The hot stove is gaining steam across the NBA with All-Star ‘weekend’ wrapped, the tipoff of the second half just around the corner and the trade deadline looming on March 25.
The Bulls break from the break 16-18 and ninth in the East, good enough for a play-in berth if the season ended today. But options and possibilities abound for a team at a pivot point between rebuilding and retooling.
Here’s a roundup of recent rumors pertaining to the Bulls, and what to make of them:
Reports: “Artūras Karnišovas is telling teams that Thaddeus Young isn’t available for trade, according to multiple league sources.” --- Kevin O’Connor, The Ringer
“Sources now believe (Thaddeus) Young is no longer gettable without an offer that Chicago can’t refuse.” --- Matt Moore, Action Network
Reaction: If true, it makes all the sense in the world. Young was the Bulls’ second-best player in their overachieving first half, averaging a career-high 4.4 assists, shooting 60.9 percent from the floor and anchoring world-beating lineups galore. Beyond stuffing the stat sheet every night, he’s a fundamental locker room presence for a team that starts four players aged 23 or under when healthy.
Young’s value, especially given that he’s under contract for next season, is apparent. But the bottom line: He’s contributing to winning now, which we know the players on the roster value, and development down the road, which we know the new front office values.
Here’s Karnišovas’ last public comments on the idea of selling high on veterans:
“I never look at player(s) as trade commodities. Right now, we’re focused on winning games, because the separation between fourth and 10th place is a game-and-a-half. So this group is doing pretty well, and hopefully we can get Lauri (Markkanen) back and [Porter] and see what we can do with this team… I just think teams are going to try to improve, and there’s not going to be a lot of sellers. So I think we’re just going to focus on our guys and how to get them better.”
Moore later adding that the Bulls “will take calls but are no longer itching to make moves” as the deadline approaches jibes with that sentiment.
Reports: “Teams are also eyeing Otto Porter Jr... Chicago could just let his contract run out before he hits the market this offseason, but executives believe a buyout could occur. League sources say one team with interest in Porter is the Warriors.” --- Kevin O’Connor, The Ringer
"If Otto Porter Jr. is bought out by Chicago, Golden State is expected to be on the shortlist of suitors… There’s talk of a potential buyout for often-injured Porter, but that seems more speculative wishes from interested parties than rooted in team strategy." --- Matt Moore, Action Network
Reaction: Two pieces to dissect here:
- The buyout possibility. Noise on that front is a bit surprising on its face. Porter hasn’t played in the Bulls’ last 15 games with lower back spasms, and remains without a precise return timeline, but he played well in both starting and reserve roles when healthy. Billy Donovan and teammates have praised him in the same breath as Young and Garrett Temple as a steadying veteran presence. Playing out the last season of his maximum contract -- and making $28.5 million -- the incentive for him to potentially give money back in a buyout, or the Bulls to simply cut him loose, would be a little mystifying. That other teams are hoping for that outcome, though, does make sense. Which leads us to…
- … the Warriors’ reported interest. One figures Golden State’s candidacy would be contingent on that buyout, as Andrew Wiggins would almost assuredly need to be included in a hypothetical trade, a swap that makes little sense for either side. Of course, if Porter did reach the open market, there would be suitors for his services. As a low-risk, limited-role proposition, his positional archetype and outside shooting remain valuable if/when healthy.