Yet again, the Chicago Bulls stayed pat at the NBA deadline.
For the third straight season, Arturas Karnisovas, Marc Eversley, and Bulls management chose not to make any moves, major or minor, in terms of trades, to the dismay of most fans. Karnisovas preached continuity last season, and this time preached the team being on the way up after an abysmal start, despite the Zach LaVine injury.
There were conversations held with other teams, specifically around DeMar DeRozan, Andre Drummond, and Alex Caruso, per KC Johnson. But the Bulls asking price for each seemed to be too high, and teams pivoted to other options. They also pushed decisions on a possible rebuild until the summer.
It continues a streak of Bulls inactivity that stretches back to August 2021. The only impact moves you can point to in that stretch are the Andre Drummond and Patrick Beverley signings. It definitely means more pressure continues to mount on this front office to go in a direction, as they are on their way to being .500 and in the play-in for the second straight season.
But that’s a story for another time. For now, let’s focus on the Bulls next move: a buyout signing. Karnisovas has always made a move at this time; the big 2021 trade deadline, signing Tristan Thompson in 2022 (bust), and signing Patrick Beverley in 2023 (who saved their season, as a 15-10 record got them into the play-in and nearly the playoffs while they owed Orlando their pick). They have one open roster spot and enough space for at least one signing without going into the luxury tax. It’s especially necessary with all their injuries and exceptions. So who could be on the Bulls shortlist this time? Let’s take a look:
(Note: Only those who it has already been reported will be bought out are included. Maybe more options will pop up for the Bulls (it would be nice if they could bring back Taj Gibson or Derrick Rose) but we will focus on definite buyout players for now)
Furkan Korkmaz is my personal opinion on who the Bulls’ top target should be. He’s still young at just 26, has good length on the wing at 6’7″, and fills a need for 3 point shooting. He’s shot nearly 40% from 3 in three of the last five seasons, and in a bit of a down year, is still hitting 35% this season. He could definitely use a change of scenery; he’s had issues in Philadelphia since the 2021-22 season. In Chicago, Korkmaz could come off the bench, hit some threes, and give them some size on the wing, which they sorely need right now, between Zach LaVine and Patrick Williams’ injuries. Donovan could throw him out there for 18-22 minutes a game and make things easier for DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic in the post.
One criticism of Arturas Karnisovas is that he hasn’t gotten a legitimate power forward on this team, even when they were playing great in 2021-22. Patrick Williams, DeMar DeRozan, Javonte Green, Derrick Jones Jr, Torrey Craig, and others would have to all play at the 4 against bigger players, without Billy Donovan having the option to use someone bigger (unless he played Andre Drummond or Tristan Thompson with Nikola Vucevic, which rarely works). Thaddeus Young just so happens to be the best PF the Bulls have had in the 2020s, and is now a free agent. At 35, you can’t expect too much, but Donovan could throw him out for 12-16 minutes a game to give the Bulls a different look with a real PF. He can still get rebounds and assists and score a bit.
Joe Harris proved himself as an elite shooter from 2018-2021 with the Brooklyn Nets, leading the league in 3FG% twice. But an awful display in Game 7 of the Bucks-Nets series in 2021 (3-10 from the field, mostly on open looks as the Bucks double teamed Kevin Durant), and a foot injury the next season, have sapped him of his athleticism. His shooting percentage took a big nosedive in 2023, and he was dumped to the Detroit Pistons, where he couldn’t reestablish himself and has now been bought out. This was the first player KC Johnson said the Bulls could target in his trade deadline article (though at the time, Young and Korkmaz hadn’t been bought out). The Bulls could bring him in hoping he finds his shooting touch again, as they need 3 point shooting.
Marcus Morris became a bit of a meme for how much playing time he was getting on the Clippers while struggling, but he was better in Philadelphia after the James Harden trade in a reduced role. He was more efficient, and he continued to offer defensive versatility at the forward position with his size. Philadelphia and Indiana only traded him away because they needed another shooter instead of him, and the Spurs have no reason to keep him as they tank. It’s likely a contender gets Morris over the Bulls though.
Danuel House Jr.
Danuel House has struggled mightily from the field since his stint with the Utah Jazz in 2021-22, but he still offers some defense in his 3 and D profile. And as previously said, the 3FG% is ugly (32.5% the last two seasons) but it’s always possible a change of scenery allows a player to find his touch from range again. He has shot 62% from 2 point range in the same timeframe. He’s another wing the Bulls could look at.
Kyle Lowry most likely will sign with the Philadelphia 76ers to replace Patrick Beverley (what a great move by Milwaukee by the way), but the Bulls have been mentioned as another team to watch for him, citing the DeMar DeRozan connection. Lowry hasn’t been nearly worth his contract, which is why Miami traded him, but he did play better in the playoffs, and his shooting splits and assist numbers look better when he’s playing for the minimum and not $30 million a year. Plus, he’s still an effective guard defender. Guard isn’t the Bulls biggest need, but Lowry is worth looking into.
If the Bulls want to take the rehabilitation route with a young 2021 lottery pick, James Bouknight would be the way to go, over Killian Hayes. In his few spurts of action he’s shown some ability to shoot and score, though he hasn’t developed any offensive initiation action. Versus Hayes having a decent number of assists, but atrocious shooting numbers, and he’s already had his chance. I would rather the Bulls add one of the above wings or forwards though.