Things are unraveling faster than the Chicago Bulls can put the pieces back together. If that continues, many around the league expect – and even urge – the Bulls to flip the switch from a holding pattern to becoming a seller ahead of the February 9 trade deadline.
There has long been speculation over a possible move of DeMar DeRozan or Nikola Vucevic as aging veterans at or near the end of their current deals.
Or perhaps even Zach LaVine would prove too inconsistent and, thus, expensive.
Before they get that deep in the trenches, however, we could see a minor deal as they do some bloodletting on the future cap sheet with one possibility being a deal sending out guard Alex Caruso. While not on an exorbitant deal by any stretch – and not in the dog house by any means – they may believe they can fetch quite the return for the defensive ace.
What Bulls ‘Think’ They Can Get For Alex Caruso
“Someone told me last week that the Chicago Bulls think they get two first-round picks for Alex Caruso,” said Jake Fischer on the ‘Please Don’t Aggregate This’ podcast on January 26 ahead of what would be the Bulls’ second straight loss to a sub-.500 opponent, the Charlotte Hornets.
The Bulls fell 111-96 in a game they held a 10-point third-quarter lead dropping them to 22-26 on the season and one spot out of the Play-In Tournament field as the 12-seed.
Caruso leads the team in net efficiency differential at plus-10.2, per Cleaning The Glass.
He has been a bright spot in a dimming season with his defense in particular but just his overall tenacity on both ends of the floor. The former undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M, now in his sixth NBA season, is averaging 5.5 points on 56.2% true shooting, 3.3 assists, and 3.0 rebounds while knocking down 38.7% of his looks from beyond the arc.
His name has come up in connection with title contenders and playoff hopefuls alike with both the Golden State Warriors and New York Knicks being linked to the defensive ace.
Caruso is in the second year of a four-year, $36.9 million deal that is only partially guaranteed in the final year for $3 million making the 2020 NBA champion Laker an attractive piece for any contender looking for production, value, and financial flexibility.
“The defensive-minded guard would be a plug-and-play reserve — and closer — for virtually any contender or team serious about making a playoff push,” wrote NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson. “Unless he is packaged as part of a larger deal, Caruso’s return would likely be a young player and pick because of that contract, his All-Defensive-team-caliber ability to defend at the point of attack and generate deflections and steals, and his playoff experience.”
Johnson ranked Caruso as the Bulls’ third most-valuable asset behind DeRozan and LaVine.
But is there a disconnect between what Johnson says Caruso’s value is, what Fischer says the Bulls believe, and what the rest of the NBA feels?
Bulls Potentially Overvaluing Another Asset
“I still think the market will be quiet until we get closer to February 9 because…a lot of team’s asking prices are so high,” Fischer said in mentioning the Bulls and Caruso. “And Lakers fans…surely value Alex Caruso and long for the days of Alex Caruso. But I doubt even Lakers fans think he’s worth two first-round picks.”
Fischer openly states that he was told of the Bulls’ potential asking price which is not that far off from what Johnson noted.
It sounds like that may be too high given the value of draft picks and the scarcity of buyers.
This would not be the first time this Bulls front office has been accused of overvaluing their own pieces with the selection of Patrick Williams at fourth-overall in 2020 and the trade for Vucevic standing out.
There is also the matter of signing Lonzo Ball whose history of knee injuries has caught up to the Bulls over the last year.
The jury is still out on LaVine’s contract given how his offseason went and the DeRozan trade can be considered a success. But the season is fading fast and tough decisions have needed to be made since this past offseason. The only questions are will the Bulls make them and are they really wrong for keeping their asking prices so high?
Derrick White’s Situation Could Be Instructive For Alex Caruso
Caruso, 28, is in a similar situation to Derrick White whom the Boston Celtics acquired last season ahead of the deadline. Boston sent the San Antonio Spurs a 2022 first-rounder (which they turned into guard Blake Wesley), rights to swap firsts in 2028 as well as 23-year-old Romeo Langford and 29-year-old veteran guard Josh Richardson.
White is five months younger than Caruso and has a higher pedigree as a former first-round pick (29th overall in 2017). He has also been the healthier of the two with the Bulls having to manage Caruso’s minutes.
He has also shown to be a better overall scorer with four straight double-digit seasons.
White does not have Caruso’s pedigree as an NBA champion and was already on a four-year, $70 million contract. Parse that out and Johnson’s assertion of a first and a young player seems reasonable.
Again, we just do not know what this front office – which has turned down multiple significant offers for Coby White, per Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic – is willing to accept.