Should the Bulls Push More Chips Into the Middle to Win Now?

As we get closer to the December 15th date that marks the beginning of NBA trade season (this is the date that recently signed players become eligible to be traded), the Bulls have impressed many with their performance to this point of the season. They currently sit at 17-9 which is good for 2nd in the East. It seems like the only thing that can stop them from pushing for a top 3 seed in the East is the current Covid outbreak they are experiencing.

An important question the Bulls need to ask themselves is if they should lean even more into a win-now movement by trading one or multiple of Coby White, Patrick Williams, and the Blazers’ lottery protected 1st that they own or keep them to maintain some youth on the roster. I personally wouldn’t be afraid to move any of those three to try to capitalize as much as possible on having two top 20ish players in the league in LaVine and DeRozan, both of which are in their prime.

In the cases of Coby White and Patrick Williams, it might be passed DeRozan’s prime and well into LaVine’s next contract before they are ready to be major contributors, if they even get to that point at all. The Bulls have three problems that could hold them back in the playoffs and that’s three point shooting, size on the wing, and bench size/depth. Let’s look at some potential trades the Bulls could make to improve some of their weaknesses and become a true East Conference Finals threat. 

Credit to Fanspo for the trade machine.

(Note: Some of these trades can’t happen until after December 15th for reasons stated above.)

Bulls make another splash, Kings snag promising forward.

Harrison Barnes helps out with maybe the two biggest things keeping the Bulls away from being a true Conference Finals threat, size on the wing and three point shooting. He would slot right into the starting lineup with Ball, LaVine, DeRozan, and Vucevic. Him and Derrick Jones Jr could provide a switchability aspect on the wing which is very valuable in the playoffs. On the other side, the Kings probably should try to move Barnes while his value is still really high. In this trade the Kings snag a 20 year old Patrick Williams who is coming off a serious wrist injury but has shown potential on both sides of the court. The former 4th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft fits the defensive mentality the Kings could look to have with building around Haliburton and Mitchell moving forward and White as a heat check guard off the bench is a good compliment to those two as well. 

Projected rotation: 

Starters: Ball, LaVine, DeRozan, Barnes, Vucevic

Bench: Caruso, Dosunmu, Green, Jones Jr, Bradley

Bulls jump into Warriors-Pacers trade and get a much needed backup center.

This is a way for the Bulls to continue their win-now push while keeping Patrick Williams in their back pocket. The Bulls probably need to improve their backup center spot and could use more playoff experience in their locker room. Ayton proved to be some trouble for the Warriors in two recent matchups. The Warriors could benefit from improving the Looney spot to help with a potential playoff matchup vs Ayton, as well as Jokic, and even a potential finals matchup with Giannis. The Pacers start their rebuild with two former top 7 picks that have shown promise. 

Projected rotation: 

Starters: Ball, LaVine, DeRozan, Green, Vucevic

Bench: Caruso, Dosunmu, Brown Jr, Jones Jr, Looney

Bulls take advantage of Grizzlies having too many guys, Grizzlies add 1st round pick. 

The Grizzlies have two quality backup power forward options with only enough minutes for one of them. Either Clarke or Tillman could slide into the starting power forward spot for the Bulls, or help improve their bench depth. They also give the Bulls more size in their small ball lineups when Vooch sits. The Grizzlies would be getting a solid asset for a player they wouldn’t be playing many minutes. In this scenario, the Grizzlies could have the choice between which one they rather keep. Clarke is better now but Tillman is younger and is under contract for longer. Both players fit into the trade exception the Bulls got by signing and trading Theis to the Rockets. 

Projected rotation: 

Starters: Ball, LaVine, DeRozan, Clarke/Tillman, Vucevic

Bench: Caruso, Dosunmu, Green, Jones Jr, Bradley

Dream Scenario: Bulls pull off both Barnes trade and the Grizzlies Trade.

This might be a little too far fetched, but if Patrick Williams and Coby White are enough for the Kings to not demand a 1st for Harrison Barnes, this could technically be possible. This would give a quality answer to all three of the problems I mentioned above (three point shooting, wing size, and bench size/depth). This is a team I could fully buy as Eastern Conference Finals contender.

Projected rotation:

Starters: Ball, LaVine, DeRozan, Barnes, Vucevic

Bench: Caruso, Dosunmu, Green, Jones Jr, Tillman/Clarke

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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!