Bulls’ Chances at Landing Disgruntled Superstar May Have Just Shifted

Chicago Bulls

Getty Kevin Durant #7 of the Brooklyn Nets celebrates

The likelihood of the Chicago Bulls emerging as winners of the Kevin Durant sweepstakes could be better than anticipated. They were among the NBA teams that made a call to the Brooklyn Nets regarding Durant, per the Chicago Sun-Times’ Joe Cowley, who adds they did not have what the Nets were seeking.

Durant’s request for a trade sent shockwaves across the NBA and has put some business on hold while the situation gets sorted out.

As that happens, more and more details emerge of what the Nets would be willing to take back.

It has always been expected Durant would command a major haul of assets. But what combination of players and picks it would take has been unclear. Could the Bulls wind up with the best offer on the table?

Timberwolves Did the Dirty Work

The Minnesota Timberwolves potentially did the Bulls a couple of favors. They met the Utah Jazz’s asking price for three-time Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. This keeps the Bulls’ assets intact and ends the constant trade rumors.

Before landing Gobert, though, the Timberwolves also made their obligatory inquiry into what it would take to land Durant, writes The Athletic’s John Krawczynski.

Brooklyn’s demand for “established All-Stars and a mountain of picks” was too steep.

Durant has listed the Miami Heat and Phoenix Suns as his preferred destinations, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. But his preference to play alongside certain individuals, per The Athletic’s Sam Amick, limits who Miami can offer.

There are also CBA issues at play making a deal including Suns’ center Deandre Ayton unlikely, as the New York Daily News’ Khristian Winfield explained.

Factor in the other pieces around the league that are off-limits – due to Ben Simmons’ presence on the roster, per CBS Sports’ Sam Quinn – and the list of young stars the Nets can obtain for Durant shrinks considerably.

That does not take those teams off of the list, though, and could put an emphasis on draft capital. Winfield tweeted out that the pierce for Durant “just skyrocketed” following the Gobert trade.

Overcompensating for Something

Winfield’s tweet would seem to preclude the Bulls from Durant discussions. They are still in debt to the Orlando Magic and San Antonio Spurs. They will not control their own first-round pick free and clear until 2028, though, per Quinn.

They do have rights to a Portland Trail Blazers first-rounder the next time they make the postseason and it falls outside of the lottery.

We have already seen different permutations of hypothetical Bulls’ proposals in which they move either DeMar DeRozan or Nikola Vucevic to pair Durant with the newly-minted Zach LaVine.

Perhaps the Bulls can get around their lack of draft capital with able bodies.

A deal centered around both non-LaVine All-Stars satisfies financial requirements using Spotrac’s Roster Manager tool.

The Nets would likely want to get some longer-term prospects as well. The Bulls could add both Coby White and Patrick Williams. They could take back Seth Curry, 29, who is heading into the final year of his contract, per Spotrac.

That would put the Bulls at 12 contracts.

DeRozan and Vucevic give the Nets a pair of 20-point-per-game All-Stars at their peak, and trade pieces for further deals if they choose to pivot into a full rebuild.

White is a good three-point shooter while Williams is a building block for the future.

Bleacher Report’s Grant Hughes offered similar logic in a proposal that did not include Vucevic but did add several pick swaps to offset the actual picks being so far out. But the Bulls would have to lift the protections on their previously traded picks in order to swap the others.

One Giant Leap

Miami and Phoenix aside, teams such as the Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Pelicans, and Toronto Raptors could take a view similar to Minnesota’s. Adding Durant might not be worth breaking up what they have built the past few seasons.

After all, the Nets went all-in for him, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving only to find themselves in this predicament, writes the New York Post’s Howie Kussoy.

The Bulls do not have that problem.

They are heading into just the second year of this group leading Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas to push “continuity” all offseason. The projected starting five played just 63 minutes over five games together.

As The Athletic’s Zach Harper writes, the current roster “probably isn’t up for contending” despite their strong start and with LaVine continuing to improve at 27 years old.

Harper’s colleague, Darnell Mayberry, says they “haven’t taken a step forward” this offseason.

Bulls general manager Marc Eversley said during his draft-night media availability that he did not see “one player or one giant leap” that the Bulls could encounter this offseason to put them over the contention hump.

Durant, who was not known to be available at that time, might change that opinion if Eversley was asked today.

And the Bulls are uniquely positioned to go all-in for him.

Welcome to the Danger Zone

This is not the only or even the first time that we have heard similar sentiments. The Ringer’s Logan Murdock offered a warning to both the Bulls and LaVine on the April 30 episode of “The Void” podcast with Kevin O’Connor.

Meanwhile, Bleacher Report’s Greg Swartz called LaVine “a little overpaid” but adds that it was “the right move” for the Bulls.

And Forbes’ Jason Patt expressed disappointment in the Bulls’ offseason to this point.

“There are still some bombshells left to drop around the NBA this summer. If the Bulls aren’t involved in anything else, their offseason will have truly been a disappointing dud.”

Mayberry describes the situation for the Bulls — and LaVine — as “championship or bust”.

A lineup of Durant alongside Lavine, Lonzo Ball, Alex Caruso, and Andre Drummond (pending any subsequent moves) may be their best shot at that. The current landscape of the Eastern Conference does not appear to be shifting in their favor any time soon.