It doesn’t feel all that long ago that the Chicago Bulls were dispatching the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the Eastern Conference play-in tournament, greatly assisted by the screams and shouts of DeMar DeRozan’s daughter, Diar. Although the Bulls eliminated DeRozan’s former team on that day, it seems the Raptors just might get the last laugh here.
Over the past week, Toronto and Chicago have emerged last-minute contenders to land Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard. A trade sending Dame to Miami seemed all but inevitable, but has now been countered by a reversing tide of rumors and speculation. Unfortunately, as much as I’d love to see Lillard in the Bulls’ threads, it seems the Raptors may have the most bargaining power of all the teams involved here.
At least, ESPN’s Marc J. Spears to think so. Spears reported on NBA Today that this two-horse race to snatch Lillard from the Heat’s grasp may actually be far more one-sided than we originally believed.
"“All is quiet on the Miami front. Interest from Chicago is waning. The hottest name right now is the Toronto Raptors. Talked to two high ranking team executives that said Toronto is the front-runner for [Damian Lillard].”"
Damian Lillard seems to be slipping through the Chicago Bulls’ grasp.
Among all teams involved in these rumors, the Bulls have by far the most valuable asset to offer in Zach LaVine. Unfortunately, the Trail Blazers seem unwilling to bite, as they’d prefer a player who fits their rebuilding timeline better and won’t impact the win column too much from the jump. With Miami’s best asset being a lesser version of LaVine in Tyler Herro, Toronto’s offer makes more sense on paper, as they could offer one of either OG Anunoby or Scottie Barnes to boost a guard-heavy team in Portland.
Losing out on Dame would be frustrating enough in its own right, but it becomes even more grim when you consider it means another Eastern Conference team will likely pass the Bulls up in a year they intend to compete rather than rebuild. A team led by Lillard, Pascal Siakam, Anunoby/Barnes, Jakob Poeltl with several interesting bench pieces is a formidable core that could certainly threaten to shake up the East’s hierarchy.
This trade would make it even more difficult for Chicago to crack into the clear top eight teams in the East, which isn’t even all that high of a bar to set in the first place. As much as I want to see the Bulls return to being a competitive franchise, their repeated inability to secure top free agents and trade targets over the last decade makes it difficult to believe this team is trying to do anything more than tread water and sell tickets