Building the case for a blockbuster Myles Turner to Bulls trade

Myles Turner, Chicago Bulls, NBA Trade Rumors (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
Myles Turner, Chicago Bulls, NBA Trade Rumors (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Bulls have steadied the ship for now, playing around .500 basketball while the 9 Feb. trade deadline looms in the not-too-distant future. Some reports suggest the Bulls might stay quiet at the deadline but a move for Myles Turner, a difference-making center on defense, could push the Bulls higher up in the Eastern Conference.

At age 26, Turner is having an excellent season, averaging 17 points per game, pulling down 7.9 rebounds a night, and hitting 38 percent of his 3-point attempts. He has built a solid two-man game with Tyrese Haliburton and after being awkwardly paired with Domantas Sabonis for several years, he’s now the go-to center option on a top-eight seed.

Turner is doing all this while excelling on the defensive side of the ball, keeping opponents to four fewer points per 100 possessions when he’s on the court according to Cleaning the Glass. He’s also near the top of the league in block percentage using’s tracking data.

Not only is the former Texas big man a stellar shot blocker, but opponents also aren’t getting to the line as often when he’s on the court, taking 4.2 percent fewer free throws using Cleaning the Glass’ metric, a top ten percentile in the league among big men.

Myles Turner could elevate the Chicago Bulls on defense, enough to truly make some noise in the playoffs.

In recent years, the Indiana Pacers have only shown a desire to be competitive but Turner recently turned down a contract extension from the team per Marc Stein. Myles Turner will be a free agent this offseason so the lack of an extension could signal his desire to leave the Pacers.

If Indiana doesn’t want to risk losing Myles for nothing in free agency, there’s a trade out there with the Chicago Bulls that could keep them competitive while avoiding free agency.

Why would the Chicago Bulls trade for Myles Turner?

In the past two weeks, the Bulls have posted the tenth-best defense in the league via Cleaning the Glass, and while their offense is only 21st in the same time span, this season’s Bulls team is finding its identity.

Neither of those marks will improve if Nikola Vucevic is still Chicago’s starting center.

Vucevic is a very talented offensive big man but what he brings on that end of the court isn’t enough to warrant his defensive shortcomings, especially when the talent around him flourishes with the ball in their hands.

Trading a ball-dominant big man like Vooch, a player who likes to operate at the mid-post and free throw line, just like DeMar DeRozan, for a low-usage play finisher like Myles Turner could lead to a less cluttered offensive unit. But outside of the offensive fit, Nikola Vucevic just doesn’t have what it takes on the defensive end of the court.

This season, Vooch allows a 3.5 percent effective field goal boost to opponents when he’s on the court via Cleaning the Glass. As a ground-bound big man, Billy Donovan is forced to base the defense around the Euro big and in the pick-and-roll heaving NBA of today, the ball handlers are too good at getting the shots they want against this type of coverage.

At full strength, the Chicago Bulls have the perimeter personnel to play a drop coverage. They could use ball hounds like Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, Pat Williams (theoretically), and Ayo Donsumnu to funnel ball handlers into the paint but instead of running into Vooch, they run into Turner, a much more threatening paint presence.

All of these points run against the report that the Bulls might be quiet leading up to the trade deadline according to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times.

"“While outside executives have labeled the Bulls as a team to watch on the trade front, multiple sources have told the Sun-Times the team might be very quiet leading up to the deadline,” he reports.“Maybe that’s why coach Billy Donovan has been so adamant about his players understanding what’s being asked of them on both ends of the court, not to mention that they have to do it every possession.”"

Why would the Indiana Pacers deal Myles Turner to the Chicago Bulls?

After all those reasons why Turner is a better fit than Nikola Vucevic for the Chicago Bulls, how am I going to rationalize a trade in the other direction?

The Pacers only do this trade if they get word that Turner is leaving in free agency and they want to recoup value while prioritizing on-court talent with their young core. Given how much Turner is excelling next to Haliburton, they might just want to keep the two together and risk free agency.

If they don’t, then Vooch could be the best center replacement they could net in a trade. This way, the Pacers get to keep a starting quality center while also exploring the offensive studio space a little more with the Montenegrin.

The downside here for the Pacers is Nikola brings them up on offense but maybe not enough to get out of the first round of the playoffs. Vucevic brought the Orlando Magic to the playoffs season after season but was never able to make a major dent.

That doesn’t sound very fun for the Pacers, they could be signing themselves up to the treadmill of mediocrity, but then again, that’s all Herb Simon has seemed to want in the past couple of seasons.

If the Pacers are prioritizing talent coming back in a potential Turner deal, Vucecic may be the best like-for-like replacement. It might not be what they should be prioritizing but if the Bulls can nab a defensive specialist and floor spacer, you do it.

Next. Should Alex Caruso be untouchable in trades?. dark