After another inactive trade deadline, the Chicago Bulls are approaching a critical junction that will almost certainly impact this team's trajectory for the future. Will they go the expected route of not making any further moves and allowing the season to unfold, or will they make a move to secure some extra assistance before the year ends? The Bulls have a couple of different options at their disposal, each of which is worth taking a deeper look at.
First, let's evaluate what position they sit in. The Chicago Bulls are currently sitting at the 9th seed in the Eastern Conference with a shot at the play-in tournament. Now let's be serious, the Bulls are not expected to make any noise this season. They aren't dark horses coming out of the East, or even in the same tier as the title favorites.
That being said, the playoffs are a different monster and anything can happen during that point in time. An unexpected injury could occur, another team may make a trade and ruin their chemistry, or a team can implode and just create an opportunity for a play-in team to capitalize on.
We know that it's not impossible to make a run, we saw the Miami Heat accomplish this feat of barrelling through a couple of series to get to the NBA Finals. All it takes is a team making a change, such as the Bucks changing head coaches, or shaking up the roster with an injury or trade. Anything can happen and the Bulls need to be ready to take advantage when the opportunity arises.
Pressure is mounting for the front office to make sweeping changes as the Bulls remain mediocre.
1. Swap stars to remain competitive now
The Bulls may have the urgency to shake up the roster this summer and make next season a successful one because they're simply running out of time with the players they have. Chicago doesn't have the draft capital necessary to select a highly-touted prospect, and frankly, our stars are on the older side.
Zach LaVine will soon be turning 29 years old while DeMar DeRozan is 34 and Vucevic is 33. We have some young talent they could try to build around the young core, but this team hasn't produced great results without Lonzo Ball so I could see them deciding to move on from DeMar and Vucevic.
If Chicago full commits to a rebuild, they could even trade Caruso for a first-round pick, or two. The next order of business is getting off LaVine's contract because they can't pair any winning stars with him. They get rid of our veterans and we start over with the young talent we have on the roster and build with them.
The Bulls could trade for a new star, like Trae Young if the Hawks feel like they haven't produced the results they should've fielded with Trae as their leader. The Bulls could try getting the ball rolling by offering LaVine, Alex Caruso, and Patrick Williams for Trae Young and Onyeka Okngwu to revamp both squads. Two Seattle players pair in the backcourt in Dejounte Murray and LaVine, while strengthening their wings with Patrick Williams, and fortifying their defense with Alex Caruso.
The Bulls get their point guard that fits the timeline, slide Coby White over to shooting guard since he's so efficient at shooting, and re-sign DeMar for extra firepower. Onyeka will help Vucevic establish their newfound defensive scheme and be different kinds of weapons for the team. Both squads are vying for the play-in tournament to make some noise. As their rosters stand, is that their ceiling? This trade would provide new hope for both squads and a little talent shakeup might be great for both teams.
2. Making marginal improvements
This scenario would be making a move that slightly helps the margin. This would mean trading Jevon Carter, or Andre Drummond to provide new help to the Bulls' core of DeRozan, White, Caruso, and Vucevic. They alone might be able to drag us into the play-in tournament. They would be holding the fort down until maybe one of our injured stars returns. The best case scenario here, is Zach Lavine uses the rest of the season to recover, and the Bulls make the play-in tournament, and he vaults us to a higher level when he makes a healthy return next season.
This type of trade would involve players on the outside looking in. This would be like the Bulls trading Jevon Carter for Quentin Grimes from the Pistons. A wing that can shoot and be a big body on defense. The Piston would be receiving a more established point guard to backup Cade, and the Bulls receive more help on the wing as they try to fill the void left by LaVine.
1. Keeping the band together
This route would include riding the season out with no adjustments and buying time for LaVine and Lonzo to get healthy. DeRozan comes off the books this season, but the Bulls are more likely to try re-signing him rather than moving on. The team has several players coming back with a couple more years on their contracts. Lonzo will pick up his player option for next season, LaVine recently just signed his deal, and Coby, Caruso, and Vucevic will still have time left on their respective contracts.
They would essentially be running the same team that was successful in earning the first seed back during the 2021-2022 season. The team would find new deals for DeMar and Williams to keep the team intact. Time will either give this team a second chance to shine or expose them for not adjusting to the competition.
The Bulls don't have many options so they'll have to make the most of the cards they've been delt. They do have a chance at making the play-in tournament, but how far will they make it? Seeing as how this team has repeatedly failed to make mid-season improvements, this will likely result in a first-round exit.
Do the Bulls have enough offensive weapons to compete with the likes of Boston, Milwaukee, and New York? All of these teams are playing well down the stretch and don't seem to be slowing down. Embiid suffered an injury recently but Philadelphia is still going to be competitive heading into the playoffs. We'll see if Lonzo will be back by season's end, or the beginning of the next season because management is very confident in the team's abilities when everyone is healthy.