Could Bulls re-emerge as dark horse in Damian Lillard sweepstakes?

Damian Lillard, Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls, NBA Trade Rumors (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Damian Lillard, Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls, NBA Trade Rumors (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

Despite their best efforts, the Chicago Bulls won’t be this offseason’s unanimous kings of indecisiveness. That’s because reigning tentative champion Arturas Karnisovas will have to hand his title over to the Portland Trail Blazers, as they remain committed to holding their franchise in a state of purgatory following a trade request from their superstar guard Damian Lillard.

This case proved to be a unique one in that Lillard specifically requested to be traded to the Heat. He has gone on record to describe how he feels betrayed by Portland’s management and their deceptive behavior when it comes to building a true winning team around him. Despite Dame’s best efforts to take his talents to South Beach, a deal has yet to materialize, a problem attributed to the Heat’s lack of genuinely interesting trade assets.

If Lillard is steadfast in his desire to play for a new team this season, and the Heat fail to procure a package Portland deems fair, then the door remains open for a third party to strike while the iron’s hot and potentially steal Lillard away at a solid price.

Although the Heat have been viewed as the frontrunners to acquire Lillard’s services all summer long, ESPN’s Marc Spears reports that things may not be quite as clear-cut as they seem. Spears suggests an outside contender may get involved in the Lillard sweepstakes if the stalemate carries on between Portland and Miami any longer.

The Bulls shouldn’t be discounted as a wild-card contender for Damian Lillard just yet.

Of course, Spears offers no indication here that he’s specifically the Bulls. But it does seem to be a team that is such a longshot to trade for Lillard on paper that Spears doesn’t feel comfortable sharing their name for fear of damaging his credibility. That means we’re not discussing a top-five, bonafide contender in the Eastern Conference here.

If we pivot away from the teams at the top of the standings in the East, only the Bulls, Raptors, Nets, and Magic have an opening at point guard and the assets to get a deal done. The Magic still seems a few years away from being in a position to make a win-now move like that, while this move would lock the Raptors into a core that still doesn’t feel anywhere close to being a contender. As for the Nets, it wouldn’t make much sense to hand over the treasure trove of assets they received in return for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, just to end up right back where they started.

This development has caused quite a stir with a few Bulls fans online, as they’ve already begun spreading jersey edits envisioning the superstar guard in Chicago.

I have to say this all feels very premature, but I can’t blame the fans for getting excited. The Bulls could offer arguably just as good a package as anyone, with players like Patrick Williams, Alex Caruso, and Dalen Terry up for grabs as well as an assortment of multiple first-round draft picks — including Portland’s own 2024 lottery-protected pick.

As hard as I have been on the front office for not making a big splash, constructing a core of Lillard, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic with a decent cast of supporting players is one that could truly contend for a title and might be just enough to push this team back into contention. Until we see anything tangible form on this front, however, I’m going to interpret this as little more than an effort to drive the price for Dame up on Miami.

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