The Chicago Bulls (26-28) have gone from candidates to make a major move by now to being expected to stand pat to potential sellers to now being in the mix for several players, not the least of which is Russell Westbrook who, upon being traded to the Utah Jazz in a three-team deal with the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves, is expected to secure a buyout and become an unrestricted free agent.
If and when he does, the Bulls are expected to pursue the nine-time All-Star and 2017 MVP.
“The Chicago Bulls are interested in signing Russell Westbrook should he secure a buyout from the Utah Jazz,” reported Chris Haynes for TNT and Bleacher Report in a tweet following the blockbuster.
Westbrook’s $47 million salary is an albatross but Utah got a first-round pick for taking him. If he is going to be bought out, however, he is free to sign elsewhere and the Bulls can arguably present the second-best pitch in the NBA thanks to Westbrook’s previous ties to head coach Billy Donovan whom he played under for four years in Oklahoma City with the Thunder.
He is in the final year of a five-year, $206.7 million contract.
The Bulls are quickly becoming one of the more popular landing spots from the former Thunder, Houston Rockets, Washington Wizards, and now Lakers (and soon-to-be Jazz) star.
But it won’t be easy – Westbrook is said to share the Los Angeles Clippers’ interest in a potential union. Westbrook is a native of Long Beach, California; just a 27-minute trip to L.A. and he is a proud family man in the latter stages of his career.
And, at this point, the Clippers present a clearer threat as a championship contender.
There are also reports that the Miami Heat could be interested but that was “a lifetime ago” in the words of Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated who adds, “Bulls need a playmaker and Billy Donovan coached Westbrook in Oklahoma City. Probably the best fit.”
Donovan has been highly complimentary of Westbrook specifically highlighting that he never had to “worry about that guy coming ready to play.
Not for nothing, that has been a consistent issue for this Bulls team since last season.
Russell Westbrook Clash With Darvin Ham Precedes Trade
Westbrook accepted a bench role with the Lakers and benefitted from it going from 14.5 points on 48% true shooting across his first 28 appearances while adjusting to his new role after garnering just three starts.
Since then, he has averaged 17.6 points on 51.2% true shooting – a span of 24 games that has seen him be the most durable among the Lakers’ big three of him, Chicago native Anthony Davis and LeBron James who broke the NBA’s all-time scoring record one night before Westbrook was traded.
But Westbrook’s unceremonious departure from L.A. is preceded by a dust-up with Lakers head coach Darvin Ham.
He has bumped heads with Donovan too in the past but maintained that he never had a problem with Donovan. Westbrook is generally not one to bad-mouth anyone to the media anyway, former teammate Patrick Beverley notwithstanding.
Bulls Seeking Point Guard Help
Even if the Bulls fail to make it happen with Westbrook, they could still benefit should he wind up with his other hometown team with some reports that they could also have an interest in John Wall, per The Bigs. Wall is also expected to secure a buyout should he and the Clippers fail to find a trade for the 32-year-old who was traded by the Wizards to the Rockets for Westbrook in 2020.
This all falls in line with Shams Charania’s report on ‘Waddle & Silvy’ on ESPN 1000 in Chicago that the Bulls are seeking point guard help on the trade market ahead of Thursday’s deadline.
What they are actually able to get done remains an entirely different thing.