As the draft and free agency gets closer, the rumors tend to start to heat up.
As I wrote about last week, the Bulls have some decisions to make in the next few weeks and there’s some noise about what they might be thinking out there. It’s important to remember that these rumors might not be more than smoke, but these rumors do seem to be in line with other moves the front office has made. It is clear the Bulls are prioritizing size and are still in “win-now” mode this offseason which makes sense given how the season went. The Bulls relied heavily on lineups with 3 guards and usually closed games with 4 guards on the court. These lineups were effective but the Bulls still struggled against teams that had size. The Bulls have some work to do, especially in the frontcourt if they want to take another step, and they seem to know that. Here are some quick thoughts on what the Bulls might do to try to build off of last season.
Zach LaVine will likely return
This is good to hear from the Bulls’ perspective, especially with some of the talk that LaVine might be available. LaVine has his flaws but losing him would put the Bulls in a very rough spot. There are few better shooters and scorers in the league.
Last summer, the Bulls went out and got DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and Nikola Vucevic for many reasons, one of the biggest was to prevent Zach LaVine from wanting out. With LaVine signing with Klutch last season, there was fear that LaVine could leave for the Lakers or at least keep his options open.
The last Bulls’ front office made the decision to trade Jimmy Butler away because they didn’t think they could take the next step with him. A large portion of the fanbase felt like this was the wrong decision and feel that they’ve been proven right by Butler’s time in Miami. Even though it is a new front office, this mistake is still held over the franchise. I’m not saying LaVine is as good as Butler, but I do think wanting to prevent a similar mistake is a big motivator for the Bulls.
As for LaVine, he has gotten better every season. The Bulls were a laughing stock in league circles because of the coaching and management of the team for the first few years of LaVine’s time here. This didn’t prevent LaVine from turning himself into a 25 points per game scorer (on strong efficiency) and a star in this league. LaVine has a reputation of being a ball-dominant player, but his strength is his off-ball movement. He is both one of the best cutters in the league and one of the best catch and shoot players from 3.
The Bulls, until last season, failed to put other ball handlers on the team around LaVine. Despite not being able to play to his strengths and playing for a dysfunctional organization until recently, LaVine never complained and continued to improve his game. The Bulls should definitely reward him with a five year max contract.
The 18th pick could be in play for trades on draft night
We already had one trade involving a first round pick go down with the Mavs landing Christian Wood. Could the Bulls make it another?
As last offseason showed, the Bulls’ front office seems to value proven players over draft picks. An important detail to point out is that since the Bulls traded their 2023 1st to the Magic, they can’t technically trade this pick until draft night. I’m sure that doesn’t stop teams from talking about the idea of a trade around the 18th pick.
There has also been talks of a package of Coby White and the 18th pick being available which could help drive up the possible return. I think the hope would be to use this package to get a bench forward who could occasionally close games in a small ball lineup in place of Nikola Vucevic.
I understand the train of thought of being skeptical of how much the 18th pick could help a team trying to win now, but I do think there’s an argument for keeping the pick. Ayo Dosumnu and Patrick Williams are two young players that have shown promise for the Bulls. I think the draft is stronger in the 16-23 range than it’s getting credit for. To me, drafting someone like EJ Liddell or Jalen Williams at 18 could be balancing on the line of getting a player that could play 12-15 minutes right away as well as a player that could continue to develop.
I won’t blame the Bulls if a forward that can defend multiple positions and is good enough of a shooter to be out there at the end games becomes available and they flip White and the 18th pick for him, those guys are hard to get. I do think it’s important to remember how far away the Bulls are from a championship before trading this pick. They shouldn’t trade this pick for a veteran just to do it, the veteran has to fit that specific need. If you can’t get a guy like that, keep the pick I say. If the Bulls were to nail this pick, they would be in a solid position to stay competitive well past DeRozan’s and LaVine’s primes.
Rudy Gobert and Mitchell Robinson linked to the Bulls
It could be an interesting few weeks for the center position in Chicago. There has also been talks that Nikola Vucevic is being made available in trade talks. With Gobert or Robinson, the Bulls would be moving towards more rim protection than they get with Vucevic, but also less floor spacing on offense.
I don’t know how realistic it is for the Bulls to trade for the multiple time Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert, especially if the reports of them not willing to include Patrick Williams in a deal are true. Gobert would definitely take the Bulls’ defense to a new level if a trade were to happen. With the strength of the Bulls’ defense being on the perimeter, I would also be more confident in Gobert in the postseason in Chicago because of how much more help he would have defensively.
The more realistic possibility being thrown out there is Mitchell Robinson who would be more affordable on the trade market and money-wise for the Bulls. Even though Robinson is a free agent, it’s likely the Bulls would have to acquire him through a sign-and-trade to give him fair value on a contract. This could be where White or the 18th pick could come into play. I’m intrigued with Robinson being only 24 years old. I feel that he could help next season with Vucevic likely still on the roster but also be the long-term starting center with Vucevic entering the last year of his contract.
I think both players would help the Bulls next season. Having said that, I do think the Bulls could benefit more from a player that is more of a power forward that can also play center instead of a straight center. I don’t think the Bulls could outbid the likes of Atlanta or Toronto for Gobert so the Bulls will likely have Vucevic starting at center and playing big minutes. The Bulls should be trying to find someone that can play with Vucevic as well. Robinson is athletic and there’s been talk of the Bulls thinking Robinson and Vucevic could play together.
I don’t love that idea because I think the Bulls should be trying to add shooting to the floor. This would also give the Bulls two centers that have to play mostly drop coverage against pick and rolls. It has been shown that being able to switch it up defensively is crucial to playoff success. The Bulls should try to add someone that could play center in a switching scheme so Vucevic can sit against bad matchups for him. In my opinion, getting Robinson would be more about 2023-2024 than 2022-2023.
This reminds me of what happened with Lonzo Ball on the Bulls. There was smoke at the trade deadline, but no deal and then the Bulls acquired the young player in the offseason. The Bulls have shown to be aggressive and patient with players they want. I’m not going to make a prediction, but I think the Robinson to the Bulls chatter has some legs.