It is no secret that the Chicago Bulls are expected to be active in trade rumors until the NBA's February 8 trade deadline. Throughout last season and this one, it's clear that the current makeup of this Bulls roster does not make a winning team. After posting a 40-42 record last season, and a 15-21 through 36 games this year, Chicago has shown that they are a play-in team at best, and the trio of Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic is not going to work out.
When looking at potential trade targets, at least one of these players needs to go, and the highest priority right now is Zach LaVine. LaVine has had a rocky relationship with head coach Billy Donovan and has already listed teams that he is willing to be sent to.
The Chicago Bulls have shown that they have a strong roster, but need to trade their top players to get valuable assets in return.
It is also important to note that the Bulls have seemingly been better off without Zach, going 10-7 since the last game he played on November 28. The Bulls have seen huge development from their young players, especially Coby White and Patrick Williams, who have shown that they have really strong potential and can be cornerstones of the franchise.
The bottom line is that the Bulls have some really strong supporting pieces, and that has been shown by injuries to their top players. In addition to White and Williams, Alex Caruso is averaging a career-high in points while playing All-NBA defense, Ayo Dosunmu is developing into a better player on both sides of the ball, and Andre Drummond is having a career revival, with games reminiscent of his all-star Pistons days.
These five players are all under 30 years old or younger, and the Bulls have more talented young players on the roster, including Dalen Terry, Jevon Carter, Julian Phillips, and Adama Sanogo. The development we have seen over the past month and the better brand of basketball being played shows that there needs to be some change that is made to the roster, especially with their Big 3.
Nikola Vucevic will not have a strong trade market
The Bulls are in a very tough situation with Nikola Vucevic, as he was signed to a bad contract this past June. The Bulls signed him to a 3-year, $60 million contract extension that has him signed with the Bulls through his age 35 season. There was little reason to commit to that many years at such a high price, especially considering his steady decline since coming to Chicago.
This year has further reinforced this sentiment, as Vucevic has simply been outplayed by Andre Drummond, and Vooch's injury is proving just that. In the five games that Drummond started, he has averaged 14 points, 19.4 rebounds (7.6 offensive rebounds), and 1.8 steals per game. Drummond also had a better game against the Hawks in his first start of the season than anything that Vucevic produced this year.
For this reason, it would be ideal to look for a Vucevic trade, but it may not be that simple. Because of the disparity between Vooch's contract and his level of play, he will be almost impossible to trade, as very few teams would want to be locked into that type of contract while giving up significant assets. For that reason, it is likely that the Bulls have to keep Vucevic, and this will probably be through the rest of his contract.
Zach LaVine could be a strong fit with several teams, but the Bulls have limited leverage
Zach LaVine is also seeming to be a struggle to trade, as a combination of his injury history, max contract, and defensive downsides make it difficult to execute a blockbuster trade. This, and the fact that the Bulls have very little negotiating leverage will likely create a lopsided deal, where the Bulls will probably get less than what Zach is worth.
It is important to say, however, that Zach LaVine is an incredibly talented player who is entering his prime. LaVine has averaged 24 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists per game in his career with the Bulls, and he has developed into one of the top offensive threats in the league. LaVine can seemingly score from anywhere on the court, with tremendous shooting ability to score from deep while also having the speed and athleticism to beat defenders and finish inside.
This is the reason why the Bulls gave Zach a max contract, and he can be very useful for a team that needs a guy who can create his own shot, which LaVine can do with ease. LaVine's name has been mentioned with the Lakers, 76ers, Kings, and Raptors, who could all definitely use his presence as an elite scorer. For this, the Bulls will likely be able to get a veteran to help match contracts, one or two solid young players, as well as two to three potential picks in exchange for the All-Star.
DeMar DeRozan could garner strong trade interest
DeMar DeRozan has had difficulties coming together with the Bulls on a contract extension, which has led to reports that he may be traded before the deadline. DeMar is 34 years old but has seen a career revival in Chicago, averaging 25.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 5.1 assists in his two and a half seasons with the team, which resulted in a pair of All-Star appearances and even one All-NBA Second-Team selection.
DeRozan has had tremendous success as a scorer, as he is widely considered the best midrange shooter in the NBA, while also being a tremendous locker room presence, serving as the Bulls' leader and training the young players on the team during the offseason. Because of these positives, the Chicago Bulls have an opportunity to get significant assets from another team, especially considering DeRozan's expiring contract, which will help open up cap space for next year while also bringing an elite scorer as a rental.
It is probably unrealistic for the Bulls to expect an all-star in exchange for DeRozan, considering his age, but they should be able to get 1 or 2 good young players while also being compensated with first-round picks. DeRozan has been named in trade talks with the Lakers and reportedly would like to go to the Miami Heat or New York Knicks if the Bulls choose to move him.
New York could be a strong fit for DeRozan, as they just traded away two of their better scorers in RJ Barrett and Immanuel Quickley, and DeMar would be able to pick up the slack. The Knicks would likely send Evan Fournier to match contracts, while also having some really solid young players on the roster like Quentin Grimes, Isaiah Hartenstein, and Jericho Sims. New York also has plenty of draft picks at their disposal, so they would be able to get a deal done.
The Chicago Bulls have an opportunity here to trade away their two best players in order to retool the roster and gain more assets for a future run at a title. While they may not be able to receive as much as they could have a year ago, the Bulls can still receive a solid return and start building around their young talent.