Grade the Trade: Bulls offload Lonzo for big free agent in proposal

Lonzo Ball, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Lonzo Ball, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /
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Off to a very financially savvy start to their 2023 offseason, the Chicago Bulls have successfully navigated rather expensive waters to re-sign Nikola Vucevic and Coby White to very affordable deals while also bringing in accomplished veteran talents such as Torrey Craig and Jevon Carter. Somehow, someway, Arturas Karnisovas found a way to construct a better team for next year all while keeping ownership pleased by avoiding any unwanted luxury tax bills (thus far).

But why stop there? Although the Bulls have made a few moves to improve at the margins, they’ve yet to make a real splash that can convince fans a better future is in store for this team. If Chicago retains Ayo Dosunmu on his $5.2 million qualifying offer and guarantees the contracts of Carlik Jones and Marko Simonovic, they’ll come in just shy of the $165 million luxury tax threshold with no remaining roster spots and very little remaining flexibility to sign free agents.

A trade, however, could be a clever way to bring in talent without hurting the books. As it just so happens, the Bulls could potentially dangle Lonzo Ball‘s $20 million contract as a way to bring in a true difference-maker. Considering the nature of his injury, I doubt many teams will be willing to exchange anyone on their payroll for someone who isn’t expected to play this season. But if Chicago scours the free agent market, they just might be able to pull off a sign-and-trade, perhaps even for a player like Charlotte’s P.J. Washington.

Could the Bulls top off an impressive 2023 offseason by offloading Lonzo Ball’s contract while landing a player like P.J. Washington?

Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports suggests that this isn’t an unlikely outcome at this point, even likening Washington’s situation with former Bulls lottery pick, Lauri Markkanen.

"“There’s recent history, such as Lauri Markkanen in 2021, of a restricted free agent lingering on the market deep into the summer and ultimately landing a strong opportunity through sign-and-trade. Maybe that will be the end result for P.J. Washington’s own restricted free agency with the Hornets, as he also appears far apart with Charlotte in his contract talks.”"

As the best remaining free agent on my big board, it would be a respectable swing for the fences from the Bulls here if they were able to land a player like P.J. Washington. With the power forward rotation being undoubtedly the most shallow and talent-deprived position on Chicago’s depth chart, a move like this could help address this team’s greatest weakness and help them bounce back to contention. But if we’re being honest with ourselves here, what would a trade where the Bulls land P.J. Washington even begin look like?