a second round pick back for any of these guys, so they might as well keep them and try developing them.
The Market on everyone else
Zach LaVine: LaVine trade talks have mostly been dead. His injury and the Bulls run without him likely made teams hesitate on showing interest. He has returned and played very well, trying his best to fit in by passing more and playing stronger on-ball defense. And one bad stretch of 20 games shouldn’t outweigh four or five straight seasons of elite scoring production. Between the contract and injury concerns, though, the Bulls likely won’t get a deal for LaVine, and that’s ok. Holding onto him isn’t a bad outcome. He’s still 28, in his prime, and will continue to be an important piece for the Bulls. And his contract (4 years, $160+ million) won’t look so bad very soon.
Potential Landing Spots: Lakers, 76ers, Kings, Warriors, Heat
DeMar DeRozan: DeRozan’s $28.6 million expiring contract could be enticing to some teams trying to clear cap space, or to a team trying to add a piece for the playoffs. He remains an elite midrange scorer, and has returned to being a very good distributor this season. His game has aged quite gracefully. It might be tough to try and fit him into a team midseason, making a trade tough, but easier than committing 3.5 seasons to LaVine. I’d say DeRozan is the most likely of the Big 3 to be traded.
Potential Landing Spots: Knicks, Heat, 76ers, Lakers, Nets, Hawks
Nikola Vucevic: Vucevic, just like everyone else on the Bulls, started the season terribly, but has done well in their recent 15-9 stretch. His efficiency is down, which is concerning given his age, and his defense obviously remains an issue, but he can get 20 and 10 most nights still. At $60 million guaranteed for three seasons though, that might be a tough pill to swallow for an aging center who is already a defensive liability.
Potential Landing Spots: Magic, Hawks, Nets, Clippers, Suns
Lonzo Ball: The odds of Ball being traded are 1%, but if there is a trade out there that needs a third team for salary matching reasons, or if the Bulls want to dump him, or if the Bulls try buying and need to match salaries, Ball could be in play, with 2 years, $42 million remaining on his contract, and a chance at him playing in 2024-25.
Alex Caruso: Maybe the most valuable asset the Bulls have, Caruso is owed $19.5 million over 2 seasons. He’s shot almost 50% from the field and 42% from three this season, while continuing to rack up deflections and steals and occasionally running the point guard position. Besides some injury concern, Caruso is the exact player you want on your team; does everything on defense, and can score and pass well enough offensively. Will the Bulls keep him? Or will a contender give the Bulls an offer they can’t refuse, such as a young cheap player and multiple picks?
Potential Landing Spots: Literally every single contender in the league
Jevon Carter: If the Bulls trade Carter, they’d be selling low. He’s fallen to the last man in a 10 man rotation, as his three point shot hasn’t been falling (34% compared to 42% last season, and 36% from the field overall), his assists have been cut in half (2.4 to 1.2), and his defense has been good, but his size just puts the Bulls at a disadvantage. Maybe a contender in need of some 3 point shooting comes calling and hoping he can get back to form, but the Bulls wouldn’t be getting much for him.
Potential Landing Spots: Timberwolves, Magic, Lakers
Andre Drummond: Drummond, for all his occasional lapses on both sides of the court, is one of the better backup centers in the NBA. He’s a throwback big who grabs a ton of rebounds and gets a lot of dunks and putback layups. He’s averaging 7.4 PPG and 8.4 RPG and 1.1 SPG on 55% shooting in just 16 minutes per game. Plus, he’s had a couple of huge performances in Nikola Vucevic’s absence, and imporved his free throw shooting to 56%. And he’s only 30 and an expiring. The Bulls will for sure get calls on Drummond, and considering it’s unlikely he stays in Chicago beyond this season with Vucevic under contract for two more years, they might want to trade him for a younger big and a pick.
Potential Landing Spots: Celtics, Knicks, Mavericks, Pacers, Clippers, Suns, Kings, Thunder
Torrey Craig: Craig won’t return until mid-February, but teams should be still be interested in the 3 and D forward. He was shooting 38% from deep and averaging 5 rebounds per game before his injury, and gave the Bulls a lot of versatility in their lineups, as they could play him at SF or PF. To a lesser extent than Caruso, many contenders looking to upgrade their depth by any means will call about Craig.
I think with the market lacking, the Bulls don’t make any major moves. Karnisovas clearly wants to keep Caruso, and LaVine and Vucevic won’t net enough to justify trading them. DeRozan has a better chance of being moved, but I wouldn’t bet on it. It’ll likely be another quiet deadline. If there’s one move I had to pick to happen, it would be the Drummond trade, just because Donovan doesn’t play him much and the Bulls could get a decent offer for him.