A couple weeks ago, I wrote a fun little post detailing my quest for the perfect free agent point guard target for the Chicago Bulls. A lot of people read that post. Thank you. It was my best performing post to date, which, admittedly isn’t saying much for how small this blog is, but it meant something to me. The fine folks at blogabull.com deserve most of the credit for tweeting out their love for the article, and putting me in the public eye. Of course the only thing to do after such a successful post is to skip the following week, making sure the general public forgets all about my blog. Trust me, I fully intended on following up that tongue-in-cheek post with something a little more serious, especially after the Bulls missed out on a top four pick in the Draft Lottery, but life happens. I spent most of last week playing doctor to a very sick and slightly disgruntled toddler. The good news is, the kid is better, the other good news is, you get a post from me about the Bulls this week.
No Lotto Luck
Yeah, so, the NBA Draft Lottery happened last week. The Bulls did not get a top 4 pick in the 2021 draft, which means the #8 overall pick transfers to the Orlando Magic as part of the Nikola Vucevic trade. Honestly, I was surprised at how disappointed I was that the Bulls didn’t get to keep their pick. It wasn’t just because it means they miss out on a potential superstar, it was also because the roster is sooo talent/asset starved, that they desperately need an infusion of good, young players, to put the franchise in a position to compete with the rising teams of the Eastern Conference.
One of the things that I’m struggling with as a fan is switching my mentality to “win now” mode. For the past 4 seasons, we’ve been conditioned to lean into the draft, to value potential over actual talent, and to look to the future as opposed to the here and now. That’s a hard habit to break.
In my brain, the trade for Vucevic is still a good deal. I’d much rather have the reliable 20+ and 10+ a game that is Nikola Vucevic over the 10 and 5 of Wendell Carter Jr, a 19/20 something year old question mark that is the 8th overall pick in this draft, and a who knows who in the 2023 Draft. My brain tells me that the combination of Vucevic and Zach LaVine should be good enough to get the Bulls into the playoffs. It’s certainly not a sure thing, but it’s the very real expectation for next season.
In my heart, I can’t help but feel a flutter of disappointment every time I see a prospect breakdown of Sharife Cooper or Alperen Sengun. Oh, the superstars waiting to be uncovered by this draft! All the untapped and undeveloped potential is intoxicating, and it no longer surprises me that some folks entire basketball fandom revolves around scouting potential NBA players. Shout out to Draft Twitter and Youtube, never stop staning guys like Roko Prkacin and Nah’Shon “Bones” Hyland.
Ultimately, I believe the trade for Vucevic is a good thing. I think it means we have a fighters chance at re-signing Zach LaVine next summer, and it will put the franchise back into a winning state of mind. I think both of those things are paramount to the future success of the franchise.
Zach the Olympian
Speaking of Zach LaVine, our All-Star shooting guard is heading to the Tokyo Olympics this summer, representing Team USA. Congratulations to LaVine for earning that honor, and good luck to him and his fellow US teammates. You can’t mention Zach going to the Olympics without the obligatory hope that he is able to spend his time recruiting superstars to come play with him in Chicago. Speculation of a potential Damian Lillard and Zach LaVine pairing has already set fire to the internet, but before we all get too carried away, I would caution that superstar recruiting is a two way street. Just as Bulls fans are getting excited about luring superstar X away from their current franchise, some other fan base is salivating over the prospect of LaVine in their uniform. Usually, super teams form on franchises that have the money to support 3 superstar contracts, currently, I don’t think that’s the Bulls.
The NBA Draft Combine took place in Chicago this past week. Prospects we’re poked, prodded, weighed, and measured in all sorts of ways. They sat down for interviews, scrimmaged, and ran drills for all the front offices in the NBA, including the Chicago Bulls. Even without a 1st round pick in this years draft, Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley were doing their jobs, checking out the talent at the combine. Who knows? Maybe a player will catch their eye, and they will trade back into the first round to acquire them. Just because the Bulls don’t currently have a pick in the 1st round doesn’t mean they can’t get one.
One of the things I’ve learned in over 3 decades of watching the NBA, is that where there is a will, there is a way. Golden State wants Kevin Durant on the team without losing Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green? Yeah, that can happen. LeBron wants to team with Anthony Davis in L.A.? All they need is a couple plane tickets. AK and Eversley want Vucevic on the Bulls even though he isn’t being shopped at the deadline? No problem, have a Wendell and a couple draft picks Orlando.
Shit gets done in the NBA, all the time.
Commence The Wild Speculation
If the Bulls do want to get back into the 1st round of the draft, they have several ways to do it. The most obvious way is to pair this years 2nd round pick (and/or last years draft-and-stash, Marko Simonivich) with a player on the roster to move into the late 1st round. Teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets and New York Knicks all have multiple 1st round picks in the back end of the draft. Playoff teams like the Brooklyn Nets, L.A. Lakers and Clippers, or Philadelphia ‘76ers might prefer a player with experience to the rookie they would select with the 24+ overall pick.
These trade scenarios to get a late first round pick would include players like Thad Young, Tomas Satoransky, and/or Troy Brown Jr. To move further up the draft board, the Bulls would have to include Coby White and/or Patrick Williams in the trade. I’m not sure how viable/intelligent trading either of those two players is; White is dealing with a serious injury, and Patrick Williams showed enough skill last season that if I was in AK’s shoes, I would not want to trade him.
A more tricky option would be to orchestrate a sign-and-trade deal involving Lauri Markkanen and a team that drafted a prospect the Bulls were interested in. This type of trade would happen after the draft and during free agency. It would require a team that was interested in Lauri Markkanen drafting a prospect the Bulls had interest in, and that team would have pair the prospect with another player in order to match salaries with Markkanen. I don’t know if any team has ever pulled off a trade like that before, and I doubt that a team would have the kind of interest in Lauri to even try. Because of the amount of coincidences that have to align for a trade like this to make sense, it seems nearly impossible to manufacture.
Finally, at the risk of alienating the entire Bulls fan base, there is always The Nuclear Option.
Now that Nikola Vucevic is a Bull, trading Zach LaVine doesn’t automatically damn the franchise to a life of tanking hell. Vooch is a legit All-Star, and the return in talent and assets that a trade of LaVine would demand could set the Bulls up for a very competitive team even as soon as next season. It’s all about getting the right mix of talent and assets back for LaVine’s considerable skills. Is there a team, or group of teams, that could pay a high enough price for Zach LaVine to make the trade worth it for the Bulls? Maybe, but it would take a miracle for the Round Table to pull that kind of trade off and get equal or better value for LaVine. I feel like if you’re trading LaVine, you’re probably resetting the rebuild to year zero, and then none of the moves the Round Table have made so far make much sense.
Right. So after writing the previous paragraph, I feel it’s necessary to plainly state I am NOT in favor of trading Zach LaVine. He has done nothing but improve as a player his entire time with the Bulls. He has turned himself into the unmistakable Face of the Franchise, and has built himself into an All-Star and an Olympian. He has been one of the very few bright spots in an otherwise dark few years for the Bulls. It would be down right dirty for the Bulls to trade LaVine this offseason. If things go bad early in the 2021-’22 season, we can revisit the “trade Zach LaVine” discussion at the trade deadline, until then I’m putting it on the shelf.
That’s all I’ve got for you this week. Coming up on the RokDeez Bulls Blog, a more serious discussion of free agent point guards, wings, and centers. Free agency, it’s what we’ve got to look forward to! As always, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!