This would be a major shakeup to a roster that was atop the East for two months but sputtered into the postseason as losers of four straight before winning their regular-season finale.
They posted the NBA’s seventh-worst record after the All-Star break going 8-15, the worst mark of any playoff team.
Their prize for what was a monumental leap from last season is a first-round playoff date with the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks. Milwaukee swept Chicago in the regular season and has dominated the rivalry winning 15 of the last 16 meetings.
The Bulls’ last win came in the final game of the 2021 season with the Bucks resting all of their starters for the playoffs.
This has led to early speculation over the Bulls’ offseason plans.
The executive tells Heavy, “They know what they need to do. They’ve got to move Vucevic…”
It is not surprising to see Nikola Vucevic’s name mentioned. The four-time All-Star is averaging 17.6 points per game while shooting 31.4% from downtown. Both marks are his worst since 2018 while his 47.3% efficiency overall is his lowest since 2017.
His 11.0 rebounds per game are 0.5 boards worse than he had after being traded during the 2021 season.
The Bulls didn’t quite make waves at the trade deadline this season – standing pat amid some intriguing rumors is more of a ripple. They did have interest in Detroit Pistons forward Jerami Grant but ultimately balked at including Patrick Williams.
According to the source, the Bulls might not have to include the talented second-year forward in their pursuit of an upgrade. There is an interesting addition, though.
“…any idea of moving [Vucevic] is that you got White attached. ”
Third-year guard Coby White is one of two players remaining from the John Paxson-Gar Forman era along with Zach LaVine. He has had an inconsistent start to his career and this season has been no different.
White averaged 12.7 points in 61 appearances, both career lows. But he also posted career-highs shooting 43.3% from the floor and 38.5% from beyond the arc.
The Bulls’ new regime of vice president of basketball operations Artura Karnisovas and general manager Marc Eversley selected Ayo Dosunmu 38th-overall this past July’s NBA Draft. He played well this season and had a career-high 26 points in the regular-season finale possibly further diminishing White’s value to the Bulls going forward.
Both are set to be restricted free agents in the summer of 2023.
Despite both players struggling to fit in this year, the executive believes the Bulls can fetch a hefty sum to the pair.
“If you have Vooch and White and a pick, you can get Bradley Beal or someone of that caliber.”
That is a pretty big name to throw out for a couple of reasons.
First, the Bulls have to hammer out LaVine’s contract — expected to be worth $210 million, per CBS Sports’ Sam Quinn — this summer. Adding Beal to the equation doesn’t make sense with DeMar DeRozan locked in through the 2024 season and Lonzo Ball averaging $20 million through 2024 with a player option for the 2025 season, per Spotrac.com data.
Second, Beal can decline his $36 million player option with the Wizards and become an unrestricted free agent this summer. He is also eligible for a five-year, $244 million deal with Washington.
Beal appeared on the “Draymond Green Show” in March and discussed his future.
“I want to do it here. But there also comes a point, Dray, that you also know that it becomes a business. And if you feel like the stars aren’t aligned with that, then everybody’s going to do what’s best for them, regardless of what the money is.”
Shams Charania of the Atheltic floated Grant as still being a possibility, though, it is unclear what interest Detroit would have in Vucevic with promising Isaiah Stewart already there.
K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago reported that the Bulls would pursue a top-tier big man like Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers or Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz who took a 1-0 lead over the Dallas Mavericks in their first-round playoff matchup should either become available.
Ends to a Mean
There have also been less likely scenarios such as ESPN’s Max Kellerman suggesting a reunion with current-Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler whose contract extension signed in August of 2021 on top of myriad other reasons makes him a longshot solution.
For what it is worth, Johnson also noted that he expected Vucevic to be in Chicago next season while The Athletic’s Darnell Mayberry highlighted (subscription required) the importance of this postseason to White’s future be it with the Bulls or elsewhere.
The Bulls’ current draft pick situation is made complicated by both the trade that brought Vucevic to Chicago in 2021 and the trade for DeRozan this past offseason, as Quinn broke down in January ahead of February’s trade deadline.
The Bulls owe the Magic their 2023 pick from the Nikola Vucevic trade. It is protected 1-4 and again protected 1-3 in 2024. Two years after that pick conveys, they owe the Spurs a first-rounder from the DeMar DeRozan trade. That pick is protected for three full years and might not resolve until 2028. Therefore, the Bulls are not guaranteed a first-round pick in any season between 2023 and 2028, preventing them from trading any of their own first-round picks in the allowable seven-year period. However, the future first-round pick the Bulls own from the Blazers is tradable, as Chicago is not relying on it to fill any sort of Stepien void. That pick is lottery-protected every year between now and 2028, so in practice, it will convey the first time the Blazers make the playoffs in that span.
The Blazers’ pick will not convey this season after they finished in the lottery with the NBA’s sixth-worst record.
Still, many on the outside feel as though the Bulls need to do something different to take the next step and there has been a lot of conversation surrounding both players ahead of the organization’s most important stretch of games in a half-decade.
Whether that is via a rim protector such as Davis or Gobert, mental toughness from a player like Butler, or even another scorer like Beal or Grant, the message is clear.