The end of the Chicago Bulls’ Big 3 figures to come with far less fanfare than it received upon its inception. And the group’s most-decorated player, six-time All-Star DeMar DeRozan, could be the canary in the coal mine.
In a conversation with Heavy Sports NBA insider Sean Deveney, one rival executive hinted at just that outcome.
“They will probably just let things play out with him,” the executive told Heavy Sports.
DeRozan, 33, is heading into the final year of his contract and, despite outside questions about this core’s ceiling, the veteran is said to have the most internal support of the trio. That likely means trading him isn’t one of the “creative” ways Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas is planning on exploring to improve this roster.
DeRozan averaged 24.5 points, 5.1 assists, and 4.6 rebounds this past season, en route to his second consecutive All-Star appearance, the lone selection for the Bulls this season. He has proven his value both on the court and off, taking the younger players under his wing.
There might even be a “realistic” destination in the New York Knicks, the exec says.
A Proposed Trade the Bulls Might ‘Have to Think About’
“If there is a chance you can get something back for him and reconfigure the whole thing around Zach [LaVine], you have to think about it,” the exec told Heavy Sports. “Of all the crazy stuff being said about the Knicks, he is a guy who is a lot more realistic for them and what they do: Star-level scorer, can play the 2, or the 3, or the 4.”
– DeMar DeRozan
“But do the Bulls want an RJ Barrett back? Probably not. But they have always liked Mitchell Robinson, so something like Robinson and Evan Fournier and whatever else you need to add — a pick, Obi Toppin — that is a starting point.”
The Bulls would have to add additional salary to bring back Toppin and, presuming they don’t want to include Alex Caruso to ensure he is in the deal, Ayo Dosunmu or Coby White might not be enough to include him and get the future first-round pick the Bulls might want to target considering they still owe a 2025 first-round pick to the San Antonio Spurs.
Robinson, 25, averaged a career-high 9.4 rebounds this past season.
The 7-foot big man added 7.4 points, 1.8 blocks, and, to the executive’s point, was on the Bulls’ radar last offseason in free agency before he returned to New York on a four-year, $60 million contract.
Fournier, 30, has to be included in the deal to make the money work — he is heading into the final guaranteed year of a four-year, $73 million contract. Former Bulls’ cornerstone Derrick Rose, 34, is set to count for $15.6 million against the cap next season and could be a sentimental win for the front office. But that is too much to pay for the current version of Rose and the Knicks are expected to decline his club option, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Despite being removed from New York’s rotation this past season, Fournier could add some much-needed floor spacing (37.9% career 3P) – particularly around Robinson.
He also has friends on the inside of the Bulls in center Nikola Vucevic.
That could work in favor of including Vucevic, who is an unrestricted free agent, in the deal via sign-and-trade, especially with the Knicks giving up on a big man they remain high on in Robinson. Toppin could certainly be included in that case.
Zach LaVine ‘Tired’ of Trade Rumors
The Knicks were on DeRozan’s list of teams to join in free agency in 2021 ahead of the Bulls but Chicago had talks with New York about LaVine at this past season’s trade deadline. While NBC Sports Chicago Bulls insider K.C. Johnson downplayed just how extensive those talks were, he also shed light on LaVine’s current relationship with the Bulls.
“Several rival executives…are skeptical about the long-term marriage between Zach LaVine and the Bulls,” Johnson wrote on May 25. “LaVine…has grown tired of consistently landing in trade rumors.”
LaVine was open about the Bulls’ inconsistency during his exit interview on April 15 but also sounded optimistic about the future.
LaVine signed a five-year, $215 million contract – the richest in Bulls history – last offseason.
Johnson was clear that this was a sentiment coming from the outside while the Bulls have projected they will strongly consider running back largely the same group for a third year.