Bulls insider

Bulls mailbag: Zach LaVine's future and LaMelo Ball's stock

Bulls insider
USA Today

There’s rarely a dull day in the Association. The Philadelphia 76ers’ hire of Daryl Morey prompted about 15 different questions about the Bulls’ ability to trade for Ben Simmons. I see Morey and Rivers taking those jobs because of Simmons and Joel Embiid, so we’ll open the mailbag with this one:

The Sixers have gotta be looking to deal and they’ve got some BAD contracts and a lot of picks this year... Trade proposal:

Philly Gets-

Otto Porter Jr.

Cristiano Felicio

Ryan Arcidiacono

Bulls Get-

Al Horford (OR Tobias Harris)

Josh Richardson

21st pick and a second rounder

Sixers get out of Horford contract, pick up OPJ (and Felicio😄) in a contract year and Archie goes home. Lots of years on Horford but if you’re going to keep Wendell, not many better guys to learn from plus he’s a Donovan guy. Richardson can play and any combo of picks brings in more prospects. This make any sense or am I just going crazy from lack of Bulls Bball? — Dan D.

You’re giving an awful lot of power to that Archie homecoming. This is, essentially, three expiring deals for a bad contract, a promising wing and an underwhelming pick, given the status of this draft. Unlike some of the Simmons proposals, this one isn't outlandish, though it's more palatable to me if it's Horford and not Harris.

But if I'm the Bulls, I still don't love it. You're giving up a ton of financial flexibility to add an expensive bench player in Horford and lock into Richardson — who I like — as your starting small forward. The pick would be more attractive to me if it were a future first-rounder. 

Does Artūras Karnišovas make any other changes to the front office or is he going to stick to what he has now? — Wilfred B., via Twitter

He has quietly added some behind-the-scenes roles like an international scouting consultant and two basketball operations associates. I assume the scouting and player development departments will be built out more substantially over time.

Jay Hillock and Mike Wilhelm, two scouts with longtime ties, no longer work for the organization. Wilhelm, originally hired for Bill Cartwright’s staff in 2002, retired. He worked well with the new regime and also served as an assistant coach for years, including on Tom Thibodeau’s staffs. Other holdovers like Jim Paxson, Brian Hagen, Ivica Dukan and Steve Weinman, are still with the franchise.

What buzz is there surrounding a Zach LaVine trade to either move up or better round out the roster? Any time I see Victor Oladipo’s name, I mentally insert LaVine. — FrontRow FirstSeat, via Twitter

You’re not trading LaVine to move up in a draft lacking surefire starpower or to round out the roster. You’re trading LaVine to get a centerpiece. The only reason LaVine’s future is even being talked about is that this new regime isn’t the one who traded for him and he’s eligible for an extension. I’m not privy to any talks occurring there, and in fact, before management moved from Jim Boylen to Billy Donovan, I had heard LaVine wasn’t interested in pursuing an extension. How Donovan’s arrival has impacted that stance is unknown, and LaVine, to be clear, loves living in Chicago and playing for the Bulls. But whether the new regime views him as the long-term centerpiece or not is a viable storyline to follow for the time being.


We all knew Coby-Zach combo won’t work but how do you think the front office sees Coby White? Do they think he can be sixth man or can he actually replace LaVine if he can be traded while his stock is high, probably next summer? — Berkay K., via Twitter

This escalated quickly with LaVine. I’ve been pretty consistent with my claims that I think LaVine is too often unfairly villainized. He has grown as a player, he works and he cares. I think too often critics focus on his shortcomings rather than recognize his prodigious scoring ability. And at least offensively, he and White project to complement each other well. I know LaVine is a huge White fan.

Separately, I’ve heard secondhand that the new regime is high on White but that they view him more as a scoring guard than a point guard. That’s why there’s so much talk around the league that the Bulls are focused on point guard this offseason, either through free agency or, more likely, the draft.

What do you know about the Bulls’ thoughts on drafting someone besides LaMelo Ball even if he still is on the board at No. 4? I know they need a good floor general, where LaMelo is supposed to excel.  But is there a chance they go in a different direction? — Ricky M.

Ball is certainly one of the more polarizing prospects in the draft and one who likely has one of the highest discrepancies between potential floor and ceiling. The Bulls, I’m told, believe it would take a trade up to get Ball. The price almost certainly would include one of Lauri Markkanen or Wendell Carter Jr. I personally don’t make that deal.

Who are we drafting and why is it Killian Hayes? More seriously, what does Kris Dunn’s future look like? Are the Bulls looking to draft his replacement and let him walk or do they still see Dunn as a piece moving forward? — @arturasfanclub, via Twitter

As I wrote here, there’s plenty of talk around the league that the Bulls plan to address point guard. Whether that’s through the draft or free agency is unknown. But given that Coby White, Tomáš Satoranský and Ryan Arcidiacono all can play there some, it doesn’t bode well for Dunn’s long-term future with the Bulls.


In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this regime extend the qualifying offer to Denzel Valentine — another ball handler and strong passer — and not Dunn. While Dunn has proved elite at the defensive end, he doesn’t fit the offensive philosophy described by the new regime. Couple that with his injury issues and the fact he was the only player not at the Bulls’ bubble, and it’s certainly trending the wrong direction.

Does a shortened free agency period help or hurt Kris Dunn’s market? — Thomas M., via Twitter

Before the pandemic hit, some buzz around the league had the Clippers poised to show interest in Dunn. Now, there’s talk that franchise might pursue Rajon Rondo. Most teams and agents are expecting a difficult free agency. Between the financial uncertainty facing the league and some teams eyeing 2021 free agency, most free agents other than the A-listers could find the big-money deals to be lacking.

Any update on Bulls assistant coaching plan? Seeing a team like the Clippers hire Dan Craig and Kenny Atkinson as assistants makes me wonder if the Bulls and Billy Donovan can hire some high quality assistants as well. — Kyle M.

Between his college and NBA coaching days, Donovan is extremely well connected and respected. Expect that to be reflected in his staff. Chicago native Maurice Cheeks served on all five of Donovan’s staffs in Oklahoma City, so he’s a logical option. Vin Bhavnani served on four of the staffs, so he’s another possibility. It will be intriguing to see what happens, though, if Brian Keefe is promoted as Donovan’s replacement in Oklahoma City.

Chris Fleming survived the purge of the assistant coaches from the previous regime, so expect him back with the Bulls. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Wednesday that John Bryant is leaving the 76ers for the Bulls, though I haven’t been able to yet confirm if that’s for the bench or a player development role. Eversley knows Bryant well. I personally was surprised to see Nate Loenser let go. Karnišovas picked up his option earlier in the offseason in part because of his strong reputation for player development and players, in particular LaVine, really liked and respected Loenser. Donovan is known for possessing little ego and valuing input and collaboration.

I’d consider drafting Deni Avdija and Paul Reed from DePaul and then signing Rajon Rondo a solid offseason that makes the Bulls a playoff team. What do you consider a successful offseason? — Brad W., via Twitter

One in which my wife doesn’t get sick of me being home instead of at games.

Thanks for all the questions. Talk to you soon.

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