Proposed Trade Swaps Bulls’ Failed Top-10 Pick for $33M Playmaker

Chicago Bulls

Getty T.J. McConnell #9 of the Indiana Pacers dribbles the ball.

The Chicago Bulls fell to the Washington Wizards 102-100 in their second game of the new season. They were a DeMar DeRozan triple from getting off to a 2-0 start for the second year in a row but it was not to be.

But it arguably should not have come down to that play as the Bulls displayed some troubling signs of being the same team as last season.

That isn’t too surprising given their mantra of “continuity” this offseason.

However, given the prolonged recovery of Lonzo Ball and apparent maintenance that Zach LaVine is going to need at least in the early part of the season, the Bulls’ already thin margin for error is approaching a razor’s edge. Could that force the Bulls into making some roster adjustments on the fly to sure up some of those problem areas?

Coby White for T.J. McConnell?

“Given the uncertainty around the health of Lonzo Ball’s knee, the Bulls could use another pure point guard to help run the offense while he recovers,” argues Greg Swartz of Bleacher Report. ”[T.J.] McConnell is a proven playmaker and tough defender who should be happy to leave a rebuilding Pacers team and join a Bulls team with far more offensive weapons around him.”

Bulls Get:

T.J. McConnell

Pacers Get:

Coby White

Sure enough, LaVine is expected back in the starting lineup for the Bulls’ home opener against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But Ball will be out until much closer to the trade deadline in February while recovering.

McConnell, 30, is one of the few remaining veterans on the Pacers. He’s averaging 6.0 points, 4.0 assists, 2.0 rebounds, and 1.5 steals in 17 minutes per game. Not much of a threat off the ball – he also has yet to take a three this season – the Bulls could complement McConnell’s game.

“He’d simply need to set the table for guys like DeMar DeRozan, Zach LaVine, and Nikola Vučević,” Swartz says adding McConnell could continue “his thieving ways on the defensive end”.

McConnell’s defensive rating has ranked above the 50th percentile in each of the last two seasons, per Cleaning The Glass, and has still averaged 8.6 points the last two seasons despite his limitations.

White is averaging 10 points per game this season but followed up his 50% shooting night by going 4-of-11 from the floor including 2-of-7 from beyond the arc.

The points are career-lows (albeit in the smallest sample size possible) despite a healthy summer.

In many ways, he is the opposite of White who Swartz says could flourish offensively in Indiana.
There is also security with McConnell having two more years and $18 million remaining on his four-year, $33 million deal while White will be a restricted free agent next summer.

What About Dragic?

Much of the proposal makes perfect sense – the Bulls are missing some defense at the point of attack with Ball out. And McConnell isn’t just a decent defender, he is an irritant that can get an opponent focused on him rather than what they should be doing.

But the Bulls added 36-year-old Goran Dragic this offseason.

Dragic was better in the season-opening win over the Miami Heat than the loss to the Wizards two nights later. But he has not been a disaster dating back to the preseason.

Ayo Dosunmu and Alex Caruso also both bring defense with more offense than McConnell making it tough to see the Bulls feeling compelled to move off of the 22-year-old White – who has been available for over a year – for a middling addition such as McConnell.

That deal likely would have been completed already if the Bulls wanted to do so.

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