Bulls Floated as Trade Destination for 3&D Big Man

Chicago Bulls

Getty Mo Bamba #5 of the Orlando Magic looks on before the game against the Chicago Bulls.

The Chicago Bulls achieved their goals of continuity returning nine of their top-10 leaders in minutes last season. They are also bringing back a host of other lesser-role players (Marko Simonovic) or players that mainly were hurt last season (Patrick Williams).

But they did have some swings and near-misses this summer

Their few outside additions don’t amount to much more than depth in the long term. And there were reports the Bulls pursued several other options only to have them sign elsewhere.

One of those options, Orlando Magic center Mo Bamba, could be back on the market in many ways and there is some thought that the Bulls could kick the tires once again. The 24-year-old Bamba finds himself in a position similar to a former Bulls’ draft pick and there could be enough common ground for a deal to make sense for both sides.

Bulls Had Interest in Bamba

The Bulls signed Andre Drummond to a two-year $6.6 million deal this summer to back up starter Nikola Vucevic. But they did pursue Bamba before he returned to the Magic on a two-year, $20.6 million deal.

Then, the Magic went and hit the (2022 NBA Draft) lottery – taking Duke’s Paolo Banchero first overall – and suddenly retaining Bamba doesn’t look as prudent as it did initially.

“[The Bulls] have liked Mo Bamba in the past,” an Eastern Conference executive tells Heavy’s Sean Deveney, “and once he gets trade eligible (in January) that would be something where they could make a run at him…The Magic have no need for Bamba, long-term, not with Paolo Banchero and Carter there.”

Bamba averaged career-bests across the board with 10.6 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, and 1.2 assists. And while his 48% shooting from the floor was just below his previous high, his 38.1% on 4.0 attempts per game both set new ones.

The 7-footer has been linked to the Bulls since the pre-draft process in 2018.

He was high on the front office’s list but went one pick ahead of their selection to the Magic while the Bulls selected Wendell Carter Jr. seventh overall whom they later traded to Orlando.

Getting Bamba to the Bulls

The executive suggests using defensive ace Alex Caruso as “bait” to get a trade for Bamba done with the Magic.

“Caruso would be a nice fit on a team that is trying to learn to be professional and to win. They also need guards. If you’re going to move Caruso, I’d want a guy like Bamba back. It’s a good deal for both sides.”

Caruso’s championship pedigree is certainly an asset.

But the Bulls still need that from Caruso. Despite the outcome, his warning to his teammates following their Game 2 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks was spot-on – the Bucks won Game 3 in Chicago 111-81. However, there could be another way to get the deal done that still works for both sides involving Coby White.

Bulls Get

  • Mo Bamba

Magic Get

  • Coby White
  • Derrick Jones Jr.

A package including White and high-flying reserve Derrick Jones Jr. (whose trade restriction expires on December 15) would satisfy salary-matching requirements while giving the Magic some much-needed shooting.

White did shoot a career-high 38.5% from deep last season while Jones Jr. played four positions including small-ball center for the Bulls, a testament to his versatility.

Bulls Might Be Weary

The saying “fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me” could certainly come into play here, complicating any trade after Chicago’s previous dealings with Orlando have come under intense scrutiny.

While the Bulls’ message on Vucevic has been positive with rumors of a potential contract extension, the deal has been slammed by analysts with some calling it a disaster.

Even if you remove Vucevic – and Carter Jr. who had a career year for Orlando earning a multi-year extension – from the equation, missing out on what appears to be a future All-Star in Franz Wagner certainly stings enough.

And Chicago still owes Orlando a draft pick in 2023 so they might be once-bitten, twice shy.

But there is no denying that, when everyone is healthy, it will be hard to justify giving White minutes over some of the other guards in the Bulls’ rotation. It will be equally as difficult for the Magic to justify playing Bamba heavy minutes if healthy. Both teams have serious health questions that could see them value that depth.

Still, waiting until January could help clarify their needs — particularly with Lonzo Ball for the Bulls and Jonathan Isaac for the Magic — and make a deal more appealing to both parties.

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