For a team that started the season with “Three Alphas” and tons of hope, the Chicago Bulls have to be disappointed to limp into the All-Star Break holding a one-game lead over the Pistons for the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. I held out hope this team would be able to peak during the playoffs and give some of the top teams around the league a run for their money, but it’s pretty apparent that isn’t going to be the case. The Bulls are a team with no clear direction right now. Sporting News reported that even the Bulls front office is unsure of the direction they want to take this season. While some Bulls fans want to trade the whole team and start the rebuilding process, I’m not sure that is necessarily their best course of action. However, if the right offer comes along before the trade deadline on Thursday, the Bulls have to look at it, even if it involves superstar Jimmy Butler.
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that the Bulls have informed teams everyone except for Jimmy Butler is available. It’s worth noting Windhorst added that some teams around the league still believe Jimmy G. Buckets could be had for a “premium” offer and that the Celtics are the one spot he could see him being traded to. When you look around the league, this is the team that makes the most sense. They’ve been stacking up assets for the past few years and now is the time for them to cash them in for a superstar to try and seriously challenge Cleveland in the East. With the news of Kevin Love’s injury, the time is ticking for them to try and make a push. On Tuesday’s Lowe Post podcast, ESPN’s Marc Stein has said it would most likely take at least one of the Brooklyn picks, Avery Bradley, and Jae Crowder for the Bulls to consider it. I’m as big of a Jimmy Butler fan as there is in the world, but if the Bulls could flip Butler into those particular Boston “assets” I would be ecstatic. The potential for a top-3 pick in this loaded draft is well worth the difference between Jimmy and Bradley/Crowder.
According to Mike Adamle of NBC Chicago, the Bulls were in talks with the Lakers for a potential Jimmy Butler swap. It was reported that talks centered around Lou Williams, Jordan Clarkson, and Julius Randle. Ultimately, these rumors never really got much traction (which they shouldn’t have). However, Adamle reported that after Magic Johnson took control of the Lakers today, the Bulls have tried to open up serious trade talks possibly surrounding D'Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram. Similar to the premium offer I talked about with Boston, if the Bulls could work a deal involving both of these young stars I think they would have to take a serious look at it. While I doubt this comes to fruition, a quick look at Magic Johnson’s previous tweets proves that nothing can be ruled out.
The bottom line is that moving Jimmy Butler shouldn’t be the Bulls top priority unless they can get back a package that is simply too good to pass up. He’s on an extremely team-friendly contract and is a top-10 talent in the NBA. After the Kings completely wrecked the trade value of superstars with their Boogie-for-pennies deal, I don’t think the Bulls will be able to get back what they would need to move him, and that’s probably a good thing.
Another guy that has been mentioned in trade talks is Nikola Mirotic, AKA the next Dirk Nowitzki if you jump back to 2010. While the Dirk comparisons were clearly misguided, Niko could provide a decent punch off the bench for a contending team. He’s shown flashes of an NBA starting-caliber player, but his health, inconsistent play, and his impending restricted free agency make it seem unlikely that the Bulls can get a solid offer back. It’s been stated as far back as January that Bulls have been testing the market for Niko, and KC Johnson reported that Bulls have become very aggressive in this pursuit over the last few days. The one team Johnson mentioned that is keen on acquiring Niko is the Los Angeles Clippers. He didn’t delve any deeper into the details of the players involved, but we can safely rule out acquiring any of the Clips’ Big-4. The other thing working against the Clippers is their lack of impact draft picks over the next few seasons. I’ve seen a few sites mention Austin Rivers as a name which could be dangled to the Bulls, but I’d honestly rather hold tight and let Jerian Grant develop one more year if Rivers is the best piece they can get back.
The Bulls asking price for Taj Gibson is a lottery pick, plain and simple. For a while, rumors were heating up that Toronto was interested in bringing the veteran big man up North, but the acquisition of Serge Ibaka effectively ended that dream. While I can fully understand the Bulls commanding a lottery pick for Taj, I am hard pressed to believe that anyone is going to give that up for a 31-year old on an expiring contract. He’s one of the best locker room guys in the league and will most likely command more money in free agency than the Bulls will be willing to spend. If the Bulls have a feeling they can resign him at a hometown discount, I think they are better off holding him and trying their luck in the offseason. However, if the Bulls can get back a 1st rounder that looks like it could even be in the top-20, I think they would have to consider it.
The Bulls have reportedly been testing the trade Market for Robin Lopez and Doug McDermott, hoping to bring back a 1st round pick for either. Robin Lopez is a solid role player on a decent contract that should command some attention from teams that feel they are a big man away from competing. I’m not sure if they can get a 1st round pick back for him, but they should be able to move him for a few quality pieces. On the flipside, if the Bulls can get anything of value back for Doug McDermott they need to jump all over it. His outside shooting doesn’t make up for the holes in the rest of his game. It might be tough for the Bulls to pull the plug on the Dougie McBuckets project this early after giving up the picks that turned into Jusuf Nurkic and Gary Harris plus some, but they need to be realistic about what he is as an NBA player. Doug was an older rookie coming out, and to this point hasn’t shown that he will live up to the potential and hype he had surrounding him coming out of Creighton. Rajon Rondo is the other guy I’ve heard the Bulls would like to move, but I seriously doubt he brings back anything on the trade market.
Players they should be targeting
Jahlil Okafor/Nerlens Noel
The 76ers have a logjam in the front court, and the Bulls should be trying to take advantage of that. Both of these young big men would be a solid addition to the Bulls long-term plans.
Rubio has been involved in trade rumors each of the past few seasons already. Kris Dunn is the T-Wolves floor general of the future, and Tyus Jones has shown flashes of being a capable NBA backup. Eventually, Rubio is going to be forced out, and Bulls should jump all over that to bring in a player that could thrive in Hoiberg’s system.
It seems like Brandon Knight is always surrounded by trade rumors. While I wasn’t as high on him coming out of college as Magic Johnson was, I do think that if he could spend a few years in a stable system (Not sure Chicago check this box), he could turn into the player many thought he would be coming out of college.
I know what you’re thinking. First Noel, then Knight, and now Jones. I promise you I’m not a Kentucky fan (Go Tar Heels!), it’s just bound to happen like this when Calipari sends five or six guys to the league each draft. Jones is a talented player that could be a key part of a contending team’s bench, and the Pelicans addition of Boogie makes him expendable. He will be an excellent second prize if they are unable to bring in Jah or Noel.
Just messing with you!