Things just got real, sort of. The Chicago Bulls fell 119-111 to the Golden State Warriors in a late affair. But they have been in the news quite a bit in the day leading up to that matchup which ended up being their 11th loss in a row to the Warriors.
Bills Simmons of The Ringer perked up the ears of many when he dropped a trio of trades geared at “improving” the Bulls on the December 1 episode of “The Bill Simmons Podcast“.
The real goal was to improve their draft position.
But, in doing so, Simmons touched on something with a bit more substance than maybe even he would have imagined when concocting his to-do list for Bulls vice president of basketball operations, Arturas Karnisovas. One of his hypothetical trade scenarios has already been a topic of discussion for one of the would-be involved parties.
When BS Hits the Fan
Simmons’ first offering was to send Bulls star DeMar DeRozan along with big man Nikola Vucevic to the Los Angeles Lakers. In exchange, the Bulls would take back Russell Westbrook and two unprotected first-round picks from L.A.
Los Angeles traded for Westbrook instead of signing DeRozan last year, opening the door for the Bulls (armed with $81 million) to swoop in and lock him up. Now, one side appears to be having buyer’s remorse leading them to explore the exact scenario that Simmons introduced on his podcast.
“The trade I saw on Twitter was Russ and both picks, one with light protections I think for DeRozan and Vucevic,” ESPN’s Zach Lowe said on the ‘Lowe Post Podcast’ on December 2. “I can tell you 100% for sure that the Lakers have had internal discussions about that very possibility — if it would ever come up.”
DeRozan and Vucevic were college teammates at USC spending one season together playing for the Trojans in 2009. The former is also a Compton, California native and thought he was going to be a Laker.
“Not that they would do it, let me be clear,” Lowe said. “But both picks for the Bulls guys is certainly something their brain trust has thought about. Otherwise, they’d be irresponsible.”
Lowe then went on to explain the Bulls’ plight that their All-Star trio is getting outscored when they’re on the floor. He mentioned LaVine’s slow return from offseason knee surgery as well as Vucevic’s poor fit alongside LaVine and DeRozan whom Lowe says still has high trade value.
Pick Another Lane
DeRozan and Vucevic, Lowe notes, are both over 30 years old and coming up for new money. He also acknowledged that Lonzo Ball – out until at least January – is their connector. But he also mentioned rumblings around the league that they need to make a “blow-it-up decision” this season and “pick a lane”.
Lowe said that it would be an “omelet on your face” for Karnisovas if he had to move on from a group he has invested in so heavily.
His guest, Bobby Marks, added a time comes when pivoting becomes the best option.
“Teams that are on the road map to success, they have a brand, they have an identity,” Marks said. “I still don’t know what Chicago’s trying to be good at as an analyst. I don’t know what they think they can get to.”
He highlighted Vucevic’s lack of stopping power saying, “If you pay a center, in 2022, a lot of money, that player better be good at defense. Marks says that for a center getting paid as much as Vucevic is – $22 million in the final year of his contract– it is the “number one job requirement”.
Marks concluded that he is leaning toward feeling that it is time to blow it up.
Bulls Are Dug In
This isn’t the first time we have heard that the Bulls should consider rebooting. They were candidates for a mid-season trade in the summer before the season even began and that noise has only grown louder as the season has gone on.
A rival executive told Heavy Sports’ NBA insider Sean Deveney that the Bulls had no interest in taking and that they were determined to wait out Ball’s return from offseason knee surgery.
The possibility still exists that we see this team making another move to try and fortify this team rather than take away from it before they decide to completely shut it down. Their situation is undoubtedly precarious, though, as they sit 12th in the Eastern Conference – outside of the Play-In Tournament field let alone the playoffs.