The worst-case scenario for the Bulls this offseason

Miami Heat v Chicago Bulls
Miami Heat v Chicago Bulls / Jamie Sabau/GettyImages

With the Chicago Bulls falling to the Miami Heat 91-112 on Friday night, they have been eliminated from playoff contention and their season is over. Just starting their offseason, the Bulls have a lot of questions to answer this summer.

Following the Bulls' Play-in exit, Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, Arturas Karisovas addressed the media:

"This group, something doesn’t work. I have to find ways to find a group that’s going to make improvements. We’ve done it for a couple years now and it hasn’t worked. Everything is on the table. It goes without saying that the conclusion of the season fell short of expectations regardless of injury, status. Any season where we don’t end deep into the postseason requires close examination, which has already begun. I can talk about all of our players through a positive lens, but in totality as a team we didn’t meet expectations."

Arturas Karnisovas

While fans remain hopeful the team can be turned around or will embrace the rebuild, recent history has shown that may not be what happens. In the worst-case scenario, a lot will go wrong for Chicago.

The first expectation Bulls nation has for this offseason is the team moving on from Zach LaVine. This past season was one of the worst of LaVine's seven-season tenure with the Bulls. Only playing 25 games, LaVine averaged 19.5 PPG, 3.9 APG, and 5.2 RPG while shooting a near-career-low from beyond the arc. While injuries played a significant role in LaVine's absence, it is clear both he and the Bulls would like to move on from one another.

The big obstacle preventing a trade currently is Lavine's contract. Set to enter the third year of his five-year, $215 million contract, LaVine has one of the worst contracts in the league in the eyes of many both within and outside of the Bulls organization. With the star guard being labeled as injury-prone and recent CBA changes, the Bulls have not been able to move LaVine with his current contract.

Insiders believe the only way the Bulls could successfully move on from LaVine is by attaching a draft pick to the potential trade. Throughout AK's tenure with the Bulls, he has traded the Bulls' 2021, 2023, and 2025 first-round draft picks while mainly drafting more development-focused players over NBA-ready players. If the Bulls attach a draft pick to move on from LaVine, they will lose a much-needed asset for the team going forward.

While his contract is not the biggest, Lonzo Ball's contract has become a nightmare for Chicago. Entering the final year of his four-year, $80 million deal, Ball has not played since January 2022. Even though he has been out since then, his $20 million/year has affected what the Bulls could do with roster construction. Ball has said he will play again and recent reports have looked promising, but the odds of him being the player he once was are slim.

Ball's contract features a player option for the 2024-25 season, an option he will certainly pick up. The Bulls have been able to find a replacement for Ball with the limited money they have, as both Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu have stepped up this season. With Ball likely opting into the last year of his deal, the Bulls will still have that $20 million on their cap sheet.

The worst-case scenario for Chicago with Ball is a setback in his rehab that prevents him from getting on the court for the 2024-25 season. Like Lavine, Chicago could try to move him but would likely have to attach a pick or another player to get off of his deal.

Another member of the Bulls' core whose contract is hampering the team is Nikola Vucevic. Vucevic has not had the best season as he finishes the first year of his three-year, $60 million contract. While Vooch still has plenty of value, he is not a great fit with the team now and with the direction the team is heading. Moving off of Vucevic would be big for Chicago, but he is more likely to remain with the team this offseason.

The most important player of the Bulls' big three is DeMar DeRozan. In his three seasons in Chicago, he's been a two-time All-Star, the leader in most categories, and a mentor to many of the young players on the team. As he approaches free agency, most reports during the season said the two were not aligned with a deal, but DeRozan wants to stay in Chicago. Heading into his 16th season, DeRozan is looking for a long-term deal and to win.

In a recent report from NBC Sports Chicago, a source has suggested DeRozan was recently offered a two-year deal worth up to $40 million/year, but he is looking for more years. No matter what DeRozan does this offseason, it will be bad for Chicago.

If a longer deal can be worked out, DeRozan will be overpaid to retain him. On the other side, DeRozan could be swayed away by a contender, letting him walk for nothing when he could've been traded to a contender at one of the last two deadlines for a solid return.

If the Bulls keep all members of their core, pieces will have to be let go or traded. Important role players including Andre Drummond, and Javonte Green will be some of the first players to go as the goal for ownership is to stay under the salary cap.

While his contract is not the biggest, not trading Alex Caruso would be a mistake for the Bulls. Caruso has been one of the hardest working players for the Bulls over the last three seasons. Set to enter the last year of his four-year, $36.9 million deal, this is the last chance for Chicago to get a return for Caruso.

Reports have noted numerous contenders being interested in him over the last few seasons, but Chicago has kept him, letting his value decrease over time. Likely keeping Caruso, Chicago will lose their last chance to get a return for him with the expectation he'll leave next summer for nothing.

For the Bulls, the worst-case scenario for this offseason is simple, especially following AK addressing the media post-Play-In loss. Chicago has ignored the issues of the team over the last few seasons before AK finally addressed them after the Play-In loss.

Choosing continuity once again over a much-needed rebuild following another disappointing season while further sacrificing the future of the team would be the worst-case scenario for the Chicago Bulls this offseason.