The Chicago Bulls have more evidence they can be a really good team but fall short of having greatness in their collective DNA following their 121-110 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on March 29.
They may want to consider making an “all-in” sort of play this offseason.
“If the Bulls are ready and willing to throw caution to the wind—they haven’t won a playoff series since 2015, so they should be—they have enough chips to make one major trade,” argues Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report. “Plucking Damian Lillard away from a reeling Blazers team would be a fascinating roll of the dice.”
- Damian Lillard
- Lonzo Ball
- Dalen Terry
- Coby White (sign and trade)
- Patrick Williams
- 3x 1st Rd Picks
“Is there enough defense between Lillard, [Zach] LaVine and [DeMar] DeRozan to make this work,” Buckley asks before answering. “That’s a fair question, but with this level of offensive firepower, it might be a meaningless one. Chicago could easily have the sprinters needed to win nightly races to 125 points.”
Bulls center Nikola Vucevic is slated to be an unrestricted free agent which is, presumably, why he is not included in that equation, though he could always return if the price is right.
Ball’s NBA future has been put on hold as he tries to overcome a knee injury that has sidelined him since January of the 2021-22 season. White is going to be a restricted free agent after this year and might have played himself into a modest raise with some security from the Bulls.
Terry is intriguing but unproven whereas things get interesting in this regard is Williams.
He is their prized prospect, taken fourth overall in 2020. They have held him out of trade talks but the thought is that, for a superstar-level player, they would include the talented youngster.
“If the Blazers are losing Lillard, that means they’re starting over and should seek as many picks and prospects as they can get,” Buckley speculates. “Patrick Williams is a blue-chip prospect, Coby White is an interesting one, Dalen Terry is a wild card and three first-round picks are…well, three first-round picks. Ball would function mostly as a money-matcher, but he could be an impact floor general if he ever gets healthy.
The Bulls are 10-7 since the All-Star break, a stark contrast from the five-game losing streak they went into it on.
They boast the NBA’s fourth-best defensive rating and the eighth-best net rating in that span.
According to FiveThirtyEight, however, the Bulls have just a 19% chance of making the actual postseason as the current 10-seed – meaning moving past the Play-In Tournament. That is 33% less than even the ninth-seeded Toronto Raptors.
It might go without saying, but adding Lillard would almost certainly elevate their ceiling to some marked degree. Just how much is always an underlying question whenever a blockbuster deal goes down. But Lillard could finally bring some stabilization to a Bulls’ backcourt trying to patch things together with 34-year-old Patrick Beverley.
Damian Lillard Would Solve Bulls’ Point Guard Problem
“They’ve had major point guard problems ever since losing Lonzo Ball to a knee injury last January,” notes Buckley. “This trade would deliver one of the best point guards in the business.”
Lillard, 32, was putting together arguably the best season of his career before being shut down with a calf injury as the team is one of just four Western Conference participants that are more than one loss out of the Play-In field.
The 6-foot-2 lead guard was averaging 32.2 points on 64.5% true shooting, knocking down 37.1% of his 11.3 three-point attempts per game adding 7.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds. He is one of just five players to finish their season putting up at least 32.0 points, 7.0 assists, and 4.0 rebounds for a season, though he also played 10 fewer games than the next lowest man.
Lillard leaving Portland is the NBA media’s white whale. A move that is more wanted for him than by him, or so it has seemed.
“There seems almost no chance Portland will make the playoffs,” notes Sam Smith of NBA.com. “Maybe the biggest question for them is…what will they decide to do with Damian Lillard? But at 33 years old this summer, starting to miss games with injuries and owed a $63 million season four years from now, how much of a market does Lillard really have anymore?”
Lillard has previously admitted that, if the Blazers came to him with visions of going in a different direction he would be open to a trade.
There would likely be no shortage of suitors for Lillard should he become available.
Bulls Have Spoken With Blazers
On top of other teams potentially outbidding them, the Bulls would risk compounding the issues that have gotten them in this position – trading for win-now players without a solid infrastructure around them. In this scenario, they would get to keep Alex Caruso and Ayo Dosunmu. But they are already thin on wing defenders and adding a fourth offensive option might be overkill.
Still, these teams have communicated about making another trade, albeit of a different variety.
Going from removing the lottery protection on the first-round pick owed to the Bulls (which runs through 2028) or returning it entirely is wholly different from prying Lillard, who Cronin says makes the Blazers “elite offensively” alongside rising star Anfernee Simons, even with their previous conversations possibly including a player asset.
The picks would have to be in 2028 and 2030 with a swap option in 2029 due to previous dealings unless getting their own pick back (and unlocking other options by doing so) is enough leverage with the Blazers knowing they will be in the lottery for the foreseeable future.
This would certainly be another surprise move from Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arutruas Karnisovas if he can pull it off.