Insider Sheds Light on Bulls Trade Rumors Ahead of NBA Draft

DeMar DeRozan, Chicago Bulls

Getty DeMar DeRozan #11 of the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls have not stopped at simply gauging the trade value for two-time All-Star Zach LaVine, perhaps signaling that their conversations have truly been exploratory.

“There has been growing momentum that [Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas] Karnisovas has been continuing to gauge the value a LaVine or [DeMar] DeRozan would get on the market,” wrote Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times on June 21.

This matches reports from NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson regarding LaVine.

“One league source said the Bulls would be focused on getting a good young player, multiple first-round picks and salary filler if they decide to trade LaVine,” wrote Johnson on June 19. “Another said one first-round pick and an established, high-end player might be sufficiently intriguing.”

There has not been as much rumbling about DeRozan, 33, as he heads into the final year of his three-year, $81.9 million contract. DeRozan has been consistent on the floor and a helpful guide for the younger players but the Bulls’ situation and price tag on LaVine could force their hand on the six-time All-Star.

Per Cowley, the Bulls are trying to get into the first round of the 2023 NBA Draft with their first-round pick (No. 11 overall) going to the Orlando Magic to finalize previous debts.

Karnisovas, coming off a 40-42 season, has suggested he wants to run back the same group.

But the Bulls would surpass the luxury tax if they follow through on that plan and they have only paid the tax once before. Their activity in recent days has suggested that an insider’s inkling as relayed by Sam Smith of may be spot on.

Bulls Might Be Ready to Change Directions

“I…heard from an insider that he believes the Bulls are done with this Big Three,” Smith wrote in the May 19 edition of his mailbag.

LaVine, 28, is signed through the 2025-26 season on a five-year, $215 million contract he signed just last offseason after his highly-anticipated venture into unrestricted free agency resulted in a swift resolution. The former Minnesota Timberwolves star took zero visits to other cities to hear pitches.

Johnson previously reported that the trade rumors have irritated LaVine.

The Bulls held talks with the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks at this year’s trade deadline and Cowley suggests the Bulls could get at least one of those teams back on the phone this summer.

“When the [New York] Knicks and Bulls did have those discussions in February, they didn’t officially conclude as much as they were tabled,” Cowley writes.

Bulls Books Blocking Further Buildout

The NBA’s salary cap will be $136 million with the luxury tax line set at $165 million. Chicago currently sits less than $14 million below the 2023-24 salary cap and $43 million below the luxury tax threshold, per Spotrac.

A new deal contract for Nikola Vucevic could come in somewhere around $65 million over three years, as Cowley reported rival executives believe.

That would eat up their cap space and leave precious little wiggle room under the tax.

Three-point shooting and a point guard are atop the list of needs, both of which are heavily impacted by the absence of Lonzo Ball for what will be the second consecutive season as he continues to recover from knee surgery. And, with his NBA future very much up in the air, the Bulls could be operating as a team with $20.4 million in dead salary cap this season.

That is Ball’s 2023-24 salary in the third year of a four-year, $80 million contract, and the injured point guard has a $21.4 million player option for next season.

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