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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P.J. Washington, Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls, NBA Trade Rumors
P.J. Washington, Patrick Williams, Chicago Bulls (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images) /

Would the Bulls make this trade for P.J. Washington?

After bringing Nikola Vucevic and Andre Drummond back for next season and adding Torrey Craig to the mix, the Bulls’ frontcourt may seem a bit more crowded than it has for a while now. While this might make Washington seem like an unconventional fit, I believe it would grant the Bulls enough flexibility to become a much more dangerous team.

As it currently stands, the Bulls will be forced to employ an inexperienced Dalen Terry or undersized Alex Caruso alongside Craig at the forward positions. Meanwhile, Drummond will be the only playable center on the bench, which isn’t ideal considering the clear holes in his game. By acquiring Washington, Craig can slide up to small forward while P.J. plays power forward, giving the Bulls enough size to create mismatches. If Chicago wishes to play small, Washington has proven to be an effective small-ball center in spurts, allowing Craig and Caruso to hold down the wing.

This versatility would be incredibly valuable for the Bulls moving forward, and I believe it’s well worth taking the gamble on. Even if that means sacrificing draft picks and paying P.J. a bit more than anyone else seems willing to offer at the moment.

Would the Hornets make this trade for Lonzo Ball and draft picks?

For the Bulls, it’s easy to see why they’d be incentivized to make this trade. Chicago is actively trying to win, and swapping dead money for P.J. Washington is a clear win, even if they have to overpay ever so slightly to sign him. From the Hornets’ perspective, we have to think outside the box a little bit here.

If we compare P.J. to Lonzo in a vacuum, it’s obvious that the former holds more value. We don’t know if Lonzo will ever even play again. But now that Miles Bridges has returned to the fold, the Hornets don’t have a starting gig to offer P.J. anymore, and don’t have the financial flexibility to offer him starter money. This is why we have yet to see the two sides agree to a deal, as Charlotte stares down the very real possibility of losing him for nothing.

If the Hornets don’t intend to bring P.J. back, it makes sense to get whatever they can in return, even if it means taking pennies on the dollar. We saw this happen in 2019, when the 76ers traded former Jimmy Butler to the Heat in return for Josh Richardson, as they decided getting something in return was far better than losing Butler for nothing. The Hornets will very likely have to make that same decision this summer.

And truth be told, they could do far worse than netting a first-round pick, a distant second-round pick, and essentially a $20 million trade exception with Ball’s contract. There’s also the added benefit of making your superstar cornerstone happy by reuniting him with his brother. Even if Lonzo never plays again, this trade could be a sneakily beneficial move for both parties; the possibility of him returning to his former self, however, may just be enticing enough of a gamble for the Hornets to risk taking.

Grade: B+

I’d be a big fan of this move, but the fact P.J. is likely due a big payday — with Patrick Williams due his extension next summer — and that the Hornets may push for more draft capital in this exchange prevents it from being a surefire home run.

Next. 3 perfect free agents to fill Bulls final roster spot. dark