The NBA trade deadline is fast approaching and there is a possibility the Chicago Bulls (19-23) could shape it. Their 100-97 loss to the Washington Wizards kept them one half-game behind the Atlanta Hawks for ninth place in the Eastern Conference.
It also kept speculation over what they will do at the February 9 deadline going strong.
“From what I’ve heard from executives, Patrick Williams and Alex Caruso are not for sale right now in Chicago,” Michael Scotto reported during the ‘HoopsHype Podcast’ on January 11.
Once figured for a team that could look to sell off parts en route to a rebuild, Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic reported that the Bulls are expected to be “relatively quiet” at that time. NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson joined Scotto and shared his perspective on the Bulls’ plans for Williams and Caruso.
Bulls ‘Overvalued’ Patrick Williams
“I thought one thing was interesting about Williams that I heard from an executive who told HoopsHype, ‘In my opinion, they’ve held onto Pat Williams too long and devalued him. If they want to shake up their team, they can get a decent return on Caruso’,” Scotto said.
This is not the first time we have heard of rival executives saying the Bulls overvalued Williams.
Williams, 21, was expected to take a major leap this season but has developed slower than anticipated so far. He is averaging 12.6 points on 62.1% true shooting over the last five games adding 4.8 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 1.0 assists. He is also knocking down 50% of his threes in that span.
But Johnson pushed back on the notion that the Bulls “devalued” Williams questioning just how much value the former fourth-overall pick actually had in the first place.
“I know there was some buzz about him being in some [Rudy] Gobert talks. That was really never the case,” Johnson told Scotto of the popular rumor. “From a Bulls perspective regarding Patrick Williams, there are some cautionary tales out there…Players develop at different paces. Pat is still a very young player.”
Johnson concluded that he didn’t see any serious trade value for Williams this season.
Williams has openly talked of feeling like he was figuring it all out going so far as to predict superstardom in his future. But he has also been removed from the starting lineup at one point this season and has acknowledged the challenges of playing alongside three score-first players in DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vucevic.
Alex Caruso Fits Everywhere, Including Chicago
“I completely agree that Caruso would bring back a nice haul,” Johnson said. “To me, he fits any roster. That’s the kind of player he is.”
Caruso has been a popular name in hypothetical trade scenarios with any number of contenders potentially being interested in his two-way skill set. He is averaging just 5.3 points on 56% true shooting this season.
But he leads the Bulls in net efficiency differential, per Cleaning The Glass while also showing up all over the stat sheet with 3.4 assists, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.5 steals. At 28 and under contract for the next two seasons, it makes sense for a contending team to sniff around the 2020 NBA champion.
The Bulls continue to hold out hope that Lonzo Ball can return and their plan will finish falling into place. Until that happens – and no one can be sure just when that will be – Caruso is the next best thing.
Caruso isn’t the shooter Ball is (42% last season). But he does just about everything else which, unfortunately, has included missing more time due to injury than anyone would prefer.
Bulls Still Looking to Build
“We haven’t even talked about the Bulls maybe trying to add at the deadline,” Johson said. “That, to me, is probably a little bit more likely than selling off. I think they can potentially be buyers more than sellers. We’ll see how these next few weeks play out.”
With 12 more games until the deadline, a lot can still change. The Bulls are still just four games out of the six-seed they held last season.
Adding to the roster sounds great in theory.
But, on top of needing to make the right deal — far from a guarantee given how things have gone thus far — they have also significantly limited their scope with essentially only Vucevic, Coby White, and a protected first-round pick (via the Portland Trail Blazers) to work with. Anything else probably takes away from the team more than “building” and just goes to illustrate their plight.