The Chicago Bulls aren’t looking to break up their core, so why not add to it?
“The Bulls, as you may have heard one time or a million more, have…a point guard problem,” wrote Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report on July 13. “That’s why this front office may have done a spit take upon reading the news of [Damian] Lillard‘s trade request.”
– Damian Lillard
“How many defenses have answers for Lillard, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and [Nikola] Vučević? Not enough to prevent this group from winning nightly races to 120-plus points,” Buckley added about the deal to create a ‘Big 4’ in Chicago. “The Bulls would have a lot of defensive holes, but their offensive potency could overcome them.”
Lillard averaged 32.2 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 46.3% from the floor and 37.1% from beyond the arc this past season in arguably the best year of his career.
As Buckley notes, the Bulls signed Jevon Carter in free agency to at least be in their rotation.
But Lillard could raise them to a level they haven’t been able to sustain since Ball went down with a knee injury, albeit in a very different way, and maybe even lift them to new heights given his resume.
He is a seven-time All-Star and All-NBA selection, and a member of the NBA’s 75th Anniversary Team.
The biggest issue for the Bulls on the surface could be the cost of doing business.
Bulls Would Be Paying a Premium for a Small Window
Lillard – who will turn 33 on July 15 – is still owed more than $216 million over the next five seasons. That is a lot of money to commit to a player who has missed 77 games over the last two seasons for a team that would be bereft of draft picks until 2030 at the earliest.
Further, shipping out both Terry and Williams – the team’s last two first-round picks – as well as a former All-Rookie surprise in Dosunmu would be a repeat of past mistakes and then some.
After an aggressive start to put this core group together, Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has pulled back, making just one trade in the last two years and spending a total of roughly $36 million on outside free agent signings since the 2021-22 trade deadline.
They committed $161 million to Ball and DeRozan in the summer of 2021.
The other issue facing the Bulls and most other teams that might be interested in acquiring Lillard is that he has made it known he only wants to play for the Miami Heat. And, while his contract status means a new team would have control, at what cost to chemistry?
Especially for an executive such as Karnisovas who has touted small successes in light of substantial letdowns to justify his decisions.
This current group has a max shelf life of three years, through the 2025-26 campaign with only LaVine and Terry set to be on the books by that time offering the front office the chance for a complete reset. That’s assuming they are still calling the shots by then; a reasonable assumption given Karnisovas, head coach Billy Donovan, and others received extensions.
A Lose-Lose Scenario
None of that even accounts for Portland having players that would play ahead of the pieces the Bulls would send in this scenario, save for maybe Williams. He and the draft capital – which would give the Blazers full control of their future –would be the draw.
This deal seems too steep a price for Chicago to pay while simultaneously being too underwhelming for Portland to accept in return.