If we’re being honest with ourselves here, we’ve known Damian Lillard looks fantastic in a Chicago Bulls jersey ever since he wore the iconic No. 23 jersey to commemorate 75 years of NBA history for TNT’s NBA75 ad back in 2021. That being said, I don’t think any of us believed it could one day become a reality.
Lillard has long been championed as the poster boy for loyalty in a league where we see very few stars ever remain with the team that originally drafted them. If it was up to Dame, he’d spend his entire career in Portland, but it seems now is the time for the two to go their separate ways. The Trail Blazers are in desperate need of a rebuild, and Dame does not deserve to spend his final peak years babysitting a team that does not wish to compete for a championship.
So when he requested a trade to the Heat, I couldn’t fault him. Fresh off making a trip to the NBA Finals, Miami is one of the very few teams that have a supporting cast (namely, former Bulls superstar Jimmy Butler and All-Star Bam Adebayo) that would mesh well with Lillard’s skill set and could seriously contend for a title. The only issue here is that they lack the trade assets to make the Trail Blazers eager to get said deal done.
This has opened the door for other teams to potentially get involved and crash the party, reports Kyle Neubeck of PHLY Sports, possibly even the Bulls. Here’s what Neubeck had to say about Chicago’s potential involvement during the latest episode of the PHLY Sixers Podcast:
"“The team that I’ve heard—I’ve made some calls, talked to some people—that is kind of the wild card, getting-into-the-mix team, is the Bulls. I know that the Bulls, throughout this offseason—LaVine’s name has been thrown into the rumor mill a little bit. The Bulls shot that down publicly. The suggestion has been out there that if, or when, they trade LaVine that they would want a star-level return, young players, picks, things with upside as they start to retool and reimagine their roster. What I have heard in the last few days is that it looks like they might be trying to move LaVine as part of a multi-team deal to see if they can get into the Dame Lillard sweepstakes.”"
The Bulls would dramatically stir things up in the East if they’re willing to trade Zach LaVine for superstar guard Damian Lillard.
This would be a radical departure from the summers of continuity we’ve gotten so accustomed to as Bulls fans. In fact, the last time Chicago was involved in a deal of this magnitude was when they traded away the aforementioned Butler to acquire Zach LaVine in the first place. You can watch the full episode of the podcast below, with the discussion of Chicago’s potential involvement beginning around the 2:30 mark.
If this were just an isolated report, I’d feel very skeptical — and truth be told, I still do — but I do find it very interesting that this is now the second report of this nature we’ve had in the last three days. Trusted NBA reporter Marc Stein of ESPN hinted that a mystery team in the East was gaining traction in Lillard trade talks, with the Bulls being one of very few teams that made sense as a potential destination.
"“I’m kind of hearing rumors about another Eastern Conference team that I’m not gonna throw out there just yet.”"
Although I’d prefer to keep LaVine if this hypothetical scenario were to play out, I just don’t see what Chicago can offer that is substantially better than Miami’s package without including the All-Star guard. Whether the Trail Blazers take LaVine or reroute him in a three-team deal, Zach is still a far better asset than anything the Heat could possibly offer.
Lillard is only being paid slightly more than LaVine for the next two seasons, before his astronomical max contract extension kicks in for the final two years of his deal. Dame’s deal is set to expire in 2027 and may be worth the risk, considering his style of play should age gracefully and he may be just enough to push the Bulls back into contention. Whether or not this is a real possibility, or if Chicago is once again being used for leverage in negotiations with the Heat, remains to be seen.