Trade season is up and running for the Chicago Bulls, who are likely to go into the trade deadline as a buyer.
Chicago’s 25-10 start have thrown them into contention, suggesting further additions by the deadline is a logical expectation.
Two names that have popped up plenty in recent days have been Harrison Barnes and Jerami Grant, but now let’s switch gears and focus on a player who should also be of interest, if the Bulls are serious about their quest for a championship.
Torrey Craig of the Indiana Pacers might not have a stat line that leaps off the page, with his 5.5 points and 3.4 rebounds per game. But don’t confuse that with poor play.
While Craig may not be a high-volume scorer, he’s a tough nosed defensive player who gave DeMar DeRozan fits when the Bulls played in Indiana on December 31, forcing the All-Star forward into 8-of-24 shooting.
(And yes, Craig did guard DeRozan on that final possession that led to an extraordinary buzzer-beater, but one play does not a man maketh.)
Craig is a highly switchable player who at 6-foot-7 and a sturdy 225 pounds can guard every type of forward, smaller centers and the occasional two-guard. Per NBA.com, Craig has spent 50.4% of his time guarding forwards, 45.1% of his time guarding guards, and 4.4% of his time guarding centers this season.
That type of flexibility underlines the trust that Pacers coach Rick Carlisle has placed in the veteran.
The Bulls have needed some additional defense at the forward spots, and Craig would make a highly effective piece, especially when playing alongside Alex Caruso and Lonzo Ball.
Craig played for both Finals teams last season, getting traded from the Bucks to the Suns during the middle of the year, so he would come in with a ton of perspective on how to win, and some fairly desirable pedigree.
Not to mention, Craig would be able to provide crucial intel on the tendencies of Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.
At 31, Craig is also likely to accept his role and focus on what seems to be the organizational wide focus of the Bulls this year, which is to win. Being two wins away from a championship has to still sting, so Craig would likely be up for going to a proper contender.
The Cost of Business
The Pacers are reportedly looking into a re-tooling process, per Shams Charania and Bob Kravitz of The Athletic, and likely shouldn’t demand too much for a player who doesn’t seem to fit their competitive window. The Pacers are expected to finish 12th in the Eastern Conference, per FanDuel Sportsbook, which should give them additional motivation to adjust the roster.
The Pacers get significantly younger and get a chance to test out Brown before he enters restricted free agency this summer. Even if the Pacers consider Brown a gamble, relinquishing Craig isn’t necessarily a major sacrifice due to their aforementioned situation.
Craig even has another year on his contract worth $5.1 million, allowing the Bulls some continuity going into next season.
Should Chicago also make a trade for Barnes for example, they’d have a forward rotation of DeRozan, Barnes, Craig, Javonte Green and Alfonzo McKinnie, which offers quite the offensive and defensive balance for their competitiveness this season.