The Bulls should avoid Anthony Davis in offseason trade scenarios

Anthony Davis, Chicago Bulls Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Anthony Davis, Chicago Bulls Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

Chicago native Anthony Davis is in the midst of a dumpster fire season with the Lakers.

Los Angeles Lakers big man Anthony Davis has missed missed 34 games this season. The Lakers are currently 30-41 and are the ninth seed in the west. They are a half-game ahead of the No. 10 seed and three games ahead of the the No. 11 seed.

With their season imploding, it isn’t farfetched for major roster changes to be on the table when the year comes to a close. If that’s the case, the Chicago Bulls can be a potential suitor for Davis if he’s made available. Davis is a Chicago native and has been linked to the Bulls in the past.

As a member of the NBA 75th Anniversary Team, Davis is an extraordinary talent, but his injury history is concerning. With the young core the Bulls have built (as well as their success thus far), does a trade for Davis really make sense?

The case for the Bulls acquiring Anthony Davis via trade in offseason

In order to get Davis through a trade, the Bulls would have to dump a considerable amount of players and draft picks. The Lakers would likely request their young role players to expedite whatever teardown they sign off on. Alex Caruso, Ayo Dosunmu, Coby White and Lonzo Ball could be among the players that are dealt away.

More than anything, the Bulls would have to trade Nikola Vucevic to make the trade work cap- and lineup-wise. The NBA is weaning off of the small-ball movement — created by the Golden State Warriors — but the league’s bigger teams are extremely versatile down low.

Look at the Milwaukee Bucks, for instance. They have a long front court with Brook Lopez, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Kris Middleton. Lopez is the slowest of that group but is still able to chase guards off the line and run off on help defense.

Vucevic can’t do that, so the Bulls would need to find a rim-protecting big to pair with Davis or a versatile forward who can defend the three through five.

Davis is averaging 23.1 points and 9.7 rebounds this season while shooting 53% from the field. Additionally, Davis is more mobile than Vucevic, being able to take defenders off the dribble and even hit step-back jumpers. He’s a better defender and just as good of a passer.

The Bulls have the highest pick and roll score frequency in the league thanks to Billy Donovan’s inside-out philosophy. Instead of focusing on getting a layup or three, Donovan preaches getting the best shot, or “from paint to great.”

Vucevic thrives in this system because he’s an elite passing big who can hit jump shots and usually makes the right reads, reversing the ball when needed out of the PNR. Vucevic leads the NBA in points as the roller in the PNR. He also has the fourth-most usage in the NBA as the roller in PNR.

Davis, being a more efficient scorer, would have better production in this system, though. As the roller in the PNR, bigs have four reads: 3-point shot, mid-range, layup and reverse pass. Davis shoots 39% from the mid-range, 58% on cutting layups, and 88% on alley-oops.

Vucevic is limited in his movement, only getting one cutting layup on the season and zero alley-oop dunks. He’s shooting 33% on his alley-oop lay-ups, but has only attempted three.

Davis would instantly boost the Bulls’ offensive schemes. Defensively, he’s the rim protector the team needs in a suddenly loaded Eastern Conference. Miami, Brooklyn and Milwaukee all have scoring threats over 6-foot-9. Currently, the Bulls don’t have anyone who can stay in front of Kevin Durant or Giannis Antetokounmpo who can also interript their shot. Davis can do both.

The pros are clear … but come at a great cost.

Why the Bulls should pass on Anthony Davis in trade scenarios

Davis’ two-way dominance is appealing but his health instability is a big reason for concern. Each season of his career, he’s been plagued by an injury with the severity and area varying. Here’s a full chronological timeline of these issues:

  • Rookie Season (NOP):
    Fractured left hand (Jan. 13, 2013)
  • Sophomore Season (NOP):
    Dislocated finger left hand (Jan. 29, 2014)
    Sprained ankle (Mar. 28, 2014)
    Back spasms (Apr. 9, 2014)
  • Third Year (NOP):
    Chest contusion (Dec. 13, 2014)
    Sprained left big toe (Jan.16, 2015)
    Groin strain (Jan. 30, 2015)
    Sprained right shoulder (Feb.7, 2015)
    Sprained ankle (Mar, 19. 2015)
  • Fourth Year (NOP):
    Hip strain (Nov. 11, 2015)
    Shoulder pain (Nov.18, 2015)
    Back injury (Jan. 8, 2016)
    Concussion (Jan.25, 2016)
    Sprained right big toe (Feb. 27, 2016)
    Left knee pain (May 8, 2016)
  • Fifth Year (NOP):
    Sprained ankle (Oct. 12, 2016)
    Lower back pain (Nov. 12, 2016)
    Quadriceps (Nov. 16, 2016)
    Contusion left leg (Dec. 17, 2016)
    Bruised hip (Jan. 11, 2017)
    Sprained left thumb (Jan. 17, 2017)
    Right quadriceps impingement (Jan. 23, 2017)
  • Sixth Year (NOP):
    Sickness (Oct. 17, 2017)
    Inflammation left knee (Oct. 23, 2017)
    Concussion (Nov, 18. 2017)
    Groin strain (Dec. 1,  2017)
    Sprained ankle (Jan. 8, 2018)
    Sprained ankle (Mar. 7,  2018)
  • Seventh Year (NOP):
    Elbow impingement (Oct. 27, 2018)
    Sprained elbow (Nov. 1, 2018)
    Elbow sprain (Nov. 4, 2018)
    Sprained hip (Nov. 24, 2018)
    Illness (Dec. 20, 2018)
    Sickness (Jan. 1, 2019)
    Sprained ankle (Jan. 20, 2019)
    Dislocated index finger (Jan. 28, 2019)
    Back spasms (Mar. 8, 2019)
  • Eighth Year (LAL):
    Right shoulder pain (Nov. 13, 2019)
    Sprained right ankle (Dec. 17, 2019)
    Gluteal contusion (Jan. 20, 2020)
    Right knee pain (Mar. 1, 2020)
  • Ninth Year (LAL):
    Calf strain (Dec. 27, 2020)
    Abductor strain (Jan. 8, 2021)
    Quadriceps contusion (Jan. 28, 2021)
    Achilles tendonitis (Feb. 8, 2021)
    Groin strain (May 30, 2021)
  • 10th Year (LAL):
    Illness (Nov. 24, 2021)
    Sore left knee (Dec. 10, 2021)
    MCL sprain (Dec. 18, 2021)
    Wrist sprain (Jan. 28, 2022)
    Mid-foot sprain (Feb. 16, 2022)

Davis has never played all 82 games of a season and has missed a total of 154 games and counting in his 10 seasons in the league. He’s also never proven he can be healthy for a playoff run in a full NBA season. The 2020 Lakers’ championship run was an outlier in Davis’ health history, and that season was paused for roughly four months, giving Davis time to rest that he wouldn’t get in a normal year.

All in all, to get Davis is to mortgage the future. With history against his ability to be available, especially down the stretch, that cost may be too high for a Bulls team that finally seems to be building something special.

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