Bulls

NBA Draft: Will Bulls try a major trade?

NBA Draft: Will Bulls try a major trade?

Now that Tuesday’s uneventful draft lottery is in the books (all teams holding their pre-lottery positions for the first time), the Bulls are left with the 14th pick in Round 1 of what most experts consider to be a below average talent pool.

Sure, there could be some useful players available in that range like point guards Demetrius Jackson of Notre Dame and Wade Baldwin of Vanderbilt, plus project big men like Domantas Sabonis (son of Hall of Famer Arvydas), Skal Labissiere, Deyonta Davis and Diamond Stone. But if the Bulls really want to change over the roster, they’ll need to do something bold.

Anyone who’s watched the Cavaliers storm through this year’s playoffs will safely conclude LeBron James and Co. figure to own the Eastern Conference for the next 3-5 years since Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson are all signed to long term deals, and James isn’t going anywhere. And, with Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah ready to become free agents on July 1st, followed by Derrick Rose in the summer of 2017, the Bulls’ core group that put them on the fringe of championship contention is gone.

So why not get started on the rebuild in a major way with a significant trade on draft night?

The front offices with the 76ers and Lakers have already expressed their desire to add All-Star caliber veterans to the roster instead of more young players. And, those teams also wound up with the top two picks in this year’s draft. So why not explore what the Sixers and Lakers are willing to give up for a two-time All-Star like Jimmy Butler?

Philadelphia has drafted three young bigs in recent years, and might be willing to include Chicago native Jahlil Okafor in a possible deal. Would the Sixers be willing to trade the top pick and Okafor for Butler, Niko Mirotic and the Bulls' 1st round pick this year? Maybe the Bulls could sweeten the deal by including Taj Gibson or that future Sacramento No. 1 pick.

Similarly, Mitch Kupchak has seen the pitfalls of trying to build a team around mercurial young talent. Would the Lakers deal the No.2 overall pick and controversial young guard D’Angelo Russell (last year’s No. 2 overall pick) for Butler? The Lakers need to add an established player like Butler to possibly attract one of the premier free agents this summer, who otherwise wouldn’t be interested in joining a rebuilding team with a flock of young players like Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and Larry Nance, Jr.

Jimmy is only 26 and has established himself as one of the best two-way wing players in the league. But can the Bulls hope to threaten the Cavs with a team built around Butler? Or, are they better off trying to acquire a player like Ben Simmons, a 6-foot-10 versatile playmaker who might have the chance to be a superstar?

There’s also the potential to make a deal with Boston and Phoenix for Picks 3 and 4. Celtics’ general manager Danny Ainge already inquired about Butler at the trade deadline and has three 1st round picks to offer this year, plus serviceable rotation players like Jae Crowder, Kelly Olynyk and Avery Bradley. The Bulls are reportedly intrigued by Providence point guard Kris Dunn, who’s a lock to be picked in the Top 6 on June 23rd.  So, would the No. 3 overall pick, Bradley/Crowder and another No. 1 get the deal done?

Phoenix also might be looking to trade out of their position at No. 4. The Suns hit on shooting guard Devin Booker last summer to go with their point guard duo of Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight, so they might be willing to pass on the chance to draft Dunn or Oklahoma sharp-shooter Buddy Hield to acquire an established talent like Butler.

Bulls GM Gar Forman could even call his old buddy Tom Thibodeau to see what the T-Wolves (who hold the No. 5 overall pick) might offer for Butler.

John Paxson and Forman figure to be presented with all kinds of intriguing trade proposals in the days leading up to the draft. Now it’s up to them to decide whether hoping to get a bottom-four seed in next year’s playoffs makes it worthwhile to hang on to Butler and Rose, and possibly re-sign Noah, or is it better to blow it all up and start building a team that can contend when James finally slows down?

Let’s be realistic, given the fact about two-thirds of the league will have enough cap room to offer a max contract this summer, the Bulls will not be a destination for the top free agents. So, forget about Kevin Durant, DeMar DeRozan, Al Horford, Hassan Whiteside, Nic Batum or any of the other top free agents coming on board this summer, any major change will have to come through the trade market.

I know it’s very small consolation, but after a painfully disappointing 2015-’16 season, the Bulls figure to be relevant over the next month as one of the most prominent teams in the NBA rumor mill.

Five observations from Bulls' preseason, including Zach LaVine's focus

lavine_thumb.jpg
USA Today

Five observations from Bulls' preseason, including Zach LaVine's focus

The Bulls blew through four preseason games in seven days, a pace coach Jim Boylen acknowledged by resting his starters for one.

But now it gets real. Wendell Carter Jr. made his debut Sunday in Toronto after sitting the first three games with a bruised tailbone, but the second-year big man only played first-half minutes.

Thursday’s preseason finale at the United Center against the Hawks is an opportunity to extend minutes, set rotations and square off against a young, rebuilding team looking to make a similar jump. Here’s what the Bulls’ preseason has shown so far:

Zach LaVine is playing with a proper edge

The preternaturally gifted scorer often is accused of being an empty calories player, spouting empty words. Those who are around LaVine on a daily basis see his work ethic and care factor and say otherwise.

LaVine has made no secret of his desire to represent the Bulls at the 2020 All-Star game at the United Center. But through three games---he sat with the other starters last Friday in Indiana---he isn’t trying to get there with a head-down, selfish approach.

LaVine has shown leadership, an improved commitment at the defensive end and his 23.3 points in 23 minutes proves he still scores in bunches. Boylen deserves some of the credit for LaVine’s focus, challenging him to be a better two-way player. Veteran Thaddeus Young also has been in LaVine’s ear. But LaVine put in the work and is playing like a man on a mission.

Coby White is fearless

The first-round pick said all the right things about playing with confidence when the Bulls used the No. 7 selection on him. But so many 19-year-olds have uttered similar sentiments and then looked overwhelmed.

White isn’t that. His speed and scoring ability have demanded a rotational role. And who cares if he’s not a point guard yet, with just five assists in 105 minutes? His ability to push the ball and play off it will be critical for a second unit that will feature the defensive-minded Kris Dunn.

White still needs to eliminate his tendency to take long 2-pointers and learn to finish better. And the point guard knowledge needs to come eventually. But for now, unleash him and let his athleticism do the trick.

Boylen and the Bulls are playing like a modern NBA team

In the three games the regulars have played, the Bulls have attempted 38, 37 and 49 3-pointers. The 49 3-pointers versus the Raptors would’ve represented a franchise, regular-season record.

After taking over for the fired Fred Hoiberg last season, Boylen drew widespread criticism for his publicly stated plan to slow down the offense and build it back up with proper fundamentals. Furthermore, last season’s roster, particularly down the stretch as the Bulls fielded gloried G League lineups, didn’t lend itself to perimeter shooting.

The additions of Tomas Satoransky, Luke Kornet and White help. So does a more versatile roster with multiple ballhandlers. This approach isn’t going away this season.

Carter needs to stay on the court

The defensive-minded big man consistently draws praise from coaches and teammates for his communication skills and ability to read the court. There also are raves for his offensive potential.

However, it’s getting to the point where the Bulls need to see it consistently, not talk about it. Between thumb surgery limiting him to 44 games in an otherwise promising rookie season and now Carter showing some rust---and some nice plays---Sunday in Toronto, consistency and reliability needs to follow.

After all, Carter never fully mastered the art of avoiding foul trouble last season. His interior defense and rim protection will be critical for a team challenged in both areas.

The Bulls need to broaden Lauri Markkanen's offensive game

The good news is Markkanen shot 44.4 percent from 3-point range in three games. The bad news is over half of Markkanen’s shots have come from behind the arc.

Markkanen is too talented---and too much a matchup nightmare---to be relegated to a spot-up shooter. During his dominant February stretch last season, Markkanen displayed a dribble, drag-step move that seemed unguardable. Offseason talk centered on his bulking up for more post play.

This is where Markkanen’s rebounding is so essential. He has the ability to push the ball up the court himself. There’s nothing wrong with Markkanen shooting 3-pointers. But he’s at his best in motion, with multiple offensive options at his disposal.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Guest Ricky O’Donnell on the future with Zach LaVine

lavine-1015.jpg
USA TODAY

Bulls Talk Podcast: Guest Ricky O’Donnell on the future with Zach LaVine

Kevin Anderson is joined by SB Nation's Ricky O'Donnell to talk Zach LaVine and the Bulls preseason.

0:55 - On Zach LaVine’s preseason and if he is the true star on this Bulls team

3:00 - What should we expect from LaVine this season?

4:45 - LaVine’s true ceiling is…

7:00 - Can LaVine be a top-3 scorer in the NBA?

9:15 - Concerns over Lauri Markkanen

12:40 - On the LaVine and Lauri 2-man game

15:50 - Ricky explains why he’s optimistic on the Bulls

17:25 - On Bulls depth and White vs. Dunn in rotation

21:15 - Expectations for Bulls win total this season

24:00 - Are Raptors likely to make the postseason?

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Bulls Talk Podcast

Subscribe: