Decision #3: Chicago commits to winning now by trading for DeMar DeRozan and re-signing Zach LaVine
This is purely a thought experiment, but it goes in tandem with the Vucevic trade, almost as one move. What the Bulls gave for DeMar DeRozan (Thaddeus Young, Al-Farouq Aminu, a protected first, and two seconds) is pocket lint compared to what he’s brought to the city. You get that kind of player, at that kind of price, no matter your situation.
What trading for Vucevic and especially DeRozan meant was a flashing, Vegas-level sign telling Zach LaVine that he should stay. Without Vucevic, however, I think DeRozan’s acquisition would have been enough to sway LaVine to stay, assuming Carter and Wagner could be a convincing facsimile of Vooch’s production.
Is that a good thing?
LaVine has grown into a deserving All-Star, but what he shares with his star counterparts is that none are going to be the best player in most playoff series. All are supporting actors that would look perfect next to a Jokic, Giannis, or Durant, but none can carry you through four rounds.
Compounding matters, LaVine is making the most of the three, has an injury history, and at times has suffered from a tenuous relationship with his teammates and the front office. DeRozan has been a revelation, but without him it’s fair to ask if the Bulls would have committed to a full, potentially necessary rebuild sooner.
Variance, entropy, however you want to phrase it, obviously exists. Could a tweak to the decisions made over the last few years have the Chicago Bulls in the conference finals this year? It’s not impossible, but I think it has become clear since midway through last season that this core had a ceiling lower than initially hoped.
There’s still time, games that can be won and moves that can be made, but there’s no guarantee the road leads anywhere better.