Chicago Bulls: Sam Smith talks OPJ-Hayward trade in mailbag

Gordon Hayward (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Gordon Hayward (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Chicago Bulls team writer Sam Smith talked on the question of a hypothetical trade with the Boston Celtics for veteran wing Gordon Hayward this week.

An idea of the Chicago Bulls and recently hired executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas making a trade involving the veteran small forward Otto Porter Jr. this offseason is getting increasingly popular. OPJ is the largest contract on the Bulls current cap sheet, by a good margin. And while he does have an impeding player option he can pickup this offseason, it wouldn’t make much sense for him not to.

OPJ is due around $28 million next year, which is a lot for a player with his spotty injury history. He is a valuable part of the Bulls rotation on the wing when healthy. Although he’s only played in 29 games since landing with the Bulls at the deadline during the 2018-19 regular season. That’s not a whole lot of proven production for OPJ since landing in the Windy City more than 18 months ago.

So where could Karnisovas and the Bulls go from here with the OPJ contract situation?

In a mailbag this week (on Nov. 6) with Bulls team writer Sam Smith, the idea of a potential OPJ trade with the Boston Celtics was discussed. Smith was asked by a fan about the idea of the Bulls shipping off OPJ and 26-year-old shooting guard Denzel Valentine to the Celtics for the return of standout small forward Gordon Hayward.

Here’s more on what Smith had to say in regards to this discussion of an OPJ-Hayward trade with the Bulls and Celtics in his mailbag.

"Done. I’m in. As for Boston… I get this one along with Andrew Wiggins the most. Which surprised me some with no Jrue Holiday suggestions. There have been rumors about Holiday moving on, which makes sense even as the Pelicans have demurred. They’re not quite ready for their playoff standings move and have all those young guys. Though Stan Van Gundy might have other ideas. But Holiday’s impact has been lessened. So he’s really underrated now as a true two-way player who plays both guard spots and defends both. He is 30 with some injury past, and the Bulls aren’t exactly ready to make that run, either. But he’d be a heck of a roster upgrade as a class person and All-Star talent and mentor."

It is interesting to note that Smith mentioned teams going after the New Orleans Pelicans standout veteran point guard Jrue Holiday in any trade talks this offseason. Holiday would certainly be an intriguing trade target for the Bulls, if he would want to come to Chicago.

But this particular trade package with the Celtics would be good for salary matching purposes, as they could get Valentine in the discussions to push it over the top. Both Hayward and OPJ are veterans that have very oversized contracts and also spotty recent injury track records.

Although, the good news for both teams would be that Hayward and OPJ would be off their current contracts by the end of the 2020-21 season. Hayward is due a little north of $34 million if he picks up his player option for the 2020-21 season. And OPJ also has that player option he’s likely to pickup this offseason.

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Valentine is also an impending restricted free agent this offseason, but the Bulls and Celtics could possibly work in a sign-and-trade deal into the entirety of this player exchange. If Hayward could stay healthy for the Bulls in this hypothetical trade, it would solve a lot of problems for recently hired head coach Billy Donovan.