As the losses outpace the wins, the Chicago Bulls have increasingly become a team of interest in league circles. Despite perceptions on the outside that they should be looking to pivot off of a core with an apparent ceiling, they have remained defiant publicly.
Privately, it has gone a step further with reports that teams reaching out to the Bulls have no idea which way they will go as the trade deadline approaches.
But executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas is a shrewd operator.
He could – and quite possibly should – be working every possible back channel to try and extract more value out of this roster be it on the floor or otherwise. If he does, perhaps he could be intrigued by the trade proposed by Lowe during the February 2 episode of ‘The Lowe Post’ podcast, though it would cost them DeMar DeRozan.
DeMar DeRozan to the Portland Trail Blazers?
Lowe rattled off a laundry list of looming concerns for the Trail Blazers, not the least of which are Jerami Grant and Josh Hart’s (player option) expiring contracts as well as a hefty commitment to big man Jusuf Nurkic.
Portland is also indebted to the Bulls owing a first-round pick the next time they make the postseason with protections that keep them from trading another first until 2028.
The solution could just be to work out a deal with Chicago.
- Jusuf Nurkic
- Anfernee Simons
- DeMar DeRozan
- Nikola Vucevic
“Damian Lillard is still performing at this elite level,” Kevin Pelton told Lowe during the episode. “He’s been on an incredible heater during this homestand that they’ve had going. They still haven’t played very well which is the problem. So, yeah, because of that they need to find better pieces around Damian Lillard.”
The 6-foot-11, 290-pound Nurkic was originally drafted by the Bulls 16th overall in 2014 but was traded on draft night. He is in the first year of a four-year, $70 million deal that will pay him $19.3 million in 2026.
Nurkic, 28, is averaging 13.8 points on 59.8% true shooting with 9.4 rebounds, and 2.9 assists.
In a pleasant twist, the ninth-year man out of Bosnia has expanded his range in recent years and is knocking down 39% of his 2.2 threes per contest this season.
He could make for a nice transition from the 32-year-old Vucevic but has not been as durable.
Simons is in the midst of a breakout campaign averaging 21.7 points on 58.8% true shooting with 4.0 assists and 2.8 rebounds. The 23-year-old is in Year 1 of a four-year, $100 million pact giving any potential new team control over a still-ascending asset. So much so that one wonders how available he might be if at all.
“There is a belief around the league that the only three Blazers who are untouchable are Damian Lillard, Anfernee Simons, and Jerami Grant,” reported Matt Moore of The Action Network.
That is certainly a stance the Bulls can relate to.
Bulls Assets Have Limited Availability
Pelton introduced the idea of moving DeRozan over LaVine – something Lowe suggested during the January 30 episode of the show – in this conversation. A rival executive told Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney that the Bulls would move DeRozan before LaVine. But as it stands, neither is on the trade block.
DeRozan — who has the same agent as Lillard — is in the second year of a three-year, $81.9 million deal while LaVine just signed a five-year, $215 million max contract this past offseason.
Vucevic is another story in the final year of his contract and a new one is unlikely.
However, Pelton’s suggestion would see the Bulls trade DeRozan and defensive ace Alex Caruso in exchange for Simons and Hart. Chicago holds Caruso in such high regard that some interested teams have already gone in different directions,” per Moore.
“The hardest guard on the market to get? Chicago’s Alex Caruso, who nearly a dozen teams have serious interest in,” Moore said, “he’s in his prime (28), cheap ($8 million), and open to various roles — but Chicago knows the market for him. Some teams have backed away, believing they won’t be able to win a bidding war for Caruso.”
Their asking price is said to be two first-round picks or one pick and a young player.
Hart might be a close comparison as far as being a two-way player with some point guard skills but Caurso’s three-year, $36.9 million contract is one of the league’s best bargains.
Expect Nothing But Prepare For Anything
By all accounts, this will be a quiet trade deadline for the Bulls. But neither of the trades that brought DeRozan or Vucevic to Chicago was on anyone’s radar in the respective days leading up to each being traded.
Karnisovas is notoriously tight-lipped even with cursory comments so it is very likely we won’t know what the Bulls are planning to do until it is already done.
That certainly does not mean that they are planning another major move involving any of their current big three or even Caruso. But it also does not mean that they will not do anything with their season still hanging precariously in the balance even after the win and the time to make up ground quickly running out.