Summer League 2019: Update 2

Rookie Daniel Gafford boxes out. Photo by NBAE/Getty Images

The Bulls have played three games in Summer League 2019. After the encouraging initial success of their first game, they have slipped into a nightmarish spiral of turnovers, poor shooting, and bad defense. Game 2 was an 82-75 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and featured the disappearance of Daniel Gafford. He was routinely caught flat footed on defense, was slow to protect the rim, and made very little impact on the offensive side of the floor. Coby White turned the ball over 7 times while dishing out only 5 assists, not a good ratio. Chandler Hutchison sat out the entire game for rest or something, and, with the recent release of Shaq Harrison and Walter Lemon Jr from the team, the Bulls found themselves in a familiar position; forced to use a roster lacking in basketball talent, the results were all too familiar as well.

Game 3, a demoralizing 109-72 loss to the Zion-less New Orleans Pelicans, was the Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker show. Hayes destroyed the Bulls in the paint, and destroyed the rim as well, throwing down as many as 9 dunks in the game. Here he is posterizing Windy City Bull Mychal Mulder with a vicious slam:

Nickeil Alexander-Walker picked the Bulls apart with his passing and three point shooting. He also put on a defensive clinic, locking down his opponent at the perimeter and swatting the ball in the paint. He recorded 3 steals and 2 blocks while pouring in 23 points with 8 assists, not bad for the Pelicans shooting guard of the future.

What of the Bulls, you ask? Chandler Hutchison was a menace with the ball in his hands, he couldn’t contain his dribble. He would start to make a move and the ball would slip out of his grasp. Hutch committed 5 turnovers most of them due to his poor ball handling. Coby White also committed 5 turnovers, he got his pocket picked on multiple occasions and he threw some poor passes. On the positive side he racked up 25 points and started to look more comfortable shooting the ball from beyond the 3 point arc. Daniel Gafford wasn’t much of a factor on the offensive end of the court, but he did grab 8 rebounds and block 6 shots. He (and everyone else on the Bulls) was overwhelmed by Hayes in the paint, while he valiantly battled with the New Orleans big in the post, he couldn’t stop him. ‘Nuff said.

The Bulls have a game against the Charlotte Hornets before the Summer League Tournament starts. I haven’t looked at the tournament format for this year, so I’m not sure if the Bulls will qualify for it. To be honest, if the Bulls continue to play this same sloppy, half-assed, ugly basketball they played in the last two games, I’d rather not have to watch them. It’s been bad.

Trade Speculation:

OKC’s Russell Westbrook might be the next superstar on the move. Photo by Jaime Valdez of USA Today Sports

While the Bulls have been scuffling through Summer League, some major changes have been reshaping the NBA. The most recent development in this chameleon league is the distinct possibility that Russell Westbrook will be traded this offseason. The 31 year old former MVP is by himself again in Oklahoma City, after both Paul George and Jerami Grant were traded away in what looks like the beginnings of a rebuild. With Westbrook on the block, the question ripping through Bulls social media has been “Do you want Westbrook on the Bulls?”

My first reaction to the news was, “HELL YEAH!!! Triple-doubles here we come!”

Then I thought about it for a little bit, “But what would we have to give up? I guess if the asking price isn’t too high the Bulls should trade for Westbrook.”

And then I thought, “The Pelicans got like six 1st round draft picks for Anthony Davis, and OKC got another 4 to 6 for Paul George, how many would the Bulls have to give up for an aging Westbrook? 4, 5, 6? Who else would the Thunder want?”

When I put the trade into the context of what’s happened around the league this offseason, I started to think, “It’s not worth it.”

But then I woke up this morning and was like, “What the hell am I thinking? Russell Westbrook is the ultimate version of Zach LaVine, he is what LaVine hopes to become. Why not just get the actual MVP version of one of the Bulls key rebuilding players and go from there?”

With Westbrook on the team the Bulls would probably make the playoffs, they might even make a deep run in the Eastern Conference. How valuable will those 1st round draft picks be over the next couple of seasons? The trade would have to include some combination of LaVine, Otto Porter Jr, Kris Dunn and/or Cristiano Felicio just to get close to matching Westbrook’s $30 million a year salary. You add Coby White and several top 10 protected draft picks to the mix and maybe it’s a deal the Thunder take.

What does that lineup look like for the Bulls?

Wendell Carter Jr

Lauri Markkanen

Otto Porter Jr (?)

Tomas Satoransky

Russell Westbrook

with Thaddeus Young as your sixth man.

Not too shabby…

…But there are other factors to consider if the Bulls are serious about acquiring the former MVP.

While Westbrook is a nightly triple-double threat, he is nowhere near as good of a shooter as LaVine is. Westbrook relies solely on his strength, speed, and athleticism to score, where as LaVine has a sweet shooting stroke and deep range to go along with his speed and hops. LaVine’s offensive game should age well, Westbrooks may not. That being said, Westbrook has better vision than LaVine as a distributor, and is an excellent rebounder for his position. LaVine is 5 years younger than Westbrook, and just entering his prime with as high a ceiling as any potential All-Star in the NBA. A swap of Westbrook for LaVine is not necessarily as gigantic an upgrade as it might seem at first blush.

All that speculation aside, I feel like I’d be happy with LaVine in that lineup instead of Westbrook.

Like most aspects of this offseason, the question of whether or not to pursue a trade for Russell Westbrook comes down to the patience of the Front Office. Are GarPax happy with the current trajectory and time line of this roster? Can they wait for White, Carter Jr, Markkanen, and LaVine to reach basketball maturity? How imperative is it for the Bulls to make the playoffs and compete for a championship?

It’s been a positive offseason for the Front Office. On paper, the free agent signings they have made should improve the team considerably. Even as I write this, I find the pendulum of uncertainty swinging back in the other direction regarding Westbrook. “Maybe we should let this all play out. Maybe we don’t need to grasp at a big name star. Maybe we already have one just waiting to ignite. Wouldn’t it be great if the Bulls superstar was homegrown? Maybe we don’t need Russell Westbrook.”

One day, maybe I’ll figure out what I want. Maybe.

An Actual Internet Rumor:

You remember two time former Chicago Bull Justin Holiday?

Kris Dunn is the player the Bulls want to move. Could a Dunn for Holiday swap be in our future?


Until that trade has been made, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!