In spite of the team’s late-season push to get into the play-in tournament, one would be hard-pressed to label the Chicago Bulls‘ 2022-23 campaign a success. Ultimately, you are what your record says you are and a 40-42 mark and 10th-place finish in the conference standings is hardly where the club and its fans wanted to be.
Sure, Lonzo Ball‘s lost season played a considerable part in the downturn but so, too, did the club’s maddening inconsistency, Patrick Williams’ inability to take the next step, a perimeter shortfall, the occasionally awkward coexistence of DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine and Nikola Vucevic, et al.
Despite those things, The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry wrote on Tuesday that the “easiest” thing for the Bulls to do this summer would be to bring all of their core players back for another go-round. And given VP Arturas Karnisovas’ stated aversion to blowing things up, it’s not difficult to envision the team going that route.
That said, the Windy City hoops insider did leave the door ajar for a potential blockbuster trade or two.
Mayberry: Bulls Could Look to Deal DeMar DeRozan or Zach LaVine (or Both) to Facilitate a Quick Reboot
In response to a fan question about what may lie in store for the Bulls’ big three, Mayberry noted that management doesn’t appear to be ready to move on from DeRozan and/or LaVine, in particular. However, he made a point to say that he “wouldn’t rule it out,” either.
Wrote Mayberry of the possibility:
“DeRozan is entering the final year of his contract, and the Bulls know they are nowhere close to a championship-caliber team even with him. So why keep him for what could be one last, mediocre season? Meanwhile, they might want to get off the final four years of LaVine’s max contract now rather than continue to build around him.
“Parting with one or both will bring the quickest reboot.”
Alas, even if Karnisovas and Co. decide they can stomach some form of organizational pivoting, there’s a chance that they’ve missed their window for getting the highest return on trades involving their top two scorers.
Neither DeRozan Nor LaVine Look Like Home-Run Acquisitions at This Juncture
For varying reasons, teams could — should might be the better word — be wary of paying a premium for either DeRozan or LaVine on the trade market.
Where the former is concerned, his reliance on mid-range offense (even as he connected on 52.1% of his attempts from 10 to 14 feet from the hoop and 52.6% on two-pointers overall), questionable defensive prowess, age (at nearly 34 years old) and expiring deal are all reasons for other teams not to break the bank for him.
Really, the time to deal DeRozan would have been last summer after he helped the Bulls end their playoff drought with one of the best campaigns of his career.
LaVine, meanwhile, may be younger and more offensively diverse than his running mate, but there are questions to be asked about the state of his knees and his own shortcomings on the defensive end. Furthermore, he has largely been a negative-impact player from an on/off standpoint. In 2022-23, the Bulls were 3.6 points per 100 possessions better when LaVine was on the bench.
Finally, his contract could become an albatross in the years to come. He’ll make over $40 million next year, with annual raises pushing his salary to $48.9 million by the time of his option year in 2026-27.