TLDR: Bulls didn’t do anything. And then they held a press conference.
Thursday was a classic NBA Trade Deadline. The entire landscape of the league seemed to shift. Dozens of trades reshaped the Eastern Conference, threatening the Bulls position near the top of the heap. Yet the Bulls held the line. No surprises, no desperate plays, no trades were made. After the fervor of the day settled down, Arturas Karnisovas held a press conference that essentially let the fans know “we’re happy with our guys.”
Reaction To Inaction
There seemed to be three common reactions from fans regarding the inaction of the Chicago Bulls: Disappointment, Contentment, and Anger.
It didn’t take very long for a large portion of fans to voice their disappointment in the Bulls Front Office “not going for it.” It’s not often that Chicago has a legitimate contender for the NBA crown, how do you not push your chips all in and make a move?
An equally sized group of fans applauded the inactivity of Karnisovas and Marc Eversley. After all, when Alex Caruso, Lonzo Ball, Derrick Jones Jr, and Patrick Williams all get back from injury the Bulls will be just as strong as all those teams that tweaked their rosters.
My favorite faction of Bulls Nation were the fans that reacted with anger to the lack of movement at the trade deadline, not because they thought something needed to happen, but because of the implication that the Reinsdorf family was unwilling to cross into the Luxury Tax. The Stingy Owner narrative is a tried and true staple of all Chicago sports, and the Reinsdorf’s have been acutely susceptible to the label. If the shoe fits, as the saying goes. Whether or not Karnisovas was told by the Reinsdorf’s he couldn’t go over the Luxury Tax threshold is something we may never know, but the history of this team, and the family’s ownership style, certainly lends that narrative some credence.
The Vastly Entertained
Before this season started I made a promise to myself that I would just enjoy the ride. I knew we were in for a show when AK and Eversley deftly overturned 95% of the roster in less than 6 months. I trust this front office. Do the Bulls have holes on this roster that could have been fixed by a trade? Absolutely. I have been banging the same drum all season long: This is NOT a perfect team. That being said, we don’t know what kind of deals were on the table for the Bulls. They don’t have a lot of draft picks to use to pry players away from teams. Most of the young talent on the roster are either playing pivotal roles in the rotation or recovering from injury. The Round Table didn’t have a lot of chips to push all in at this current table. Whether they wanted to or not, they held the line, and we get to see just how good this team can be.
And I’m here for it! The way this team has fought through adversity this season has been a night-to-day difference compared to Bulls teams of recent past. They continue to win, despite COVID, despite injury, despite an imperfect roster. The growth from players like Ayo Dosunmu and Coby White, the mastery of the game displayed by DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine, the constant fight to find a role and contribute to winning from Nikola Vucevic, and the acceptance of their roles from players like Caruso, Javonte Green, Derrick Jones Jr. and the entire, ever-changing bench unit, has really endeared this team to me.
Trade or no trade, I like this Bulls team! In the years I’ve been writing this blog, I haven’t always been able to say that with such confidence.
Another interesting wrinkle for the Front Office to navigate will be the “Buyout Market.” Players that have been let go from their teams in order to make room for incoming players, or players that served as salary filler for a trade and were immediately waived by their new team, essentially become free agents. I hate to call the buyout market “the scrap heap,” but I guess I just did. I’ve seen a lot of desperate Bulls fans on social media hoping Karnisovas and Eversley can find, and sign, a valuable player after they’ve been bought out. Those players do traditionally exist. We’ll see if any pop up this year. I’m not holding my breadth.
Keep on Keeping on
Meanwhile, the Bulls keep winning. They’re currently on a 3 game winning streak with two more games left before the All-Star break. DeMar DeRozan has been carrying the team, averaging 33.5 points over the last 10 games.
Nikola Vucevic has also stepped up his production in his last 10 games. Vooch is averaging 23.7 points and 12.8 rebounds. It’s a welcome change from the poor performances we were seeing from him early in the season.
With the trade deadline past us, the buyout market upon us, and the All-Star break less than a week away, it’s nice to see a Bulls team in the fight for the Eastern Conference. No matter what transactions we might see in the next few days, one thing’s for certain, to steal a quote from Stacey King, “This ain’t last years Bulls.”
That does it for this seasons NBA Trade Deadline recap. Even as the NBA experienced another seismic shift, the Bulls seemingly rode it out, content(?) with the talent and chemistry they’ve built this season. In that vein, I will continue to ride out this season with you, let’s see if they’ve got enough talent to finish strong, and as always, thanks for reading and GO BULLS!