The Chicago Bulls (21-24) return home from Paris to face the surging Atlanta Hawks with five games on the docket over the next seven days. DeMar DeRozan sent a strong message to the team that they need to seize the moment, especially as the NBA landscape shifts closer to the February 9 trade deadline.
There are not expected to be many if any changes made to the Bulls roster at the deadline and their recent surge could go a long way in bolstering that thinking.
“After winning nine of their last 15 games, the Chicago Bulls no longer feel like a five-alarm inferno,” concedes Dan Favale of Bleacher Report. “They will invariably use this as an excuse to buy or stand pat while lamenting what could have been if Lonzo Ball were healthy.”
It’s the plan the Bulls largely took this past offseason and one Favale calls a “mistake”.
‘Painfully Mediocre’ Bulls Urged to Sell
“Chicago is painfully mediocre,” Favale writes. “A healthy Lonzo alone isn’t changing that. If the Bulls care about aiming higher than the middle, they would proactively strip this roster down and start anew.”
Favale parses through the different levels to which the Bulls could go about parting out their roster in a re-tool.
But it is important to note that the one constant in rumors surrounding the team has been that they are not making Zach LaVine available. The same has been said about DeMar DeRozan, though his age and contract situation (two years, $55.9 million remaining) have Favale viewing him more similarly to big man Nikola Vucevic who is playing out the final year of his contract.
He also takes it a step further on just whom the Bulls should entertain moving on from.
“Don’t feel like unloading Zach LaVine and the four years and $178.1 million left on his deal? That’s fine,” Favale says. “Gauge the market for Nikola Vučević’s expiring contract. See which team—and there is bound to be one—forfeits tantalizing draft equity or prospects for DeMar DeRozan and the one year left on his deal. And definitely don’t be opposed to measuring the temperature of Patrick Williams selloffs.”
DeRozan has pushed back on trade rumors and the reported rift between him and LaVine appears to be on the mend as the team’s level of play has risen in recent weeks. Vucevic purchased a home in Chicago in August.
There is an argument that the Bulls have to re-sign the big man given what they gave up to acquire him in 2020.
But the real wild card is Williams.
Patrick Williams’ Impact on Bulls’ Future
“You’re free to feel differently if you see a way for the Bulls to swing a blockbuster acquisition,” says Favale. “The thing is, they don’t have one. Chicago cannot convey a first-rounder before 2027—which is conditional—and the blue-chip-prospect sheen has worn off Williams with his extension eligibility around the corner as well as his minimal offensive progression. Restocking the organization’s long-term asset cupboard is at once the more realistic and most sensible course of action.”
Williams, 21, opened the season as a starter, lost his starting job to backup Javonte Green, and got it back when Green got injured. He is now at least stringing together solid if unspectacular performances ever since.
The former fourth-overall pick in 2020 has averaged 10.9 points on 58.8% true shooting since being reinserted into the starting lineup 23 games ago. Before that, he was averaging 9.2 points on 58% true shooting, to Favale’s point of minimal statistical improvement, though there is a difference even between the two stretches.
Williams has scored in double-figures 15 times in the last 23 games. He did that just 10 times over the first 20 games with his lone game off the bench excluded from either span.
Chicago has been accused of overvaluing Williams before.
If they want to achieve executive vice prescient of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas’ goal of reaching the second round of the playoffs, they are going to need more from the 6-foot-7, 215-pound youngster.