Chicago Bulls Off-season Notebook Vol. 1: Do the Bulls need to trade DeMar DeRozan?

We have another long Bulls’ offseason ahead of us. This offseason feels pretty critical for the front office, led by Artūras Karnišovas, who haven’t done much since signing and trading for DeMar DeRozan on August 3rd, 2021. Since then we have had three transactional periods, two trade deadlines, and an offseason. The Bulls have made zero trades in that time (the only team in the league not to complete a single trade during that time frame) and have essentially relied on players on the fringes of the buyout market to improve the team. 

Karnišovas bet on continuity with this group and the team failed to make the 8-team playoff field. A major failure for the franchise that moved a lot of pieces to get this group together. It was questionable at the time but now looks even more questionable given the health of Lonzo Ball, so the team hasn’t had that much continuity to build on. In the postseason press conference, Karnišovas essentially said that rebuilding isn’t an option, making many people think the core of the team will largely be back. 

This is interesting because the Bulls are asset dry and probably don’t have the means of making any sizable improvements to the supporting cast around Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vučević (pending free agent), and it’s been reported that Lonzo Ball will likely miss most if not all of the 2023-2024 NBA season. Another interesting quote that Karnišovas had in that press conference came in regards to the Bulls’ lack of 3-point shooting given the modern NBA. 

He explained “It will be a priority for us to kind of change our shooting profile because it’s very difficult for us to go into every game with such a (3-point shooting) deficit. We’re last in 3-point rate, and last in 3-point field goals made. It’s almost like we’re going into every game with an eight-point deficit to make up for it”. The shot profile of this team was clearly the biggest issue for the team that finished 24th in offensive rating and 7th in field goal percentage. 

That reads “The Chicago Bulls do not have a modern shot profile” and shows the problem of ignoring the 3-point shot in today’s NBA, even if you convert the shots you take at a good percentage, not taking and making enough 3s is still a major disadvantage. 

At this point, I’m sure you’re asking the same question I am. How can the Bulls bring back their core and vastly change their shot profile when they don’t have the means to change out the supporting cast? That question makes a lot of Bulls fans (including myself) fear that we have headed to another disappointedly quiet off-season for the franchise. 

On the other hand, I do think it opens up the possibility of a DeMar DeRozan trade in the hope that more 3-point volume from the team can more than makeup for the loss of his efficient midrange shot creation. I went into this before but I do not singly blame DeRozan for the Bulls’ 3-point struggles even though he doesn’t take many himself, he excels at drawing attention to him and kicking it out to the 3-point line. The problem is there aren’t any shooters besides Zach LaVine that are receiving these kick-out passes. 

Unfortunately, because of the Bulls’ situation, they might have to trade DeRozan to improve their shot profile. DeRozan will be on an expiring contract next season so I don’t think the Bulls can get a package around promising young players and picks for him. Since the team doesn’t want to rebuild, a trade with a deep team looking for a star in a 2-for-1-like deal might be best. Let’s look at some of these potential deals. I won’t be focusing on draft equity, I assume the Bulls might try to get a 1st in a deal like this but that might not be possible with DeRozan being on an expiring contract.

Trade with the Brooklyn Nets

The Nets struggled after the Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving trades and given the lack of their own draft picks, I think they might be looking for ways to improve without giving up many future assets. DeRozan could help their halfcourt offense and draw some attention away from Mikal Bridges who looked good but overtaxed as a #1 option. The Bulls would add two three-point shooters and some depth in Joe Harris and Royce O’Neale. I would also like to target Dorian Finney-Smith in any potential deal with the Nets but I think he will be in high demand.

Trade with the Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies have struggled in the halfcourt offensively and appear to need another adult in the room. DeRozan could potentially fill both of their needs and his durability is another nice advantage considering some of Ja’s injuries. Tyus Jones could slot into the Bulls’ starting point guard spot and Luke Kennard (league leader in 3-point % this regular season) would bring some much-needed shooting to Chicago.

Trade with the Los Angeles Clippers

It looks like the Clippers will be headed to another disappointing and injury-riddled playoff exit. I think this move would be good for one last run with Kawhi and PG. DeRozan’s durability would allow Kawhi and PG to load-manage their way through the regular season and give the Clippers more margin for error with injury in the playoffs if Kawhi or PG had to miss time. Powell would be the much-needed shooter for the Bulls and Covington could fit in nicely in the small ball lineups the Bulls like to play.

Finishing Thoughts

Nobody on the Bulls should be untouchable in trade talks this off-season. DeRozan being traded in a makeup that I’ve laid out will be an interesting test case for the math of the NBA and how valuable 3-point volume is compared to efficient mid-range scoring. I’m guessing DeRozan won’t be traded but I wouldn’t rule it out if the Bulls truly want to change their shot profile with their limited assets.

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Reilly is from Naperville, IL and is a big Bulls and Michigan State Spartans fan. He enjoys spending time with loved ones, watching movies, and coaching Water Polo when he isn’t watching basketball or deep diving Basketball-Reference and Follow him on Twitter at @McDReilly97!