The Chicago Bulls need to justify keeping this core together for another year.
“If the Bulls want to snag another star…[Toronto Raptors star Pascal] Siakam could also be up for grabs,” wrote Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report on July 13 in an article that has the Bulls ‘winning the Siakam sweepstakes’. “If the Bulls would risk adding him, they could take a huge step forward with this trade.”
– Pascal Siakam
“Ball isn’t playing next season, and Terry could again struggle to see the floor, meaning the only real rotation change would be the massive upgrade from Williams to Siakam,” Buckley argued. “That could be the kind of change needed…to justify keeping this nucleus together.”
Bulls general manager Marc Eversley issued a direct challenge to Williams to step up.
The former No. 4 overall pick is heading into his fourth season and remains largely an enigma boasting tremendous talent but needing to put his exceptional abilities together more consistently by his admission.
Terry struggled through most of Summer League before putting together a solid all-around effort in the Bulls’ finale. But Ball is not expected to suit up at all next season meaning he is only included as salary-matching fodder with a seemingly faint chance of returning value on the court.
And Bulls executive vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas has pushed continuity for the second consecutive offseason, making mostly fringe moves.
Siakam, 29, averaged career-highs of 24.2 points and 5.8 assists in 2022-23 adding 7.8 rebounds for good measure. He is heading into the final year of a four-year, $136.9 million contract meaning he could walk after next season leaving the team that takes the risk left with nothing and even worse off having surrendered assets to acquire him.
His contract status could be enough to turn Karnsiovas off on its own but there is more.
Bulls Might Have to Call Raptors’ Bluff
“The most-consistent rumblings there have been the [Atlanta] Hawks had been very interested in a trade for Siakam, and that Siakam has been resistant to it,” said Marc Stein on the ‘#thisleague UNCUT’ podcast on July 7. “Siakam really wouldn’t be interested in a contract extension if the [Raptors] were to move him.”
“Toronto always does the same thing,” one NBA scout told Michael Scotto of HoopsHype during Las Vegas Summer League. “They dangle their guys, and then they pull them back.”
That is about as risky of an endeavor as there is and it might not even be possible.
Still, the Bulls could look to do it with trade rumors surrounding Zach LaVine this offseason, many of them linked to the Bulls in origin. But trading Terry and Williams – the only two first-round picks Karnisovas has made since taking over in 2020 – is a path they have already unsuccessfully tried to navigate.
Following the Beaten Path
It’s left them with a good team but far from one that is a lock to even make the playoffs, as their 2022-23 campaign showed. The Bulls’ top three players – LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic – played more minutes than any other trio last season.
Their net rating was minus-0.4, per NBA.com.
There were four three-man lineups across the NBA to play at least 1,500 minutes together last season and the Bulls’ group was the only one that posted a negative net rating.
Barring a leap from their younger players – which remains the most reasonable expectation – the Bulls can only expect to take another step forward by upgrading their roster and a trade could be the best way to make that happen. But doing so could put them even further behind the eight-ball if things do not work out as planned again.