As the Chicago Bulls continue surging, now the sixth-seed in the Eastern Conference, the NBA’s trade deadline inches closer and closer. And with that, comes a bevy of decisions that need to be made about the roster.
Will they be buyers or sellers? If a team comes calling on Zach LaVine, do they at least listen? What can be made of Otto Porter Jr’s $28-million expiring salary? Is Lauri Markannen on his way out?
Attempting to answer each and every one of those can’t be done until the Bulls front office addresses the 32-year old, 6-8 elephant in the room. Should Chicago trade Thaddeus Young?
Because, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks noted in his trade deadline primer, the return could be substantial:
We took a straw poll of league executives on which player outside of Bradley Beal could change the landscape of the playoff race. The unanimous answer was the veteran Thaddeus Young.
That may sound like high praise for a guy who’s come off the bench in all of the Bulls’ 26 games this season. But, and Chicago’s All-Star will tell you, Young has been the team’s most important player this season.
The veteran forward is averaging 11.7 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and 1.2 steals per game this year.
He’s coming off the bench and providing starting-caliber defense and playmaking for a team that desperately needed a Robin to LaVine’s Batman. Young can be credited just as much as his All-Star teammate for Chicago’s recent playoff push. Is that the kind of player that’s expendable on a young team?
Young Would Help Any and Every Team Chasing a Championship
If his play this season speaks to anything about Thaddeus Young, it’s that he’s the prime “glue guy” archetype.
And for teams chasing a title, that’s an integral piece to an already complex makeup in regards to personnel.
It can’t be stressed enough that Young is doing all of this coming off the bench. Nothing is more appealing to buying teams at the deadline than a guy who can contribute immediately coming off the pine.
Per Basketball Reference, Young is one of four players to average four or more assists this season while not having made a single appearance in the starting lineup. The others? His teammate Tomas Satoransky, former Bull Derrick Rose, and Jordan McLaughlin of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
There isn’t one team right now that Young wouldn’t be able to help in some capacity. That much is no doubt what makes him so highly valued among league executives. But would a return justify Chicago trading the veteran?
Contending teams typically don’t have a first-round pick lying around to just flip at the trade deadline. But teams like the LA Clippers do have multiple second-round picks, which could prove a solid return if attached to a player.
Take the New Orleans Pelicans for example, who have Lonzo Ball, a player Chicago’s reportedly interested in. Given his upcoming restricted free agency, it’s not unrealistic to think the Bulls could get Ball and draft compensation for Young. New Orleans is a young team, and head coach Stan Van Gundy would no doubt love a defensive upgrade.
The Bulls Can Wait to Trade Young, but There’s a Catch
The biggest element in any potential deal here involving the veteran forward is his salary. Not the $13-million price tag, which is a bargain in every sense of the word, but the remaining year on his deal.
Young won’t hit free agency until after next season, meaning Chicago could very well wait and trade him in the offseason. If this play sustains throughout the end of the year, and the Bulls do in fact make the postseason, it’s possible that a potential return could be even higher come the summer.
The obvious caveat here being the question “is Young’s play sustainable?” What if he gets injured? Or maybe he falls off the radar completely following the All-Star break, and the Bulls are forced to sell low at next year’s deadline? These are all legitimate risks when you don’t opt to strike the iron while it’s hot.
Additionally, Young’s rapport with Chicago’s best player should be taken into consideration. When the Bulls surprised LaVine with a Zoom call from family and friends, it’s no coincidence that the forward was right there in the mix, singing his praises next to the people most important to him.
If Chicago’s trajectory plateaued or even declined in the aftermath of a Young trade, how would LaVine respond?
Because of what Thaddeus Young provides on and off the floor right now, the Chicago Bulls’ decision on whether or not to trade him will only get more difficult to assess in the coming weeks. But given his perceived ability to sway the nature of this playoff race, expect teams to continue calling, and the price to continue rising.