The Chicago Bulls may truly be ready to significantly shake up their roster and a major swing could be the appropriate way to go.
“If … the Bulls are willing to take a big swing, all eyes should be on New Orleans and the brewing volcano between the Pelicans and forward Zion Williamson,” wrote Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times on November 14. “The often-injured Williamson told the media he’s ‘‘trying my best to buy in right now,’’ questioning the game plan and how he’s being used.”
Williamson — the 23-year-old former No. 1 overall pick by the New Orleans Pelicans in 2019 — is averaging 21.3 points on 54.2% true shooting this season. Both marks represent career lows for Williamson, as do his 43% free-throw rate and 0.7% three-point attempt rate.
But Williamson’s 30.6% usage rate is a career-high, undercutting his argument some.
Williamson has posted high marks of 27.0 points and 7.2 rebounds (2020-21) as well as 4.1 assists and 1.1 steals (2022-23).
The most important thing Williamson has done this season, though, might be appearing in nine of the Pelicans’ 11 games to start the season. That is no small feat for a player who has missed no fewer than 11 games in any season since entering the league which includes missing the entire 2021-22 season with a foot injury.
It is especially key for teams that may consider trading for him amid the Pelicans’ 5-6 start with Williamson starting a five-year, $197.2 million contract extension this season. As Cowley notes, a deal that is feasible for both sides does exist.
Insider Targets Pelicans’ Zion Williamson in Bulls Trade Proposal
– Zion Williamson
– Kira Lewis Jr.
– Larry Nance Jr.
– Zach LaVine
– Patrick Williams
There is some speculation on Cowley’s part that sentimentality could factor into the equation.
“Former Bulls general manager Gar Forman is a special adviser for the Pelicans and fell in love with LaVine once, acquiring him from the Timberwolves in the Jimmy Butler trade in June 2017,” Cowley continued. “Such a trade would be one way to try to fix what’s ailing the Bulls and shake up a stale product.”
Cowley’s proposal also counts on the Pelcans wanting to get off the remainder of Williamson’s contract since he has been the more efficient and effective player even if he has not been as durable.
LaVine is in the second year of a five-year, $215 million contract.
The Bulls were linked to Nance two offseasons ago before acquiring former teammate Derrick Jones Jr. from the Portland Trail Blazers. And Lewis is young enough at 22 years old to be intriguing even as his stats have dipped for the fourth straight season. The biggest shift in the deal on the Bulls’ side would be finally admitting they missed on Williams which is risky.
Zach LaVine Changes Tune on Trade Rumors
With all of the rumors swirling, LaVine altered his public stance on the speculation around his name. He has typically downplayed the veracity of the whispers, saying mostly that they did not originate from him or anyone in his camp.
He spoke about understanding the business aspect of things ahead of the Bulls’ tilt against the Orlando Magic on November 15.
That in and of itself is not too far of a departure from LaVine’s previous message.
LaVine even repeated his affinity for the city of Chicago and what living in the area has meant to him from maturing as a player to becoming a father. But, when it came time to address whether or not he wanted to be traded, LaVine sidestepped answering the question, saying the time to discuss that part of things had not yet come.
“That’s why I have representatives like Rich Paul,” LaVine said about the change in his responses, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago on November 15. “My job is to go out here and play. Simple as that.”
It could all be building up to a powder keg situation.