The Chicago Bulls have hired Arturas Karnisovas as their new Vice President of Basketball Operations. The former general manager for the Denver Nuggets has already begun the work to assemble his front office, but all eyes are on the first player-personnel move the team will make to shape the roster in a way that seems fitting for Karnisovas.
Many suspect the Bulls will choose to part ways with Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen or both. It seems almost certain the Bulls must get rid of both if they’re to have the cap flexibility and on-floor opportunities for new players to come to the team and to contribute.
NBA Insider Believes the Bulls Will Have to Make a Choice
You could make the argument LaVine and Markkanen are the Bulls’ most valuable assets, but others would insist you have to include Coby White and Wendell Carter Jr. in that conversation.
However, CBS Sports’ Sam Quinn believes it’s about LaVine and Markkanen. He wrote:
Neither of Chicago’s two greatest assets have been immune to trade rumors this season, though in Lauri Markkanen’s case, they seem to be. The Bulls reportedly shot down Zach LaVine offers, but the fact that they came in the first place suggests that the league isn’t convinced that he’s destined to retire in Chicago.
As good as LaVine has been offensively, his play has still left something to be desired on the defensive end, but he’s not alone in that negative space.
Ultimately, the Bulls are going to have to commit to one of them, because no team could support both of them defensively. LaVine is currently ranked 48th among point guards in Defensive Real Plus-Minus but is buoyed by sharing a backcourt with two excellent defensive guards in Kris Dunn and Shaquille Harrison.
It’s true, Dunn and Harrison greatly mask their teammates’ defensive deficiencies, but it is unclear if either of them is in the team’s long-term plans. In any case, Quinn firmly believes that LaVine and Markkanen are too much of a defensive liability to keep them both on a roster that has designs on winning a championship.
Markkanen doesn’t have that luxury and is 64th among power forwards as a result. LaVine is the worse defender, and Chicago lineups featuring Markkanen without him have been downright dominant defensively, but 25-point scorers don’t exactly grow on trees. Replacing LaVine, for the moment, would appear to be the more difficult task, but doing so would allow for far greater lineup flexibility down the line.
LaVine’s gaudy offensive numbers and obvious work ethic have earned him a nice following in Chicago. Because of that, you can bet that almost any trade sending him out of Chicago would be met with criticism from the team’s local fanbase. However, when you look at the salary commitment to both players, there is no question, finding a way to get from under one or both of the final two years of LaVine’s four-year $78 million deal would provide more relief than freeing up any portion of Markkanen’s four-year $20.3 million rookie contract.
While it appears Quinn is leaning toward LaVine being the man who needs to be moved, he is definitively saying one of the two must go.
Chicago is going to have to make up that defensive production somewhere. LaVine and Markkanen are the obvious places to look. Championship teams simply don’t have two defenders of their caliber starting. One of them is going to have to go eventually.
While we wait on the NBA, other professional sports, and life in general to get back to normal, the Bulls’ front office decisions will be interesting to follow.