Bulls

Russell Westbrook wants out, but the Bulls make little sense as a destination

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USA TODAY

Russell Westbrook wants out, but the Bulls make little sense as a destination

The Bulls aren’t trading for Russell Westbrook.

Let’s get that reality out of the way before diving in to what a potential trade would look like and how the eight-time All-Star and former MVP would fit in Chicago.

Westbrook is reportedly seeking a trade in the wake of the Oklahoma City Thunder agreeing to trade Paul George to the Clippers. Westbrook, who will turn 31 early next NBA season, has been with Oklahoma City since their inaugural season in 2008. He won league MVP in 2017 and has recorded a triple-double each of the last three seasons, an NBA record.

But Westbrook’s deficiencies have spoken louder than his raw numbers the last few seasons. Despite averaging 26.3 points, 9.4 rebounds and 10.1 assists since the start of the 2014-15 season, Westbrook is shooting just 43.6% from the field in that span and just 30.9% from beyond the arc. He has averaged 4.7 turnovers per game and has just a 4-12 postseason record with three first-round exits since Kevin Durant left for Golden State.

Inefficiencies aside, Westbrook is undoubtedly talented. He’s a proven veteran, committed leader and excellent teammate. The bigger issue, as most teams will find in attempting to trade for him, is his contract. Westbrook has four years and $170 million remaining on the contract extension he signed in September 2017. Any team dealing for Westbrook would not only have to take on that salary – which will pay Westbrook more than $47 million in 2023 – but also match outgoing salaries in the deal.

For the Bulls, getting to the magic $30.8 million number that would need to go back to OKC in a deal would require including Otto Porter ($27,250,575) or Zach LaVine ($19,500,000) as a starting point. The Bulls would then have to toss in filler salaries – Kris Dunn ($4 million), Denzel Valentine ($2.28 million, etc. – to match Westbrook’s. And that's just to match salaries. The Thunder would obviously want more than that or a king's ransom of first-round picks.

Beyond the Bulls having to part with a core piece of their rebuild, Westbrook just doesn’t make any sense in Chicago. The Bulls have had a good offseason in acquiring veterans Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky, as well as agreeing to deals with Ryan Arcidiacono and Luke Kornet. They’re three months removed from a 22-win season and want to watch their young players progress. They drafted Coby White to be the point guard of the future, but there’s no rush to reach contender status given their entire core is 26 or younger.

Would the Bulls be a better team with Westbrook on board for, say, Porter/LaVine and Dunn (and a boatload of first-round picks)? Certainly, though in reality they'd probably still have to give up one of Lauri Markkanen or Wendell Carter. We're talking about a future Hall of Famer in the prime of his career. They’d probably make the postseason. But they wouldn’t be contenders in an Eastern Conference that’s still pretty top-heavy despite the Raptors losing out on Leonard.

And who’s to say where Westbrook’s career trajectory is headed? He’s about to turn 31 and has already logged 32,000 career minutes. Westbrook isn’t a shooter, and his game is built on speed and athleticism. That’s a risky move to deal for him while needing him to maintain both for the next four seasons.

Westbrook’s best fit is on a contender, not a rebuild. That means a trade to the Bulls, though worth talking about, isn’t realistic. The Bulls would have to send a host of first-round picks back in the deal, stunting the growth of their rebuild.

Bulls' guard Tomas Satoransky and his never-ending pursuit of perfection

Bulls' guard Tomas Satoransky and his never-ending pursuit of perfection

Tomas Satoransky is a perfectionist and a pleaser.

This can be a positive thing. It also can be negative.

“Everyone who is close to me will tell you that I’m hardest on myself. I always expect to play the best,” Satoransky said in an interview. “I always expect to be perfect, which isn’t always the best but in the long term it has always worked out for me.”

That’s because perfection is an unattainable quest. But Satoransky keeps working towards the unachievable goal. So he’s driven, which is good, but sometimes self-destructive, which isn’t.

Early on, as Satoransky slowly adjusted to a new city, new coach, new teammates and new system, the process didn’t go smoothly.

“I didn’t feel down. I felt frustrated and anxious to do better, anxious to help the team as much as he can,” coach Jim Boylen said when asked if he sensed frustration from Satoransky. “He really struggles when he lets the team down. That’s just basketball. You’re not going to play perfect all the time. He takes it to heart. I’ve spoken to him about it. I don’t need him to beat himself up. Just continue to grow and learn how we’re going to play and get used to guys. It does take some time to get a feel for each other.”

And it’s happening. Satoransky has posted nine straight games with at least five assists, the second-longest stretch of his young career. Coincidentally, his assist totals began to rise the more he looked for his shot.

“I think there’s a point where you make other people better, which he tries to do, and a point where you have to play your game. I think he’s starting to figure that out,” Boylen said. “I think he’s starting to understand where his spots are and how he makes people better but also doesn’t lose the positive things he can do individually.”

The selflessness of Satoransky is something that gets mentioned often by others when they’re asked about him. He’s someone who takes the time to read a situation before asserting himself, always trying to make the right play.

This dynamic was exacerbated by Satoransky not only joining a new team but doing so after playing a leading role for his Czech Republic national team at the FIBA World Cup this offseason.

“I think I’m very adaptable. But I won’t aggressively adapt. I’ll try to see what it is---new coaches, new offense---before asserting myself,” Satoransky said. “I knew I had to be patient, especially with a new team, new role. I’m also coming from a very different situation in the World Cup. And I’m trying to fit in and make my teammates feel the best and most comfortable around me. But I’m trying to be more aggressive because it opens up more space.

“I feel we’re more and more on the same page now.”

Satoransky’s averages of 9.6 points, 5.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds in 27.1 minutes are eerily similar to those he posted last season with the Wizards, his breakout season. In 80 games, including 54 starts for the injured John Wall, he averaged 8.9 points, 5 assists and 3.5 rebounds also in 27.1 minutes.

He’s shooting 39.7 percent on 3 3-point attempts per game---again very similar to last season’s 39.5 percent on 2 3-point attempts per game.

“I tell him he has to take his shots. He’s a threat,” Zach LaVine said. “He can shoot and create for others. Once he gets in the lane, he’s crafty. He isn’t just a spot-up 3-point shooter.”

Satoransky is in the first year of a three-year, $30 million deal that is only partially guaranteed in the final season. He said he is enjoying Chicago and playing for the Bulls.

“Everyone cares. We get along well,” Satoransky said. “This is my second NBA locker room, but I think this is one of the best groups I’ve had.”

Now, he just wants to improve the won-lost record to something closer to perfection.

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Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls lose to Warriors for 2nd time in 10 days

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USA TODAY

Bulls Outsiders Podcast: Bulls lose to Warriors for 2nd time in 10 days

On this edition of the Bulls Outsiders podcast, Matt Peck, David Watson, and John Sabine react to the Bulls 100-98 loss to the Warriors

0:45 - Reaction to loss and Bulls losing to Warriors again

2:30 - On 4th quarter struggles

3:30 - On Zach LaVine’s game-winning shot attempt

5:20 - Viewer comments on Coby White starting

9:20 - Viewer comment on Denzel Valentine leads to Matt rant

10:20 - Viewer comment on Wendell Carter

12:10 - Viewer comment on Sato needing to be more aggressive

13:30 - Viewer comment on Luke Kornet

16:35 - Viewer comment on Denzel Valentine talking trash to Warriors

18:00 - On LaVine not being the issue

19:00 - On Otto Porter’s injury and being out indefinitely

22:10 - Viewer comment on Bulls being contenders

23:50 - Viewer comment asking why Matt is always angry

24:50 - Viewer asking Sabine how he feels about the Bears beating the Cowboys

26:20 - Which team is more likely to make playoffs, Bears or Bulls?

 Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Bulls Outsiders

Subscribe:

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Bulls games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.