Why latest Rockets trade rumors should interest Bulls

Ayo Dosunmu, Kenyon Martin Jr., Chicago Bulls (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Ayo Dosunmu, Kenyon Martin Jr., Chicago Bulls (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

If the last two years have shown me anything, it’s that I do not expect the Chicago Bulls to be hasty in their decision-making unless the front office is confident a move will immediately benefit the team and be perceived as a clear win. Even so, I think Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley should have their ears finely tuned in on the situation developing right now in Houston.

HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto provides an update that “teams are monitoring” the status of promising Rockets forward Kenyon Martin Jr. and that he has “drawn interest” from suitors looking to add a talented young wing. This news comes as a direct follow-up to The Athletic’s initial report that Martin Jr. was on the trade block back in late June.

Kenyon joins teammate Eric Gordon as a potential trade chip that could be a particularly interesting addition for several teams around the league. As the Rockets look to integrate the youth movement of Jabari Smith Jr., Alperen Sengun, and Tari Eason into their core rotation, now is the perfect opportunity for the Bulls to strike on this moment of roster flux in Houston.

Despite being selected 52nd overall in 2021, Martin Jr. has proven he has the ability to shoot the 3-ball, utilize his athleticism to defend, and serve as a dangerous rim running threat. For a team like the Chicago Bulls, that makes Kenyon worth his weight in gold.

Following the 2022 NBA Draft, Kelly Iko writes on the nature of Martin Jr. asking out of Houston for The Athletic.

"“With the reality of the incoming No. 3 pick and possibly more, second-year forward Kenyon Martin Jr. recently approached Rockets management to discuss the possibility of a trade from the franchise, sources said. The nature of the conversation was candid. With the potential moves following Thursday’s draft, the sudden reality is there isn’t as clear of a path to minutes for Martin in the rotation. It must be stated that there’s no bad blood between the two parties. Having taken Martin in the second round of the 2020 draft and helping him achieve his NBA dream, there will always be a great amount of love and mutual respect. But Martin is at a stage in his career where he needs minutes to continue to develop, something which might not be as clear anymore in Houston. There are a number of teams — playoff contenders included — that have registered interest in Martin in the past, sources said, with his combination of age, athleticism and untapped potential deemed as attractive.”"

If the Houston Rockets are truly looking to deal Kenyon Martin Jr. away, the Chicago Bulls would make a perfect potential trade partner.

This wouldn’t be the first time in recent memory I’ve advocated for the Bulls to pick up talks with Houston about Martin’s availability. Back in July, I highlighted Kenyon as a high-value player that would be worth trading for to log significant minutes behind Patrick Williams at the power forward slot.

Best of all, I believe he could be had for a relatively small package in return. Houston has their core developmental pieces in place and shouldn’t be too caught up on receiving a haul for a player who won’t crack their rotation and would likely have just left in free agency following the 2023-24 season either way.

Even if Chicago sent a player of Coby White’s caliber in return, it could still be possible to get additional assets on top of Martin to balance the roster out. This is complete conjecture here on my part, but I could definitely get behind a deal surrounding Martin Jr. and Garrison Matthews, for instance. Even if Chicago was unwilling to deal Coby away, I’m confident that there are still several avenues towards exploring a trade for KMJ if the Bulls wish to do so.

The fact he’s under cheap team control would make him an extremely desirable asset for an ownership regime that so desperately wants to cut costs, while still being a good young player with a high upside and perceived room to continue growing further. This fact in particular is why I believe he’s a realistic trade target for the Chicago Bulls; Martin Jr.’s situation in Houston is going to be worth following in the coming weeks.

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