Wild 3-Team Trade Proposal Would Land Bulls 2 New Starters

Getty Lonzo Ball

The Chicago Bulls have been linked to several potentially available players on the league’s trade market, but they haven’t pulled the trigger on a deal up to now.

The NBA trade deadline is March 25. Talks, rumors, and speculation are cranking up, and the Bulls have been part of some of the hottest discussions. 

On Wednesday, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported the Bulls had “registered interest” in trading for the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Andre Drummond. Cleveland has made it clear that Drummond has played his final game for the organization, and he has been sat while the team tries to work out a trade for him, the Associated Press reported.

In addition to the more recent rumors around Drummond, the Bulls have been linked to a potential trade for the New Orleans Pelicans’ Lonzo Ball all season. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst called the Bulls “one of the places that you would think of Lonzo as a possibility” on his podcast “The Hoop Collective,” and Matt Moore of the Action Network called Chicago Ball’s “most likely landing spot” and even said that both Ball and his agent Rich Paul preferred the former No. 2 overall pick to be a Bull. 

With those rumors and the Bulls’ contention for the postseason as fuel, here is an interesting three-team trade. If completed, the Bulls would effectively land two players they can plug into their starting lineup from day one and allow themselves to be more of a threat for the rest of the season.

Take a gander.

Bulls Get

Pelicans Get

Cleveland Cavaliers Get

  • Otto Porter Jr.
  • Bulls’ 2022 2nd Round Pick (set to swap with Pelicans)
  • Pelicans’ 2022 2nd Round Pick

The trade works from a financial standpoint, according to ESPN.

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Why This Works for Chicago

The most valuable asset the Bulls would be parting with is Markkanen, but is he really as valuable as Chicago once hoped he’d be? Yes, he’s averaging career-highs in points per game (19.1), field-goal percentage (51.4%) and three-point shooting (39.6%), but durability has been a concern.

Quite honestly, the Bulls haven’t missed him as much as expected.

Markkanen has missed 20 games this season, and the Bulls are 11-9 in those contests. He’s played in 14, and the team is 5-9 in those games. It doesn’t get much plainer than that if you’re wondering if a guy is expendable on your roster.

Dropping Hutchison does deal a blow to the team’s small forward depth, but with Garrett Temple, Patrick Williams, and Denzel Valentine capable of playing the position, the Bulls should be fine.

Hutchison hasn’t played since February 5. He has been out with a right lower leg contusion, according to the NBA’s official injury report.

Second-round picks can turn into rotation players and even stars. Still, at this stage of the team’s development, you’d like to think Chicago would be willing to sacrifice one of them if it means giving the team a chance to be markedly better in the current season.

Drummond is a stat monster who has some limitations as it pertains to passing, back-to-the-basket play, and general scoring efficiency. He’s shooting less than 50% from the field, and making fewer than 60% of his free throws–which is actually the second-highest clip of his career. Still, both would be considered low for a big who makes his living in the paint.

Drummond is also not the greatest fit against teams who can effectively put him in a position to defend in the pick-and-roll.

That said, he is one of the league’s best rebounders and an above-average low-post defender with sneaky-quick hands for steals. This season, he’s averaging 17.5 points and 13.5 rebounds in 25 games.

He’s only under contract through this season. If he works out, the Bulls could become one of the top four teams in the East. If not, they can let him walk at the end of the season without losing much from their roster.

The same goes for Ball, though the expectations for him are a bit higher. He’s more of a stylistic fit for the roster because of his pass-first, playmaking style. At 6-foot-6 and 190 pounds, according to Basketball Reference, he has the size to defend three positions and is a proven defender and rebounder.

Ball could take the misplaced pure-point-guard duties away from Coby White, which would make the latter a sixth man. That’s a change that could rattle some cages. However, in the long run, a second unit that features Tomas Satoransky at the point with White as the shooting guard is intriguing.

Ball will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season. If the Bulls like what they see, they would have the right to match any offer sheet he gets from another team. If it proves to be a bad fit, the Bulls can let him walk, which is the exact situation they are in with Markkanen.

Why This Works for the Pelicans

Ball seems like a fish out of water with the Pelicans. Whether it’s a clash with Stan Van Gundy’s coaching style or a mismatch with Brandon Ingram’s and Zion Williamson’s skill sets, it doesn’t appear as though he’s in the best position to succeed.

That said, Ball has shown great statistical improvement this season. Like Markkanen, Ball is averaging career-highs in points per game (14.7), field goal percentage (43.5%), three-point shooting (39.5%), and free-throw shooting (77.5%). That stat line is making him attractive to prospective teams.

However, the Pelicans drafted Kira Lewis Jr. in 2020, and the rookie has shown flashes of being the kind of electric, scoring lead guard New Orleans seems to covet.

With the Pelicans at 15-21 heading into the All-Star break and four games out of the last playoff spot in the competitive Western Conference, it might be time to turn the keys over to Lewis.

Adding Markkanen to the mix would give the Pelicans an interesting rotation of bigs. The current starter Steven Adams is the physical banger with limited mobility but valuable size. Jaxson Hayes is the athletic, rim-running shot-blocker and rebounder.

Adding Markkanen — who is still only 24 years old and more of a natural power forward — would give the Pelicans the stretch-big they don’t currently have on the roster.

He is a restricted free agent, and the final 36 games of the season would be his tryout for an offer sheet and an evaluation period for the Pelicans. Hutchison has upside as an athletic wing defender who still has the potential to blossom into a strong 3-and-D contributor.

Windler, 24, is a three-point marksman playing in his rookie season after missing all of the 2019-20 season. In 22 games, Windler has made 36.5% of his threes and he’s averaging 6 points and 4 rebounds per contest in just 19 minutes per game. New Orleans is currently 17th in the NBA in three-point shooting. Markkanen and Windler would provide the Pels with two much-needed floor spacers that are much younger than J.J. Redick, who turns 37 in June.

This trade likely makes the Pelicans a little better this season and potentially much better in the long run.

Why This Works for the Cavaliers

Some of the Cavs’ leverage was killed when news spread that Drummond was being benched until the team completed a deal. Perhaps they thought playing him more would only hurt his trade value.

In any case, adding Porter is simply a financial requirement. His horrendous contract comes off the books at the end of the season, and it matches Drummond’s owed amount. While the oft-injured Porter may provide zero on-court value for any team the rest of the season, Drummond could still help a contender.

Because of that, the Cavs are in a position to flip him for draft assets. Cleveland probably won’t get a first-rounder unless it comes from a true championship-contending team who believes Drummond could be the final role-playing piece to a title. Even then, it will be a late first-rounder.

If Cleveland can turn Drummond into two second-rounders, which could wind up being a valuable draft-and-stash player, or an underrated upperclassman from college, it would be a major win for them.

Cleveland isn’t going to the postseason, so shipping Windler off isn’t a big deal. They again would be best-suited stacking draft assets.

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