Last season saw the Bulls win 46 games and earn their first playoff berth in five years.
But a late-season slide has cast doubts about their outlook in 2023 in the minds of many after a relatively quiet offseason.
Count Mooncey and his co-host, former Bulls guard BJ Armstrong among that group. The two discussed the Bulls during the August 20 episode of “The Hoop Genius” podcast and, in their estimation, the Bulls have some work to do to contend at a high level. That could include trading DeRozan.
Bulls Need to Get Bigger
Size matters in the NBA again, the hosts argue, in the wake of the blockbuster trade the Minnesota Timberwolves made for Rudy Gobert as well as the makeup of their division rival, the Cleveland Cavaliers who play 7-footer Evan Mobley at power forward.
The Bulls have just four players that stand above 6-foot-7 and all of them primarily play center.
Mooncey points out that the Bulls, who played DeRozan at power forward often last season, could be in the market for a shakeup with the star.
“If the league continues this trend of going big, are they going to have to shift, possibly, DeMar DeRozan when he’s an expiring contract, or even look to make a move now and bring in someone with a little more size to play that four position or even that five position? Because the league seems to be trending one way and the Bulls seem to be trending in the opposite direction for me.”
Armstrong agrees that with DeRozan at small forward and Zach LaVine at shooting guard, the Bulls are athletic but very small. Especially when they lean on their closing lineup from last season even if they add Patrick Williams.
“I think the Bulls aren’t done. I think they’re going to have to do something,” offered Armstrong, “Especially the way the league is trending, they’re going to be small. I think they’re going to have to get bigger if they’re going to compete.”
Bulls Could “Blow It Up”
Armstrong and Mooncey then wondered about the direction the Bulls could go given their range of outcomes next season. Mooncey asked whether the Bulls would consider moving DeRozan to better build around LaVine now that he is locked up through 2026 with a player option for 2027, per Spotrac.
He questioned if the duo were an ideal fit on the floor which again led to the question of a trade.
“He’s still turning 34. And he has two years on his deal,” said Mooncey, “If I’m the Chicago Bulls, I would have one eye on moving him. If the right deal comes along…if there’s a disgruntled superstar, B.J. you can put his salary and [Nikola] Vucevic‘s salary together, that makes the max.”
Armstrong said earlier in the conversation that, “from an executive’s viewpoint”, trading DeRozan should be on the table especially given DeRozan will be 35 years old at the end of his deal.
He later suggested that it could be in DeRozan’s best interest to get to a more surefire contender.
“Right now, his stock is as high to me as it’s ever been. And I think the Bulls have to look at all options…And I think DeMar DeRozan has to. Because there’s a timeline where DeMar DeRozan fits for a championship run.”
They are not the only ones questioning the Bulls’ outlook, either.
During the August 16 episode of the “Hardwood Knocks” podcast, host Grant Hughes voiced his uncertainty regarding the Bulls while explaining why he gave them a “flat B” for their relatively mild offseason.
“The big piece of business was getting [Zach] LaVine back into the fold. They didn’t have a lot of other options. I’m not in love with [Andre] Drummond or Derrick Jones, or anything like that. This team feels like a sneaky, ‘Oh, we’re going to get part way into the season and blow it up’ team” because…DeMar DeRozan’s not an MVP candidate anymore…and Vucevic was kind of the start of, what I think, is kind of a bad team-building plan of action.”
Hughes did go on to see that they got the “big thing right” and didn’t do a “ton of damage”. But he notes that he is more likely to lower the grade than he would be to raise it.
Bulls Proved Doubters Wrong
There are valid points – DeRozan is not likely to replicate the season or the impact that he had last season. Nor are the Bulls as big in the frontcourt as some of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
But the doubts about DeRozan and LaVine’s fit should have been put to rest last season when both players were healthy and the Bulls were cruising along.
Armstrong and Mooncey were very complimentary of DeRozan throughout their discussion.
That does not change the apparent shift towards bigger lineups nor the business of the league which could force the Bulls’ hand.