I don’t usually write about players on other teams, this is a Bulls centered blog for crying out loud, but the murmurs of a rumored trade for Lonzo Ball have grown to a dull roar on social media, so let’s address the elephant in the room. Whether or not it ever happens, the Bulls do have, or have had, some real interest in trading for the New Orleans playmaker. If it happens, it will be the first major change made to the roster under the watch of Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley, and a significant one at that.
The Bulls have essentially been playing with a GarPax team this entire season. Only the addition of Billy Donovan and Garrett Temple, coupled with the subtraction of Kris Dunn, Shaq Harrison, and Jim Boylen, have been the real changes to the roster and style of play for the team. The eye test tells me that this team is better than previous years, and the record marginally backs it up. The Bulls are currently on pace to win 30 games this season, which would be the best record the team has finished with since Jimmy Butler fell into cahoots with Dwayne Wade. But does a trade for Lonzo Ball make the Bulls a better team? Does it make sense?
-The Bulls are in need of a playmaker. They have been since they traded Jimmy Butler. Lonzo Ball IS a playmaker.
-Lonzo is a big, lanky, 2-way player. He has the ability to score a little, and defend multiple positions at an above average clip. He seems to fit the mold of a Round Table player. He is versatile.
-He is at the end of his contract, and a restricted free agent. The Bulls won’t necessarily be tied to Lonzo for the long haul. They can let him become a free agent at the end of this season if things don’t work out. If they do want to keep him, they’ll be able to match any contract offer he receives.
-The rumors make it sound like Lonzo WANTS to be traded to Chicago. How often do we hear about players actually wanting to play for the Bulls anymore? If the rumors are true, this might signal the beginning of a shift in the leaguewide perception of the team. Hello Chicago Bulls, free agent destination?!!? I’m not sure I believe it just yet, but keep those fingers crossed.
-Lonzo has a high basketball IQ, and strong basketball instincts. He is able to quickly make the right play when he has the ball in his hands. The Bulls are sorely in need of smarter players, guys whose instinct is to make the right play.
-Lonzo is not the kind of player that can create off the dribble. He has solid handles, but he’s not known for collapsing defenses with his dribble. Even as a superior playmaker, he isn’t necessarily going to be the full time lead ballhandler on the team.
-He will be a restricted free agent at the end of this season. Wait, wasn’t that a pro? Well, yes and no. Restricted free agency is a double edged sword; Sure, the Bulls will have the right to match any contract he gets this offseason, but if they want to retain his services, they might have to pay a ridiculous amount to keep him if another team overbids.
-Lonzo’s production as a playmaker is a little down this season. He had a slow start to the season, and has been more of an off-the-ball scorer then ever before in his career. His stats this season are very similar to Coby White’s, begging the question: is it really worth trading for him?
The Meat and Potatoes
So lets say the Bulls decide that they need Lonzo Ball on their team. What will it take to get him? That I don’t know, but I can guess, and I’ll tell you which of the Bulls core I’m willing to give up to get him (in no particular order).
1) Coby White – Coby is the easy plug-and-play switch out that even the most rudimentary blogger could come up with. Right now he is the Bulls point guard, and if Ball comes to the Bulls, Coby will have to switch roles. Why not switch teams as well? White is still a very young prospect with a ton of potential. His size, speed, and scoring ability are his three biggest attributes, and are things that most teams in the league covet. His age and ability fits well with the Pelicans rising superstar, Zion Williamson, and he could be a dynamic part of what New Orleans is trying to put together. For salary cap reasons you’d have to bundle Coby with another Bulls player to get the deal done. Here’s what I came up with…
2) Lauri Markkanen – Lauri would be the perfect stretch big compliment for Zion and Brandon Ingram. His perimeter shooting has gotten much better this season, and besides from that small stretch of games after his Covid hiatus where his shot wasn’t falling, he’s been flirting with 40+% on 3’s. He’s also a restricted free agent at the end of this season, giving the Pelicans the ability to move on from him if it doesn’t work out. Unlike Coby, a straight up player swap of Lonzo for Lauri would work without any bundling.
I think any trade the Bulls and Pelicans made would probably have a 2nd round draft pick attached to it, to “sweeten the deal” as Gar Forman might say. Whether the Bulls are on the giving or receiving end of that 2nd round pick is probably going to be up to how good the Round Table is at negotiating.
I’m not interested in trading Wendell Carter Jr, Patrick Williams, or Zach LaVine for Lonzo Ball. I don’t think swapping Ball for any of those three gets the Bulls closer to being relevant. That’s not to say I think they’re untouchable, I’d want more than just Lonzo Ball for any of those three.
Even a trade for White or Markkanen is a bit “meh” for me. Both of those guys have shown they can be great scorers, it’s just their lack of consistency that has Bulls fans frustrated. Ball seems to be a pretty consistent player from the research I’ve done. He’s averaging 11 points, nearly 6 rebounds, over 6 assists, with almost 3 turnovers, and a steal and a half, per game over his 4 season career. His career shooting percentages are under the league average both on 2 pointers and 3’s, but he’s a plus defender with the capability to drop the occasional triple-double on opponents.
On one hand, this is the perfect time to trade for Lonzo Ball. As the entire team goes through it’s season long evaluation, why not find out what the Bulls look like with an actual playmaker on the roster? How will that help (or hurt) Zach LaVine? How will another + defender compliment Wendell Carter Jr? Could a Ball/LaVine backcourt be the thing that raises the Bulls to relevance? The Bulls might have the chance to answers these hypothetical questions if they make the trade.
On the other hand, while I understand the appeal of finally having a consistent playmaker on the roster, I’m not sure I’m ready to completely give up on the potential of White and Markkanen, at least not just for Ball.
On the other, other hand, what do the Bulls have to lose?
Until the Round Table starts making some significant changes to the roster, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!