Almost a full week has passed since the NBA trade deadline came and went without any kind of move from the Chicago Bulls. But the team continues to be on the hunt for roster upgrades as a big-time player on the buyout market.
Thanks to his seemingly unending knee injury saga, little hope remains that presumed starting floor general Lonzo Ball will ever hit the court this season. Consequently, the Bulls find themselves with a giant hole at the point as we transition into the stretch run of the 2022-23 campaign.
NBC Sports Chicago’s KC Johnson is of the opinion that the club will address the situation in whatever way it can (and sooner rather than later). During the February 14 edition of Bulls Talk, the longtime team insider said “it’s clear that they are going to try to add a veteran point guard.”
Not only that, Johnson all but confirmed who the team’s top buyout target is.
Bulls Insider KC Johnson Speaks Out on Team’s Pursuit of Former NBA MVP Russell Westbrook
Asked about the Bulls’ approach to the buyout market, Johnson indicated that the team’s front office is, in all likelihood, waiting on a very specific domino to fall before making any final calls
“I would say my sense… this is the informed speculation that I have based on my conversations — is they are waiting on [Russell Westbrook] to see what he decides,” Johnson said.
Westbrook was dealt by the Los Angeles Lakers to the Utah Jazz ahead of the deadline, and the conventional wisdom has been that he would eventually hit the open market following a contract buyout. A number of teams — including the Bulls — have been linked to the nine-time All-Star in the event that he becomes available, too.
At this point, though, everything remains up in the air.
“There’s no guarantee Russ is not going to either go home and collect paychecks from the Utah Jazz or stay with Utah Jazz. That’s still in the realm of possibility. The Clippers, it’s well-documented — they’re openly courting him, so that’s in play,” Johnson said.
In any case, Johnson fully expects Chicago to explore a Westbrook signing before moving on to any of the alternatives.
“My sense is they’re waiting to see how the rustling resolves and if they don’t get him then they would move on to John Wall or Patrick Beverley… I’m not sourcing that out or saying that’s definitive but that’s my informed speculation based on conversations I’ve had.”
The Risk of Adding Westbrook
In his 52 games with the Lakers this season, Westbrook stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 15.9 points, 7.5 assists and 6.2 rebounds per outing. And while that kind of production would be welcomed in the Windy City, a Russ signing isn’t the obvious slam-dunk move that some fans may think it is.
“Westbrook is a polarizing player and his weaknesses do not solve the Bulls’ weaknesses in terms of three-point shooting, turnovers, etc.” Johnson opined during his Bulls Talk appearance.
That said, there’s still a method to the madness, and a Bulls team that is multiple games below .500 with precious few games left to play doesn’t have much to lose at this point.
“When they get out of the All-Star break, they have 23 games left. We’re talking 23 games — this is not some long-term, big-money commitment. This is a flier on a guy that they’re gonna throw out there and see what happens.”