The Chicago Bulls’ inactivity this offseason could be setting the stage for a major in-season move involving Coby White and or Nikola Vucevic. Their biggest offseason move was re-signing Zach LaVine to the largest contract in franchise history.
Both players, however, come with major flaws that limit their ceilings.
That is also true for the Bulls’ top players as well which is why many were surprised at the lack of creativity from what has been an aggressive front office the past two seasons. But a pair of analysts say this could just be the calm before the storm.
Another Mid-Season Shakeup Looming?
During the July 20 episode of the “Front Office Podcast”, hosts Trevor Lane and Keith Smith broke down the Bulls’ offseason. They began by acknowledging the frustration over the Bulls not using the full mid-level exception this offseason.
The decision has drawn criticism as, among other reasons, the Bulls chose to avoid the tax rather than try raising their ceiling.
But Lane and Smith say this just leaves the Bulls primed for a trade at or near the deadline.
“That was out there that they would eventually move on from Coby White. But…if these injuries are lingering with Lonzo [Ball] you can’t really do that if you’re the Bulls”, explained Lane, “And i think that’s part of why you know you look at their offseason you’re like, ‘Oh, they didn’t do a ton’. But, [it’s] because all that’s up in the air…This could wind up being a team that makes a big move mid-season a trade deadline team.”
The pair applauded the Bulls quickly getting LaVine’s deal done, the no-brainer that it was.
They also like bringing Derrick Jones Jr. back on a much more reasonable deal as well as the addition of Drummond who Smith says offers the Bulls options.
“If you made a move where Vooch is kind of your big trade chip, maybe then you could say alright hey we can slide Drummond in because we got better enough at the 4 or something like that where Drummond can come in here and play for him.”
Ironically, it was a trade at the 2021 deadline that brought Vucevic to Chicago in exchange for Wendell Carter Jr. and a package of picks. One of those picks turned into standout rookie, Franz Wagner.
Not Just Vooch
Smith continued to say the Bulls’ other offseason addition, point guard Goran Dragic, could have significant implications for White beyond what it says about Ball’s health.
“Goran Dragic is going to join the party here as well eventually… and that, to me, says if and when Lonzo gets back see you, Coby White…He’s gonna get packaged in the deal. Because they’re not going to pay him and, at that point…he’d be behind Lonzo, would be behind Dragic, he’d be behind Ayo Dosunmu, behind Alex Caruso…Not even to mention LaVine… at the 2, DeMar DeRozan at the 2 if you go a little bit bigger like all that stuff like at that point it’s, ‘see you later, Coby White”.
Lane concurred that the Bulls’ plethora of guards likely spells the end of White’s Bulls tenure by the deadline.
“Dragic landing with the Bulls, that was a major curveball…I think we could very well see a Coby White-Vucevic package around the trade deadline to get the Bulls an upgrade somewhere. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if that duo wound up getting shopped around.”
Smith pointed out that would be roughly $30 million in outgoing salary; a hefty amount.
It would be enough to satisfy matching requirements for players ranging from Ben Simmons to Bojan Bogdanovic, per HoopsHype.
“I think you’re right. It would not surprise me at all if they’re active moving guys around…they’re not gonna go into the tax. It’s just not something they do. So…what you see is what you get unless you start uh making trades.”
The Cost of Success
Carter’s big leap in 2022 while Vucevic regressed makes that deal look even worse for the Bulls. Their lack of draft capital has also played a part in their inability to make significant upgrades without potentially sacrificing players such as Patrick Williams whom both Lane and Smith like.
Having to move off of Vucevic just two years after trading for him would not do them any favors with how that is viewed.
Especially after he helped recruit DeRozan and Dragic in consecutive offseasons.
That is the position the Bulls find themselves in, hoping for many of the things that went right last season to go right. The contingencies they did make have been well-received. But the question of how they will stack up in the East still lingers.
If things go as they hoped, they can kick the can on decisions regarding White and Vucevic down the road.
But, if Ball has a sudden turn for the better in his recovery — or the Bulls get off to a slow start — we could see Lane and Smith’s prediction come to fruition. This is a front office that was adamant they would “look at everything” this summer.
At the same time, a relatively quiet summer — which included turning away interest in White –was always going to be their plan of attack barring an unforeseen opportunity.
We will see if their previous aggression returns during the season once again.