At the very least, the Chicago Bulls – and fans – can take some solace in the activity mentioned in the latest update on starting point guard Lonzo Ball. They feel there is another step that they can take to try to get him back on the court, and while the new timeline certainly knocks him out for the start of the regular season, at least we have a timeline.
That was not the case just a few days ago ahead of his planned return to Chicago to meet with team doctors.
Now that all of that is out of the way, the last thing the Bulls should do is act rashly.
The temptation could be there to try and make something happen, especially if they get off to a slow start as some expect. But there are a few reasons why any trade could be as ill-advised as it is unlikely given what we already know about this franchise that just returned to the postseason after a five-year drought.
Bulls Should Practice Patience
“The Bulls, who are right below the NBA’s $150.3 million luxury-tax threshold,” writes Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus, “need to tread carefully. The franchise doesn’t have the flexibility to make an emergency trade just because Ball might miss a couple of months.”
To Pincus’ point, the Bulls still owe out first-round draft picks – the premium currency in NBA transactions – in 2023 and 2025 for previous trades.
They are also light on contracts that are easily packaged to make the money work in trades.
Pincus points to a pair of “what if?” scenarios that should lead the Bulls to practice the same patience they have to this point. First, a healthy Patrick Williams has a good chance to take a significant leap this season.
He has gotten a lot of work in with teammates and others this summer heading into a pivotal third season when the game usually clicks for players.
Second, Ball’s new timeline still is not expected to knock him out for the season.
It wouldn’t make much sense to gut the depth they have tried to build this summer or further deplete their draft assets for a solution to what should be a short-term issue. But, as we’ve seen, they cannot make assumptions when it comes to Ball and his knee.
Still, there is a bigger issue that Pincus alluded to that stands in the way of the Bulls doing much of anything else to reinforce themselves.
Bulls Not Paying Luxury Tax
One of Pincus’ fundamental questions for any potential deal is who the Bulls would even target. He notes Nikola Vucevic being in the final year of his deal but goes on to note the interest between Vucevic and the Bulls for an extension.
He says they could target a starting power forward before adding that a quick fix doesn’t align with their view on Williams.
One issue, though, keeps them from even getting involved even in obvious situations.
Gottlieb went into more detail in a previous tweet involving another Utah Jazz player that is expected to be on the move in Mike Conley. There had been some light connection between the two sides.
“For those wondering why the Bulls aren’t going for Jazz guys, there’s just no way to make the salaries work unless you trade a core piece. Even if you want to trade Vucevic for Conley (which would make no sense), they’re not going into the tax for him. It’s just not gonna happen.”
“It would put them into the tax, the executive told Deveney, “and they’re not doing that.“
Bulls’ Only Limitation is Self
The realization one comes to is that, even if the Bulls could pursue significant upgrades, there is reason to believe they still would not do so. General manager Marc Eversley said he did not foresee any singular move or event that would vault them to the top of the conference.
And their aversion to paying the luxury tax has been well-known even before that statement was made on draft night.
Watching the rest of the conference make moves this summer might have been hard for fans.
But activity does not always equal improvement and the Bulls were pretty good even when close to full strength which they should be to start his season save, of course, for Ball. At least, that is what they have to be hoping fans believe as they choose to avoid paying to win.