Be it financially motivated, related to their play on the court, or their stature in the locker room, the Chicago Bulls (23-27) do have a preference on which of DeMar DeRozan and Zach LaVine they would want to trade were it to come to that, per a league source who spoke with Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney.
It must be stated that there has been no indication that they are planning to move and, to the contrary, ESPN’s Jamal Collier has said that he “doesn’t expect” major changes at this year’s trade deadline during an appearance on ‘Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective‘ on February 1.
That is consistent with previous reports stating the Bulls are sticking with this core.
Things in the NBA can change in a hurry, however, and a few more stretches like their current 1-3 mark over their last four outings could put the discussion firmly on the table.
DeMar DeRozan ‘Would Be’ Bulls’ Preferred Trade Candidate
“DeMar at this point,” the source tells Heavy Sports NBA. “LaVine is younger (27) and they’ve already made the contract commitment to him. There are concerns about his knee, but the Bulls went all in on him and that makes a trade much more difficult. DeRozan is a lot more flexible when it comes to what you can do with a trade, so if it is one or the other, it would be him.”
DeRozan is in the second year of a three-year, $81.9 million deal he inked as part of a sign-and-trade last summer that brought him over from the San Antonio Spurs.
He has been nothing short of reliable for the Bulls averaging 27.3 points on 59.3% true shooting over the last year-plus in Chicago. A five-time All-Star and three-time All-NBA selection, DeRozan has also missed just nine games since the start of last season.
His fit with LaVine is still an issue after their 108-103 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.
LaVine suggested that the play was for him and teammate Alex Caruso, the inbounder on the fateful call, said that is who he was looking for but chalked it up to a “miscommunication”.
“Zach kind of had a little angle so I tried to lead him to a spot,” Caruso said via a video tweeted by Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic. “I think there was probably a little miscommunication on our part on who the ball was intended for. But, you know, they’re both just trying to make a play. It just didn’t work out.”
It was the second time in a week that they had difficulty putting the ball in play.
DeRozan and LaVine – who is in the first year of a five-year, $215 million max contract – had had to have multiple sit-downs trying to work through their on-court chemistry issues that have seen the duo look as dynamic as any at times and like oil and water during far too many others.
The former’s usage in late-game situations has been the reported source of some of LaVine’s dissatisfaction.
The Bulls Need a Point Guard
Both players have said the right things about their relationship and, personally, things are said to remain as good as ever perhaps leading to the confidence they can indeed figure it out. But the Bulls need to help them do it.
It’s no coincidence that we are seeing such poor execution and procedural errors from the Bulls when they have not had their starting point guard for over a year now.
The injury to Lonzo Ball has not only stalled a promising career but this franchise.
Chicago has a plus-0.3 net rating with DeRozan and LaVine on the floor together, per Cleaning The Glass. Last season, that mark was plus-1.1 so there has been some regression. But, even more important, they had a plus-5.7 rating when they were being captained by the oft-injured Ball, putting executive vice president of basketball operations Arutras Karnisovas in the spotlight.
Karnisovas went all-in on putting this group together and Ball is the piece that makes it function at its highest level. Without him, the Bulls look very much like the Bulls of 2020 after the trade for Nikola Vucevic but before DeRozan and subsequently Ball came over the following year, that is they are rudderless.
What’s Next For The Bulls
Despite having a plethora of backout options and configurations, they lack a true playmaker to set everyone and, most importantly, distribute the ball. Derozan, LaVine, and Vucevic are all willing passers but, as a team, the Bulls have proven to be less than adept at it, especially when it matters the most.
Ball’s return date is as murky as it has ever been. It is imperative that the Bulls figure out either the best configuration to get the most out of DeRozan and Lavine or go get the piece that can.