The Chicago Bulls had some tough decisions, and many pundits thought they made a mistake by not going into a full rebuild. That noise got even louder when the Bulls began the season by losing 14 of their first 19 games. Zach LaVine’s representation even said he was willing to be traded, and then the 28-year-old guard went down with an injury at the end of November.
Then, the Bulls started to play better. As a result, Joe Crowley of the Chicago Sun-Times believes that
NBA Rumors: Bulls Reportedly Changing Direction on Trade Front and How Many Players Who Recently Became Trade Eligible Will Be Dealt
Chicago is 14-8 over the last month-and-a-half and sits ninth in the Eastern Conference at 19-22. The Bulls are just five games out of the sixth spot, and there is still half a season left.
“It’s unfortunate we dug ourselves a hole those first 15-20 games,” coach Billy Donovan said via NBC Sports Chicago. “I think we’re getting better. We’re playing stylistically how I’d like to see us play and how I think the game should be played. We’re sharing the ball. We’re trying to generate good shots. We’re scoring more points.
So, what has changed?
While Chicago started their surge with LaVine sidelined due to inflammation in his foot, the Bulls are 4-1 since his return. After coming off the bench the first two games, LaVine has returned to the starting lineup.
Despite LaVine’s offensive production fluctuating slightly over this five-game stretch, he has found other ways to contribute. LaVine has hit the defensive glass — collecting 13 rebounds against Houston on Jan. 10 — and doled out seven dimes in the last three contests. He has even stepped up his defensive efforts.
“I think he’s flowing really well,” Caruso said. “When he gets to the paint, he’s making really good reads and not forcing anything. When he does that, he plays better and it makes our offense easier. It simplifies stuff for us.”
Over the last five games, LaVine averages 16.8 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 6.0 assists with a shooting slash line of .491/.375/.800.
Who Could Be On The Move?
LaVine is the top candidate to get moved. While the Bulls have been attempting to trade the 6-5 wing since November, the market has been cold. Theoretically, the Bulls have been unable to find a trade partner for three reasons.
The first reason is the asking price, although whether the Bulls have made adjustments is unknown. When the Bulls were reportedly “secretly” shopping LaVine, they sought a huge haul in return. There are also questions about how much LaVine impacts winning, particularly on the defensive end. LaVine is still owed $138 million over the next three seasons.
The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie projects that LaVine could eventually end up with the Los Angeles Lakers, Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, or Brooklyn Nets.
Caruso, DeRozan, and Williams are also trade candidates. There are rumors that the Bulls will also be willing to move Lonzo Ball, especially if it is part of a package deal with LaVine.
Just yesterday, KC Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago confirmed that the Bulls may use Ball’s salary in a potential trade.
“Ball owns a $21.4 million player option for next season that he’ll certainly exercise,” Johnson wrote. “Given that insurance is currently paying the bulk of his contract, it’s conceivable that Ball is used as a salary-matching addition to any potential trade the Bulls make before the Feb. 8 trade deadline.”
Caruso is believed to be highly sought after due to his defensive prowess and solid 3-point shooting. The 29-year-old guard has been considered to be one of the best perimeter defenders in the league for the past three years. Caruso was finally awarded for his efforts last year as he was a first-team All-defensive selection.
Chicago has reportedly been reluctant to trade the 30-year-old. But if they do, Vecenie says he should garner a lot of interest.
“Every contender should bend over backward to acquire a player like him who is low-usage yet elite without the ball in his hands. And because his contract is so small, nearly every team in the league has enough matching salary to get involved.”
Vecenie lists the Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks, Indiana Pacers, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Lakers as possible destinations.
DeRozan is on an expiring contract. So, if the Bulls decide to sell at the trade deadline, DeRozan is one of the leading candidates to be dealt. Vecenie has The Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers, and Lakers as suitors.
It was possible that the Bulls were going to move on from Williams, who is slated to be a restricted free agent this offseason, after a poor start. But it appears the 22-year-old forward has solidified his postition on the team with his play over the last month-and-a-half.
Williams missed Saturday’s game against San Antonio due right ankle soreness, marking his second absence in the past five contests. Williams, who has been playing through pain for some awhile, is questionable for tonight’s clash with Cleveland.