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NBA trade, free agency rumor roundup: Does Caruso’s trade mean DeRozan will leave Bulls as free agent?


Chicago Bulls forward DeMar DeRozan prepares for a game against the Trail Blazers on March 18, 2024, at the United Center in Chicago. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)


Since the NBA Finals ended, teams have been allowed to negotiate with their own free agents and extension-eligible players. Free agency opens in just over a week, and negotiations between teams and other players can formally begin. (Informally, negotiations are already well underway through back channels, tampering is the lifeblood of the NBA this time of year.)

Here’s an update on some of the latest free-agent rumors.

• Could DeMar DeRozan bolt Chicago in free agency? The Bulls traded Alex Caruso to the Thunder, bringing back another playmaker in Josh Giddey to take his place. Chicago is focused on trying to trade Zach LaVine. With all of that, does DeMar DeRozan want to return to Chicago? That’s a big question in league circles, Marc Stein wrote in his Saturday newsletter.

“One of the loudest questions bouncing around the league at the minute is thus: Will DeRozan be more available in free agency than expected now once the marketplace officially opens on June 30 at 6 PM ET? Likewise: Will DeRozan even want to return to the Bulls?”

Both DeRozan and the Bulls have said publicly they want their relationship to continue, but as K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago put it, “Last year at this time, there was more momentum for Nikola Vucevic to re-sign in this exclusive negotiation period before free agency begins than there is currently for DeRozan.”

DeRozan, 35, averaged 24 points and 5.3 assists a game last season, he’s a midrange assassin who could help a playoff or contending team like Philadelphia in the right role. If he is available, there will be suitors.

• The Bulls are again finding the LaVine trade market lukewarm. The Bulls and Zach LaVine are on the same page: It’s time to part ways. Chicago looked for a deal at the trade deadline but nothing materialized. Now heading into the peak of the offseason... the market is still pretty lukewarm. The Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz, two rumored targets for LaVine, “do not much interest” Stein reported.

The leading candidate for a LaVine trade is the Sacramento Kings. Sacramento has been dangling Harrison Barnes and Kevin Huerter, along with a first-round pick, and that might be enough to get a deal done.

• Ja Morant not yet cleared from shoulder surgery, but will be soon. This is not a free agency note, but it is worth passing along. Morant has been out since January following surgery to repair a labral tear, and he has yet to be cleared by doctors to return to basketball activities, reports Drew Hill at the Daily Memphian. The good news is he should be cleared in the next couple of weeks and be good to go by training camp. “I hate being around basketball and not being able to play,” Morant said. “I don’t got too much longer. I can wait to make sure I’m able to play and be cleared when the season comes.”

• Warriors expected to bring back Kevon Looney. The Warriors are trying to do a balancing act of upgrading the roster and getting more playmaking around Stephen Curry while cutting payroll to get out of the second apron of the luxury tax. That put Kevon Looney on the block, because only $3 million of his $8 million contract is guaranteed, and Golden State had until Monday to make the call. However, the Warriors are expected to guarantee his salary, Anthony Slater reports at The Athletic.

They are expected to let the rest of Looney’s $8 million contract guarantee, keeping him in their current plans, though it does remain possible they eventually use his salary to help complete an offseason trade.

• Mavericks to try and trade Tim Hardaway Jr. Again. As was evidenced during the playoffs, Tim Hardaway Jr. has slid out of Jason Kidd’s regular rotation when things get serious. With that, Dallas is attempting to trade Hardaway and his expiring $16.2 million deal, reports Stein.

“Finding a new home for Hardaway is a key element of Dallas’ strategy to re-sign Derrick Jones Jr., whose return next season after excelling on a minimum contract this season was labeled by Mavericks general manager Nico Harrison as “priority 1A and 1B” for Dallas this offseason.”